Everything I’m about to tell you is from my experience as a white 20 year old located in London and Hampshire. Every story of domestic abuse is different and the police response can differ for many reasons. Despite this, I thought it might be helpful to share my story of what happened when I reported my abuser. It will give you an idea of what to expect so its not a complete jump in the dark if you decide to report yourself.
I won’t go into too many specifics for fear of repercussions from my ex-partner and I don’t want to be triggering. I do want to give some context though. When I went to the police, I was in my second year at university. I had broken up with my abuser. With the help of my parents, he had moved out of the flat we lived in together with my friend. It had been a week or two since the breakup and he said he had a lawyer and was coming to take everything from me. I was scared and went to the police with two of my friends.
Making the domestic abuse report
I reported the abuse by going to my local police station with my friends. I went to the person at reception and told them what had been happening. I gave all the information I could and they asked me further questions about the abuse. I was asked to wait until an officer could come and talk to me further.
The officer interview
After waiting a while, a uniformed officer was available to talk to me further. He took me to one of the interview rooms within the station. I had to go alone so what I told them wasn’t skewed by anyone else’s presence. I told him what was going on and he asked me further questions. There are 27 questions which the police ask reporters of domestic abuse. This gives them a full insight into what is going on. It could bring up things you hadn’t thought of and incidents that are common in cases of domestic abuse.
Initially, the officer was going to call my abuser to tell him to stop contacting me. He couldn’t go anything more because harassment is defined by the police as the victim making it explicitly clear they don’t want to be contacted and not replying to the abuser. This wasn’t the case for me. I was finding it hard to step out of the bubble of manipulation. During these questions, an incident of assault was brought to the surface. With the officer, I wrote a statement about the assault as well as a victim’s impact statement. They asked if anyone could verify what had happened but in my case, there wasn’t. They took the next steps in trying to locate him (since he had moved out I didn’t know where he was).
I was notified when my abuser had been found and arrested. They held him for interview and the leading officer kept me updated. They told me fairly quickly that they weren’t going to be able to charge him with assault because there was no evidence. It was my word against his. But they did think they could look at a controlling and coercive behaviour charge.
Before he was released after the interview, they made sure I was safe. Where I was at the time didn’t have a particularly close refuge. Instead, they were able to make arrangements with my university. I wasn’t living on campus and the time so they found me a room and contacted security about the situation. His details were given to the security team in case he did find my location.
After my initial interview at the police station, an officer came to my house to get more information then the lead investigator came to my house to get a further statement from me and other witnesses. I’m not sure how many statements are common but it seems like if they need more information they will come back to see you. My case did start as assault and turn into controlling and coercive behaviour so that could be why I gave about three different statements. It was hard to remember everything that had happened over the year we had been together because so much of it became normalised in my head.
I was asked multiple times if there were any incidents of sexual violence in the abusive relationship. The first few times I said no. It wasn’t until about my second or third statement, when I was asked if he ever forced me or pressured me to do something sexual, that I told them about an incident. They told me this was classified as rape. They had to report it but they couldn’t force me to give a statement. If I didn’t give a statement, they still had a duty to investigate and see if they could find any other evidence.
My abuser got re-arrested and re-questioned because the rape accusation was handled separately to the other domestic abuse charges. I did give a statement. As it was a rape case, it was video recorded. Sexual violence seems to be a particularly controversial subject so I wrote an article about victim responses if you are interested.
After making my domestic abuse report, I was given a support worker from Stop Domestic Abuse. She regularly kept in contact with me about the case, explained the nature of abuse and manipulation, and handled any court orders that could be put in place. Her job was basically to ensure my safety as much as possible. A separate sexual violence support organisation got in contact with me to talk me through the process of investigating a rape allegation.
A MARAC meeting also took place to discuss my case. This is where different agencies like the police and social services come together to talk about domestic abuse cases. They share information and talk about how best to safeguard the victim. These meetings exist to make sure everything that can be done is being done.
Length of time
My case took much longer to process than I expected. It was almost a year after my initial report that a decision was made not to take the controlling and coercive behaviour case to court. Over a year later, a final decision has not been made on the rape case. This could be quicker in some circumstances especially if there is lots of accessible evidence in a case or the abuser is continuing to offend after police involvement. I don’t think it is too unusual for the process to take longer than expected. They want to interview as many people as possible, look through medical records, analyse phones and find anything else that could be evidence.
Should make a domestic abuse report?
I cannot definitively answer that question for you but I hope my experience will arm you with more information on what reporting abuse involves. I would strongly recommend making a domestic abuse report. It’s essential to your safety and could give you justice. If possible, we need to try and stop cycles of abuse. If you choose not to report, I don’t blame you. Even reading information that could help you report in the future is a helpful step. Reporting abuse is never going to be easy but it can save lives.