As I sat down to write today, I began where I always do, from my experiences as a sexual assault advocate. I thought of many, many survivors that I have responded to, either to provide face-to-face advocacy or while on the crisis line. Today, I thought of one woman in particular.
This woman had been assaulted in her home, and after the perpetrator left, she crawled to her neighbor’s house for help – though she never told them she had been sexually assaulted.
When patrol officers enforcement arrived at the scene, it was very chaotic. At first impression, the officers believed she was overly intoxicated and disturbance.
This victim was from a rural area, where everyone knows each other. A year before the sexual assault, she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated. After her arrest, she was labeled in town as a drunk.
After talking with the neighbors and the victim, and fully investigating the scene, the officers realized that she was a victim of sexual assault and took her to the emergency department. She presented with injuries as a result of the sexual assault, and after being medically cleared, she was taken to the SANE facility.
I responded to the SANE facility, and remained with her during the medical forensic exam. After the exam took place, I stayed with her while the responding officer took her statement.
This particular case struck me because of the way the responding officer began the process of taking her statement. First, he explained his perspective of responding to her home after her neighbors called 911. He explained what the victim looked like when the officers arrived – that the victim appeared to be highly intoxicated. He then, very carefully, explained that he remembered her from her arrest the year before, because he was the officer that pulled her over and arrested her for driving under the influence. He said very clearly “what happened then has nothing to do with what I am here for today. I am here to listen to you, and help you after what happened to you.”
This was an amazingly helpful statement to make the victim feel more comfortable, and let her know that he believed her. You could visually see the tension release in her body. She then told the officer everything she remembered about the assault. I believe she told the officer everything because she knew he believed her and cared about what she had to say.
To other advocates and survivors out there, we would like to hear examples of when law enforcement officers, medical providers, family members, and friends chose to Start by Believing. You can either leave a comment here, or leave a post on the Start by Believing Facebook page.
Written by Alison Jones-Lockwood, EVAWI Social Media & Outreach Coordinator