Scotland Yard staff to be trained in psychological effects of rape

Det Chief Supt Caroline Bates, head of Scotland Yard’s first dedicated rape intelligence unit, has pledged that every woman reporting a rape will be interviewed by an officer trained in the psychological effects of the crime:

“I train my staff to understand the psychological effects of rape,” Bates said. “[Victims] might not come forward right away. They have flashbacks. Their first version of events may change. Sometimes they are embarrassed. They have to tell their most intimate details to strangers.”

She said the nature of the crime made some victims reluctant to admit certain details straight away. “You can get disclosures later, for instance they may say ‘I had a bit to drink’ or ‘I had sex with my partner earlier in the day.’ Our job is to search for the truth.”

Bates described as “outrageous” the mindset of officers who believed the word of John Worboys, the black-cab driver and serial sex attacker, above numerous victims who reported his attacks. She said a victim-centred approach should encourage more women to come forward and get more cases to court.

“Our officers will believe the victims, however unbelievable their story may be. Their job is to keep an open mind and not to make judgements. Unfortunately that was not done in the Worboys case.”

This is good news, and should surely be practised by all police forces, but I’m a bit perturbed by her comments about disclosures involving drinking and prior sexual activity. Without any further context it’s hard to tell what she’s getting at, but it does smack of classic victim-blaming.

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