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I felt like I was nothing more than a walking crime scene; WOMEN FAILED BY INADEQUATE FORENSIC FACILITIES USED TO INVESTIGATE ATTACKS; Rape victim receives apology from Police Scotland as she describes her treatment as 'dehumanising'.

Byline: ANNIE BROWN

A RAPE victim has described the "dehumanising" treatment she suffered from police officers which led to an apology from the force.

Jane, a 22-year-old student from Edinburgh, said from the moment she reported the rape in September last year, "no-one cared" during the investigation.

She said: "I felt like I had become nothing more than a walking, breathing crime scene. The forensic examination, the interviews, all of it was handled insensitively.

"Being raped was an horrific experience that changed the direction of my life. It made me feel dehumanised and powerless. It is really important that those handling your case afterwards make you feel like you are still a person.

"That was far from my experience. The whole thing compounded my trauma."

Jane told her story as a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland revealed inadequate forensic facilities hinder the investigation of rape attacks.

Shortages of medical staff and services left one woman unable to wash for two days - to protect vital physical evidence left on her body from her attacker.

In a letter responding to Jane's official complaint, Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, then in charge of the National Rape Task Force, upheld 23 out of 34 of her grievances - with three referred on to NHS Lothian, who provided the doctor for the forensic examination.

Jane's ordeal began when she was drugged and ended up in a stranger's flat in Edinburgh following a night out.

She knew she had been raped when she woke up and was subjected to another attack when she was conscious.

That evening, she reported the attacks to police. Officers said she would undergo a forensic examination and be interviewed that night.

She wasn't told she could take a friend or relative with her and went through the traumatic process without personal support.

Following a fire at Edinburgh's Royal Victoria Hospital in May 2017, there was no bespoke facility for one year for forensic medical examinations. Rape victims, including children, were taken to the office complex of the West Lothian Civic Centre in Livingston.

Jane was driven to the civic centre in the back of a police car where officers dumped the clothing she had been wearing during the rape in evidence bags on the seat beside her.

She said: "Having to sit next to the clothes I'd been wearing when I was raped made me feel physically sick."

When she arrived at the centre, it was in darkness. There was a delay in getting access to the building and when they got in, she had to wait in a room full of desks and office equipment while a couple of officers chatted in the corner.

After waiting up to an hour, a sexual offence liaison officer (SOLO) arrived carrying a clear bag of forensic medical kit, which left Jane unnerved about the procedure which lay ahead.

She was taken into a cold interview room with four plastic chairs, a coffee table and children's toys lying around for young victims of sexual assault.

The cupboards were locked so there were no cups and in the 12 hours she was there, she wasn't offered a drink.

There were also no comforts available, such as tissues, if she cried.

There was a manual electric heater and the lights were sensor-activated. They kept going on and off as she tried to explain the horror of her rape.

The officer who interviewed her went in and out of the room to consult with the forensic physician, who gave her no prior warning when she would be examined. Jane said: "It was a male doctor and he knocked the door and said he was ready for me. I wasn't prepared. It hit me that it was just a process. It felt like it didn't mean anything to anyone."

In the examination room, the doctor told her she could wait for a female physician but it would take a while so she agreed to go ahead.

By this point, Jane had not slept for more than a day and was emotionally and mentally exhausted. She said: "I was so confused. I didn't have a clue what was going on."

The doctor told her he would take blood. However, he didn't have the appropriate tourniquet and fashioned one out of a rubber glove.

She added: "The first time, it didn't work so it pinged back. At that point, I thought it was ridiculous. They didn't even have the equipment to treat me RAPE VICTIM on her as a patient, let alone a patient who had been raped."

The doctor also didn't have the right size of vaginal speculum for the examination. She said: "He had to use a larger one on me. When I had already experienced so much trauma in that area, to shove a big speculum in me was really painful."

There was a Finding Nemo poster on the wall and a baby's toy mobile hanging from the ceiling. It added to Jane's trauma as she thought of children suffering as she had.

She said: "No one had thought to take that down when children weren't there. There was no thinking about the person going through that service."

He then used a colposcope - a specialised medical camera - to take pictures of the genital injuries but didn't have the software needed to record the images adequately.

The doctor and the SOLO then had a heated discussion in the room about the lack of specialist equipment.

She said: "They shouldn't have been having an argument in front of me. It didn't feel like care was shown to me."

After the examination, she was told to sit in the interview room on her own while the SOLO and doctor talked.

She added: "I wasn't offered anything to comfort me. I was sent back to the room where I'd been telling all the stories about being raped. I felt empty."

Staff shortages meant the SOLO had to leave Jane while she let the doctor out of the building.

The officer then had to clean the interview room herself, to ensure its forensic integrity, while an exhausted Jane looked on.

She also complained that in the months afterwards, she wasn't kept informed about the investigation, even when her attacker went on the run.

She also didn't know about a media appeal carrying her attacker's photofit until her father saw it and told her.

Jane believes her complaint was investigated thoroughly and DS Houston said her experience would be used to improve training and the level of service.

He told her: "I accept the standard of service you and your family received falls short of the high professional service rightly expected of Police Scotland. I apologise on behalf of Police Scotland for the additional distress and upset this caused both you and your family."

I wasn't prepared. It hit me it was just a process RAPE VICTIM JANE on her experience

CAPTION(S):

ALONE Rape victims often feel isolated in an unfriendly environment as the crime is investigated.

Pic: PA
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 4, 2018
Words:1168
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