INVESTIGATING SEXUAL ASSAULT by Gerry Chambers and Ann Millar

November 1983: The above official report, by HMSO, is published. You can find selected pages here. These are the best copies it was possible for me to make under the circumstances. Page 77 has been rotated.

The first thing to note is that it is limited to Scotland, which has a superior judicial system to England and Wales, not only because there is also a not proven verdict in criminal trials but because corroboration is required to convict in all cases.

There is an old joke here in this context, one that is not really a joke, that is that police officers go around in pairs so the second can back up the perjured evidence of the first.

I like it that Chambers and Millar allude to a woman who reports a rape as the complainer rather than the victim. It hardly needs to be pointed out that some complainers are far more credible than others. A woman who has been badly beaten in her own home is clearly to be treated with far less suspicion than one who walks into a police station and claims to have been raped three months ago.

CHAPTER NINE examines the credibility of women who report rape, how they stack up when questioned, and how they feel about the attitude of the police.

It is notable that police officers are especially skeptical of women who have been drinking alcohol, probably because everyone is aware of the effects of alcohol on personal behaviour, and police officers are more aware of this than most.

Some women thought detectives asked insensitive, embarrassing or irrelevant questions. Is there any way to question a rape victim without asking something embarrassing? As for relevance, let them be the judge of that.

Three women said they were warned about wasting police time, and one withdrew her allegation as a result of this. Check out this later allegation from the United States to see why a detective might warn a woman about pressing charges, and why some women might do well to heed such advice.

Unsurprisingly, 75% of incidents happen between 8pm and 8am. On page 82 is a report of what the police believed to have been a false allegation of attempted rape by a neighbour a woman had invited into her home to fix an electric fault.

And how about this from page 83?

“It should be borne in mind that except in the case of a very young child, the offence of rape is extremely unlikely to have been committed against a woman who does not immediately show signs of extreme violence”.

Yes and no. Most genuine victims do fight back (if they are sober), but the signs of violence need not be that extreme.

Also:

“The good interrogator is very rarely loved by his subject”.

Sadly but often necessarily true.

On page 85 there are some amusing false rape statistics - the personal opinions of police officers. Female police officers seem to be just as cynical.

Page 89: Delayed reporting, or purported delay in reporting, also raises a red flag, as it should without a very good reason for that delay.

Page 106: One complainer declined a medical examination when she realised only a male police surgeon was available. To me this sounds perfectly reasonable. The last thing a genuine rape victim wants is a strange man poking her about down there. This is an issue that was addressed decades previously.


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