How to Address Rape Trauma at the Investigation Stage

Whilst we at Intersol no longer operate in the criminal investigation arena a topic of such importance occasionally arises that merits dipping back into it with the intention to reinforce learning and/or support practitioners.

Todays furore about a judge criticised for finding woman was not raped because she took ‘no physical steps’ to stop her assailant is one of those occasions.

Why?

Because 15 years ago this author was privileged to work with a forensic psychologist, Zoe Loderick, to train a number of CJS stakeholders to understand Rape Trauma and exercise tactics to make some effort to address it in the early stages of investigation.

Despite repeated efforts the judiciary resisted attempts to include such evidence as ‘expert testimony’ where trauma was a fact in issue so alternative tactical methods were clearly needed to address such questions often raised by defence counsel at trial as “Why didn’t you resist”? “Why didn’t you run”? “Why didn’t you scream”? “Why didn’t you report it earlier”? “I put it to you that it’s because this really didn’t happen did it Mrs X” etc etc.

One solution?

Rather than set victims up to fail (Prof Hope), we rolled out a ‘new’ model of Cognitive Interviewing within the PEACE framework, one in which the evidential interview (the evidence in chief) sits outside but alongside the investigative interview and that one of the key topics addressed Rape Trauma if relevant and pre-empted precisely the defence arguments raised in todays reporting.

It would have gone something like this:

“I do need to ask you some questions that you might find a little difficult and wonder why I’m asking them. Please understand that if I don’t ask you them now you can be sure that they will be asked by someone else if this matter is explored at court. For this reason can we now explore in more detail why you didn’t (resist, scream, run away etc.). This in no way means that I’m doubting you, I understand the impact traumatic events have on people, but others listening in future might not be so aware…….”

Accused on one occasion by a London Silk in a voir dire of ‘spiking the defence guns’ by such tactical questioning it nonetheless went to the jury as EIC and the writer went on to present a workshop in this and associated issues to the NW circuit at the request of the Recorder.

In conclusion what has happened to corporate memory (again), amnesia?

It comes straight back to the investigative interview, the planning and prep, the engage and explain pre-cursing the account phase, the over-reliance on physical forensic science in such cases at the expense of the less technical investigative interview skills when consent is most often the issue, NOT the act.

The solution? A core set of topics that the investigator MUST consider on a case by case basis that he/she determines when to introduce if not introduced by the interviewee.

Extract from the court transcript here:

If anybody reading this would like to understand more about tactical use of evidence or how the team might assist with all things investigation and interviewing please contact us at info@intersolglobal.com

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