A poem by Michael Nesbitt
I was hit with question after question as though he couldn’t wait,
I wanted to say “hold on could you give a minute to think”.
I understand that he was trying to do his job,
But I haven’t had any time to process and my head still had an intense throb.
I was sad, I was emotional… I could not get my words out,
Because of this, the investigator developed even more doubt.
Reporting to the police was already a worry of mine,
Because they always make you feel like you are wasting their time.
I was raped, why is he being so mean to me?
I am so vulnerable right now, can’t he see?
I came in here as a survivor, now I am being viewed as a suspect,
Am I remembering things correctly? I need a sec.
I was being extensively integrated, I felt like I was losing my mind,
He is making me feel like I was the one who committed the crime.
I was so worn down, I felt like I could not trust myself,
Nor did he, and I am sure not anyone else.
I fell in his trap, and was made to feel like I was making a false report,
He mentioned that my story was coming up a bit short.
I plead guilty to false reporting,
I should have listened to my intuition, it gave me a warning.
Months later my rapist was captured in a series of assaults,
I knew…I knew this wasn’t my fault.
The investigator made me believe I was lying,
This unfortunately happens to many survivors and they are sent home crying.
We go to law enforcement to seek help,
But many make us feel that we are better off dealing with it ourselves.
Why do they protect the perpetrator, they are the ones who did the crime?
In the end, we are the ones who end up doing the time.
This poem was inspired by an exceptional webinar that I watched called Raped, then Jailed: The Risks of Prosecution or Falsely Reporting Sexual Assault. The host of the webinar talked about how there are steps to prosecuting rape victims. First, investigators from the beginning assume that survivors are lying about the assault. They then interpret the survivor’s behaviors as signs of deception. Additionally, the investigators will switch to interrogation mode and will throw question after question toward survivors, not allowing them much time to think and provide an answer.
What is unfortunate is that survivors are unaware and not informed about their right to refuse answering a question, to terminate their interview, or to have an attorney present. Furthermore, there are many coercive tactics that detectives/investigators use to trick the victim in an attempt to make them admit that they are lying, when they are actually telling the truth. They may take advantage of the vulnerability of the survivor, especially if they are young. They might also isolate the survivor from anyone who is there to support them. Investigators may go as far as to lie to the survivor about evidence or testimony from the perpetrator and may ignore evidence that the survivor has provided. Included in the webinar was a woman who spoke about her assault and said that “eventually, they wear you down to where you don’t even trust yourself. You can’t trust your memory anymore”.
There was an interesting case that was discussed about an 18 year old who reported an assault where there was physical evidence showing that she was bound, gagged, and raped by a stranger who broke into her home. Just like many survivors, she was extensively interrogated and eventually submitted to the coercion and admitted to a false report in a written statement, although she was telling the truth. She plead guilty and was charged with a misdemeanor, fined $500, was sent to counseling for lying and placed on supervised probation. Sometime after, her rapist was captured in a series of sexual assaults and he was found guilty and sentenced. All law enforcement did was apologize to her and return her $500.
This webinar was very informative and is a reminder that there are so many issues within the criminal justice system. Many survivors are turned away because of how they are treated by law enforcement and they are believed to be a liar as soon as they walk through the door. They are coerced into saying that they made a false report and are then criminalized for a crime that was done to them. I recommend checking out the free webinar/ training which is provided through End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI). There definitely needs to be mandated extensive training and education for those who may encounter sexual assault survivors so that they can actually do their job properly and stop letting their bias do it for them.
About Michael Nesbitt
Michael Nesbitt is a First Responder Sexual Assault Advocate with WC-SAFE and has been in this position for over a year. His role as an advocate is very important to him and he feels that his purpose in life is to help better someone else’s, in whatever capacity that may be. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Social Work at Wayne State University. In his free time, Michael enjoys traveling, photography, exercising, and spending quality time with friends and family.