Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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If Kent Police think rape isn’t an emergency, they shouldn’t be in their jobs

The tone of the sign felt dismissive (Image: Twitter/@DannyDutch/Google)

It has not been a good week for UK police forces to show that they take violence against women seriously.

On Tuesday the The damning Casey report has been releasedwhich found evidence of institutionalized racism, homophobia and misogyny among the Met police force. After months of reports of sexually explicit messages between officials and missed opportunities to stop rapist David Carrickit’s hardly a surprise.

Within 48 hours, another story circulated – this time focusing on Kent Police and their attitude towards women’s safety.

An A4 sheet of paper had been hung in the window of Maidstone Police Station. It was a sign that displayed a list of “Non-emergency requests” that could be reported onlineinstead of on the phone.

“Rape and sexual assault” was one of the crimes included in the list.

It caused understandable excitement on social and national media. The sign appeared to send the message that rape and sexual assault were not serious enough to be reported as an emergency or worthy of a call handler’s time.

While the backlash is seen as another blow to women’s safety (women are the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual assault), it is important to note that anyone can be a victim of sex crimes and all should be taken seriously and encouraged to speak up report police.

But regardless of a victim’s age or gender, the tone of the mark felt forbidding and arguably cruel to anyone who had witnessed such a hurtful and devastating crime.

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With the criminal justice system consistently failing rape victims – only 1% of rapes registered by police in 2021 resulted in a criminal charge in the same year – clearly more needs to be done to give survivors the justice they deserve.

If we are to increase the number of rape convictions, the complainants must be reassured that what happened to them is serious and merits an emergency status. The sooner a crime is reported to the police, the more likely it is that evidence can be gathered for a successful conviction – but arguably more importantly, victims are given the emotional support they need as quickly as possible.

Survivors need a compassionate human being to speak to after such a crime has occurred, not a form incapable of offering comfort or consolation.

The sign was quickly removed, and Det Ch Supt Emma Banks was quick to reassure that Kent Police take investigations into domestic violence, rape and sexual assault “extremely seriously”.

But Matthew Scott, Kent Police and Crime Inspector, said the sign should not have been put up at all, describing it as “completely false and totally inappropriate”.

Det Ch Supt Emma Banks urged anyone in imminent danger to call 999. But even this encouragement is not clear.

“Immediate danger” should not be the threshold for a 999 call for victims of sexual assault. This places the responsibility on them to decide how dangerous their situation is after an attack has taken place.

When an attacker has left the immediate area, survivors may have doubts as to whether they are still in imminent danger and whether or not it is a call.

The list also included “missing persons” as a non-emergency (Image: Twitter/@DannyDutch)

The intelligence of the person who typed the sign has to be questioned as they also listed “Crime (wide range of options)” as something that could be reported online so it’s clear they didn’t really get it what a briefing they have been given. You wonder what state our call processing services are in to justify such a poster.

The list also included “missing persons” as a non-emergency, which is highly problematic.

It’s a common misconception that a person has to be missing for 24 hours before they can be reported to the police, which is a blatant lie. It’s a myth that’s been largely perpetuated by TV shows and films that portray police officers as desperate for concerned relatives of missing persons.

Yes, the majority of missing persons turn up unharmed, but if a person is at risk because of their age (old or young), mental state, health problems, or any other reason, this should be reported immediately.

Despite this, some families of missing persons have spoken out about the police’s lack of urgency when reporting their loved ones missing. When someone is endangered or harmed, the first 24 hours are crucial to get them home safely.

Of course, we want to make sure phone lines are free to give support and protection to people who urgently need police intervention. Of course we must discourage people from calling 999 unless it is necessary.

Such nuisance calls also include calls complaining about loud music to the neighbors, reporting potholes or reporting to the police. It does not include people reporting rape.

The answer should not be to discourage real victims from calling 999, but to increase the number of caregivers who can take such calls.

Unless the government commits to investing in women’s safety and providing a specialized emergency service for rape victims, 999 remains the most appropriate method of reporting sexual assault.

Once again, police are urging women to change their own behavior instead of focusing on catching and prosecuting the perpetrators of rape.

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MORE : If the Met can’t get rid of the bad apples at the police station, we’ll have to cut down the tree

MORE : Rape is classified as ‘non-emergency’ along with compliments and minor pokes from Kent Police

MORE : PM says trust in Met Police ‘hugely damaged’ after Casey review



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