There is the most amazing support out there if you know where to look.
From the minute I contacted rape crisis to find out about the process i was put in touch with an independent sexual violence advocate (ISVA). She was amazing. She was there for me. She could explain the legal process. She could fight my corner. We couldn’t talk about what I had been through (the evidence) but we could talk about how I was feeling about this process. She kept me sane.
My ISVA could support me through the criminal justice system. She couldn’t support me with the criminal injuries compensation authority (this will be a whole other post). I reached out to Victim Support. They were amazing. They put me in touch with a volunteer, (J). J also kept me sane. She phoned me regularly to see how I was doing. If I was having a really bad time she would increase the frequency of the calls. If I was doing better she would leave a bit more space Inbetween. She was amazing. I could talk to her about anything. She wasn’t a counsellor. But having someone who would listen and who cared made a huge difference.
After two and a half years (around the time we were told he would be charged in the next few weeks
which turned into 4 and a half months), my ISVA went on maternity leave. I had always envisaged I would see the process to the end with her. That she would be with me in court. I was devastated that she would not be there. I would be assigned another ISVA to support me.
We had a meeting to say goodbye. I thanked her for everything she had done. I couldn’t have got that far without her. I was introduced to my new ISVA. My first ISVA (E) contacted the detective to tell her that F would now be providing my support.
We received a reply. Informing us that my SOIT Officer was also going on maternity leave in a few days time. I hadn’t even known she was pregnant. I was devastated. Losing both at the same time.
I had to go in to make a further statement. My flashbacks had intensified and I needed to include these in my statement. This statement (I gave 3 in total) was a completely different experience. It was a male SOIT Officer. I had no warning it would be a man, no option to come at a different time and have a women.
It was hard. Much harder. He pushed harder, I became more distressed. My first SOIT, had been amazing, and sensitive. She had made an incredibly difficult situation as good as it could be. I felt glad that my first 2 statements had been with her. For some people, they would only experiment this.
It was around then I was told my next SOIT would be a man. Again, no choice, no option. He was nice enough and doing his best but just not as sensitive as my first SOIT.
When the case went to magistrates court and they set the date for trial, it became clear that my second ISVA could not support me. She already was supporting someone else on this date. Within a month or so, I was introduced to ISVA number 3. M, like the other two, was amazing. I could not have got through the nearly 4 years from thinking about reporting to court without them.
Leading up to the retrial (SPOILER ALERT) I felt that my new SOIT was dismissive and I felt unsupported. With the help of my ISVA I was able to ask for my SOIT to be changed. The detective was amazing and it was resolved quickly. For the second trial my first SOIT was back. When I met with her, I felt like I was supported more in that meeting than I did in the whole time without her.
I’m not saying this to shame the second officer. He was doing his best. Some people connect with some people and not others. But know, if you don’t feel supported you CAN ask for a change. You deserve to have the support that you need. Not what is convenient.