“For a while, seeing a police officer in uniform, I’d have flashbacks,” says “Sally”, who is herself a serving police officer, left traumatised by sexual abuse from a fellow officer.
Sally, not her real name, works for Humberside Police and her testimony perhaps indicates the need for a Louise Casey-style review in every force.
She is one of two women we’ve spoken to from the area covered by Humberside Police who reveal problems with misogyny within the local constabulary; a problem which she describes as “a monster.”
The other woman, a victim we are calling Anna, says police records show they in part blamed her “lifestyle choices” and “attention seeking” after she reported being groomed and raped.
This comes after the Casey review found that the Met police was institutionally sexist, racist and homophobic, and said women were being failed because of a misogynistic culture.
Serving officer Sally says this is true too in Humberside. She claims any young female recruit is considered “fresh meat” and senior female officers have their achievements undermined by mutterings that they’ve “slept their way to the top”.
She says she was seduced by a senior officer and found herself in a controlling, sexually violent relationship.
Humberside Police was rated outstanding by the police inspectorate, but Sally says when it became known she’d reported a fellow officer her colleagues rallied around him.
“I was ostracised, given the cold shoulder. It was like passive-aggressive behaviour,” she says.
“So, I’d be stared at, or given dirty looks. They were like schoolyard bullies. I’d come down the stairs and they’d be all sat together, just look up and stare at me.”
She adds: “After the misconduct hearing, so after he lost his job, I lost count of the amount of officers that came up to me and said – ‘oh he’s always been like that.'”
“I thought well why have they not said anything then? He had basically the same nicknames as those monsters in the Met.”
The Casey report found the Metropolitan Police force badly failed women and questions are now being asked whether the rot spreads beyond London. Sally believes it does.
She says several colleagues in Humberside knew that one predatory officer would sift through victims’ statements to find women he could ask out.
‘I was really vulnerable’
Sky News has found evidence of bad attitudes being applied to investigations in Humberside.
Anna, not her real name, alleges that as a teenager she was being raped by a gang of men, who intimidated her into repeatedly going back to them.
After her investigation was closed, she used what’s called a Subject Access Request (SAR) to gain police records on herself. She found the following types of comments made by officers:
“The female herself is making lifestyle choices of her own.”
“This victim doesn’t come across as the best type of witness/victim that I have seen.”
“She finds herself in a position where it could be suggested she is allowing sexual tension to rise.”
Now in her 20’s, Anna says: “That whole time I was still under social services I was really vulnerable.
“I was on a protection plan. It said how I was getting strangled. I was being sexually assaulted I was high risk but they never did anything to stop that.
“If you read those records, they’re saying ‘we’ve got an unreliable witness, not the perfect victim. She wouldn’t stand a chance in court.’
“There’s no wonder the case was never brought to court because before it’s even got there, they’ve completely undermined it.”
In one extract they seem to accept the alleged attacker’s story over Anna’s, even after she has been injured.
The SAR reads: “The victim states that she has received injuries, and these have been seen by police officers.
“The issue that we have is that the suspect admits to causing these injuries to the victim but states that these were with consent as the victim ‘liked it’.
“It is difficult for us to disprove this, and I would suggest the victim is too undermined in this investigation to take her word above that of the suspect.”
Anna says it is “disgusting” to suggest that she would enjoy being injured.
‘Misogynistic behaviour will not be tolerated’
Louise Casey, whose findings have rocked London’s police force, has told Sky News there should be versions of her study done in every other police force.
She says: “I think we need a wholesale change of public protection particularly for women I think we all say violence against girls and women is a priority, then you see what is actually happening on the ground in relation to that and I don’t think it’s good enough.
“It rings hollow to me, and I think it rings hollow nationally.”
Humberside Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Anderson says in response: “Misogynistic behaviour will not be tolerated. There is an existing robust process in place to put an end to any type of misogyny in our Force.
“Anyone who exhibits any form of misogynistic or discriminatory behaviour will be held accountable for their actions.
“We are internally communicating with all officers and staff in regards to sexual harassment and have launched our ‘knowing the line’ campaign to raise awareness and to fully encourage reports, whether personal or witnessed, to be made to our Professional Standards Department.
“Whilst Baroness Casey’s report into the culture at the Metropolitan Police makes for some incredibly hard reading, we welcome the findings and see it as a step forward in rebuilding public trust and confidence in policing nationally.”
‘The problem is now a monster’
With regard to “Anna”, DCC Anderson adds: “Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a deplorable and condemnable crime and we are determined to bring offenders to justice and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Anna’s investigation was reopened last year and for that reason, the force adds: “As the investigation is active, it is imperative we protect its integrity; as such are unable to comment on aspects of the investigation as this could impact or jeopardise any criminal or judicial proceedings.”
Sally says she’s still proud to be a police officer, but she’s speaking out because she wants her colleagues to make the changes from within.
She says: “They’ve been battening it down that much its now snowballed into a massive thing. It’s now a monster.”
The Casey review suggests that the monster needs to be exposed and acknowledged before it can be properly tackled.
Have you got a story to tell about your experience with the police? Email firstname.lastname@example.org