I recently reported an incident of hate crime to the police. It was committed against me by someone who had been doing the same sort of thing over the years. Last year the local police, the housing officer and myself decided that I should report it through official channels so it could lay on file as an historical act and contribute to evidence when it happened again. I knew it would happen again, he’s not the kind of person to let go.
I made a statement and was told that the man in question would be interviewed under caution and it was intimated that it would be soon. Two weeks later I still hadn’t heard from the officer who was dealing with the case or even what his or her name was so I rang and asked for a phone call. I didn’t get a phone call.
Yesterday I rang and asked what was going on. The officer had picked up my message and ignored it. The woman at the control centre sighed throughout our conversation and she obviously thought it was unreasonable to expect a phone call in the evening – perhaps she thought people with mental health problems were incapable of answering the phone after a certain time of day. I asked to speak to the officer’s supervising officer. Unsurprisingly he was unavailable so I decided to raise a formal complaint and was told that I would receive a call from an Inspector within 48 hours. I still did not know if the officer who was dealing with the case was male or female and I’m not entirely sure if I was even told their name.
This phone call took 44 minutes including 36 minutes on hold. The Inspector rang me within half an hour because I was raising a complaint. A police officer has not been in touch with me over a crime that was committed three weeks ago but an Inspector can respond to criticism within an hour. Strange that.
The Inspector was offensive. He did not identify himself by either name or rank and had obviously barely scanned my statement as he asked me if there was CCTV on a street the incident didn’t happen on. On being questioned about whether or not Disability Hate Crime was considered to be a priority his answer indicated that it was, but only in theory and implied that mental health wasn’t considered a priority.
He went on to tell me that, even though he hasn’t a mental health problem and has not experienced disability hate crime (or any kind of hate crime) he understood my feelings on the subject perfectly. I challenged this statement by saying that unless he had been in the position I was in and had experienced the feelings then he couldn’t possibly understand how I felt. He claims seeing victims of hate crime gives him this understanding but fails to understand that he is seeing the impact of hate crime not experiencing it himself. He told me we’d have to agree to disagree which is a barely polite way of saying that he didn’t agree with my opinion and thought it without value.
Eventually he told me that the officer concerned should have rang me and done the interview with the man who abused me within days but they didn’t. Some officers are on top of things and others aren’t. Some will let victims know what is going on but others don’t. He thinks this is an adequate explanation and blames the way that the police work. Individual officers, it seems, have no responsibility for their work or the damage (and it has damaged me considerably) not doing it properly causes.
I wonder if he would use these same excuses and terms if I’d been a rape victim or was a member of the family of a murder victim. I think not.
I am going to make a formal complaint via the local PCC when I am a little more able. I’m enduring a crisis with my health that is taking months to get on top of and this series of incidents has made it worse. I could try going via another agency but accessibility is an issue. Accessibility to agencies that can help is not about wheelchairs or hearing loops or leaflets in a multitude of languages for people with mental health problems. Accessibility for me means being able to make a phone call and not stand or sit in a stressful environment for a long time just to see if I’m eligible for an appointment and then if I am I need to be able to speak with confidence to the person who is listening and that they will understand what I’m trying to say.
The Citizens Advice Bureau here fails on all these counts. My last experience with them was so stressful it contributed to my big breakdown which heralded the end of my working life and, as it was about debts and having an income statement to give to the people I owed money to, it was devastating that they missed off one essential outgoing and, for some bizarre reason, had all my bills & correspondence relating to my debts sent to their office. They did this during phone calls where I had given them permission to speak on my behalf and as these phone calls were made in a room away from me I had no input into them. They did not forward the mail on and I only discovered what had happened when the electricity rang me and asked why I hadn’t responded to a letter.
The local branch of Mind in this city have told me in the bluntest possible way that they don’t help people. What they are there to do is a mystery.
Have no doubt about it – these big charities work to a plan that doesn’t always include what is best for their clients. They seem to exist to fulfil their needs and not ours.
I am, in effect, stuck in a cycle of abuse that is being dealt to me by the very people who are supposed to help and can’t get help from outside agencies because, even though they mean well, they are inadequate.
I feel a failure as a person. I’m tough but I’m not unbreakable and currently I am broken. I didn’t become me with bells on as I envisaged when I was 14 years old instead I have become me with a bell, ringing it in advance to warn people that somebody with a severe mental health problem is approaching. That bell has been thrust upon me by authorities, bureaucrats and medics regardless of whether I want it or not. What they should be doing is ringing a full peal to celebrate the person that I am, not tolling a bell of doom warning people of the fears they think I embody.