Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Houston, We Have A Problem

Well I spend a lot of time here on the Cru-blog addressing issues of misogynist violence, abuse and hatred. My first-hand experiences - with the exception of my abusive childhood - are generally at the less threatening end of the scale - guys shouting stuff at me when I'm on stage or whistling at me in the street, that kind of thing. Not nice but, for me anyway, not something that affects my life too much.

Recently that has changed. In December last year I had a crank phone call from a male voice who asked if this was the number for a brothel. I said no and asked where he got the number and he hung up. I figured it was either a genuine idiot mis-reading a number he'd read in a phone box or someone I knew a bit drunk thinking they were being funny. The number came up as "the caller withheld their number".

A few weeks later Mr Cru answered my phone and again a male voice asked if it was a brothel. He said no and again the guy hung up.

Another time Mr Cru answered and the guy hung up immediately.

Another couple of weeks later and I answered one again. This time he had a lot more to say - still asking if it was a brothel, asking if I was a hooker (his word, not mine) and asking me to describe myself physically ("how big are your tits?", etc). He also mentioned the area in which I live - which frightened me as evidently he knows my address. I told him I was going to contact the police if he didn't stop.

This afternoon I had two more calls, back to back from the same voice. This time he said he was coming round straight away to "fuck" me "really hard" and a lot of very very unpleasant things. He also said my name (I haven't told him so that's another frightening sign, he evidently has access to my details). And he told me that I was a "bitch" and that this was why he was making these calls and if I didn't want them I should "stop being a bitch". He then told me he worked for the local police - and re-iterated that he was coming round immediately to "fuck" (i.e. rape) me.

Of course it would be the one morning this week when Mr Cru was out, so by this stage I was in a total panic. So I called the police. I explained the situation in full, and that I was home alone. They suggested I contact my mobile phone company (yes really - as though the problem was the calls rather than the threat of rape - and also as if I should investigate the crime myself, rather than them doing it) and then said they'd "try" and send someone round. They also said I shouldn't use the word "rape" since the caller hadn't used it (the caller also didn't say he was coming round to "fuck" me but only if I gave full consent... the threat is obviously rape).

I was then home alone for two hours. I did ring O2 and they said they absolutely could try to trace the call but they would need to speak to the police to do so, not me. As I thought.

Then Mr Cru got back - in a rush, having come from Leicester to get to me and make sure I was ok. The police arrived more than two and a half hours after I called 999. They sent two male officers (despite me explaining that the caller had claimed to work for the police, etc, surely it was obviously a better idea to send a woman?), who refused to show Mr Cru any ID and instead told him to go outside into the street (leaving me indoors alone) and look down the road at the police car parked there.

Then, finally they took down the info about what had happened. They were mostly interested in some pretty odd stuff like what make my mobile phone was, and whether I had called the police for any other reasons recently... But I went along with it to try to get to the bottom of the situation. Then they asked "Are you not too bothered about this?" in a way that they clearly wanted me to say "I'm not too bothered". Of course I said "Yes I'm terrified I'm going to get violently raped"

Then they left telling me (a) to keep a diary of when the calls happen in future and (b) to give them a ring if there were further developments and (c) that they would send me a letter by the end of the week letting me know what was happening.

Not a very satisfactory state of affairs. I work in an industry where I'm forever giving my number out to anybody and everybody who might have work for me, so it's not really feasible to figure out who it is. I have a couple of potential suspicions but definitely no clear answer. Advice - legal and practical - very welcome.


butterflywings said...

OH MY GOD. You poor thing, that must be terrifying.
The police who handled it sound completely unprofessional (could think of some less polite and more sweary ways to describe them here but will resist...).
Maybe you could complain to the IPCC?

Julia said...

What a horrible terrifying experience. I second Butterflywings' suggestion. The IPCC is the best solution.

My non-practising-lawyer husband says:

Publicity is the best answer to this one. And since she has her own suspicions, if it were me I'd tell the people I was suspicious of in no uncertain terms that I was pursuing this to a full prosecution, and to publicly name and shame the perpetrator to as wide an audience as possible. If they think this is funny, then let's see if their reputation being destroyed is funny.

Have courage, and take comfort in the support of your partner. This is not right, and you deserve to be taken seriously and to see the perpetrator stopped.

John A said...

The police don't have the technology to find out who called you, but O2 do. They might need police permission to give you that sensitive information but it's clear that someone is just not taking it seriously enough. If this were me I'd completely hammer O2 down with calls until something got done about it.

Absinthecity said...

Shit! That's awful. I don't know what to suggest, but hope that you're both OK.

I'm personally absolutely flabbergasted to hear how unconcerned the police have acted, and think I must have been very naive to assume that when you say certain words to the police ('rape' definitely being one of them) they might think about taking some notice.

Sassywho said...

I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this, it can be terrifying. I had a similar situation, because of my business my cards had most of my contact information and were handed out frequently. If your situation was the same as mine, I eventually figured out who it was and phoned him myself letting him know I was turning over his information to the cops.

Unknown said...

So sorry to hear about this.
My best friend writes for a trade paper and has to do phone interviews a lot, so she got this thing she plugs into her phone and it records the conversation on a mini-cassette, which she can play back later. I'm not sure if it would work with cell phones, but it might be worth looking into. Also your cell phone may have a way to record the conversation built in. My last phone had a button on the side of it that would record conversations while it was pressed - as a result I'd accidentally record stuff a lot. What I don't know is how easy it would be to save the recordings and get them from your cell onto another format. And you may want to speak to a lawyer or look into what the laws are about recording phone calls, just to be safe. (Although I can't imagine you would get in trouble for it.)

Unknown said...

Withheld calls are a pain in the ass. Telecoms really don't want to deal with it. Your telecom probably doesn't even know the phone number as it shows up as withheld for them as well. So all they know is the telecom it is coming from. So not only does your telecom not want to be bothered with it but the other telecom really doesn't want to be bothered with it (it isn't their problem). And this kind of thing happens a ton and is tough to track so no one really does anything about it.