- Should you go to the police to report rape or domestic abuse?
- What happens when you go to the police station to report abuse?
- The police have two avenues to take after you explain the facts to them
- Who can file an FIR?
- Medical Examination after denouncing an abuse
- False report and corruption: Attitude of the police towards domestic violence
Should you go to the Police to report rape or domestic abuse?
Considering the recent events that came about in our capital, the situation remains bleak in India for women seeking civil justice with the help of police. If you do choose to go to the police, here is some information you should know.First of all, it is important that you have remembered to take evidence of abuse, eg. pictures of bruises or threatening e-mails, text messages, voice mails, recordings, letters. Documenting the abuse will give you a strong case and people will not be able to ignore your complaints if you show them pictures or other evidence. Only do this if it is safe for you to do so. And having your own copies of evidence is important because the police may lose your copies.Before you approach the police, it is also advisable to have someone you trust with you so the police do not take advantage of you. If your friend is a woman, this is good because she can also be present if you need a medical examination. Be sure you have somewhere safe to stay the night, because you do not know how the police will react to your complaint.
What happens when you go to the police station to report abuse?
When you tell your story to a policeman, he is legally obliged to report it in a document called First Information Report (FIR). To be sure to obtain a FIR, one must go to the police station. Telling your complaint to a policeman outside the police station will make it difficult to receive a FIR.
Please look at this document for a full detailing of the procedures to be undertaken by police at the time of complaint.
The police have two avenues to take after you explain the facts to them:
1- The information you gave is not enough to consider the fact as a cognisable (arrestable) offence; it means that the police cannot arrest someone without warrant for this kind of offense or without enough proof. Generally when there has been no visible injury or what police considers as minor injury, it will be seen as a non-cognisable offence. Even if the police cannot act, it is however important to have made the denouncement as it will be registered in the police diary and a copy is sent to the concerned judicial magistrate.
2- The information you gave permits to classify the offence as a ‘cognisable’ (arrestable) offence. In this case, according to Section 154 in the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973), the policeman has to write the complaint down and read it back to the complainant who then has to sign or make a thumb mark on the document. The written information is then entered into a book kept by the officer and a copy of it is given to the complainant. If the officer refuses to carry out any of the said procedures for the complainant, it is important to know that one can notify the Superintendent of Police in writing and by post, who has the authority to determine if the complaint is cognisable.
Beware, that the police may try to get in touch with your family, husband, in-laws to inform them of your complaint or to start a mediation process.
Who can file a FIR (a complain)?
—- An individual against whom the offence has been committed (the woman who faces abuse)
—- A person who knows about the offence that has been committed (a family member, a friend, anyone who knows an abuse has been committed)
—- A person who has seen the offence being committed (witness of the abuse)
If the police choose not to conduct an investigation, they must record their reasons for not conducting the investigation and inform the complainant. Also, complaints made through telephone might be documented but an FIR won’t be filed immediately as it is not an oral statement to the officer of the police station reduced to writing (Section 154, Cr. PC). Section 154, Cr. PC can be read here. It is best not to make your complaint over the phone as it is still a controversial issue and you cannot take the chance of your FIR not being filed. You can read why it might be best not to complain over the phone here.
Medical Examination after denouncing an abuse
When you tell the police about violence, rape or assault, the Station Head Officer (SHO) or the Investigating Officer (IO) should register the case in the presence of a lady officer and they must contact a Magistrate’s office to request a medico legal-examination. The complainant is accompanied by the medico-legal office for examination.
Go here to see the guidelines and protocols for the Medico-Legal exam.
The police also have to investigate the crime and submit their evidence and results from the medico-legal office to the Prosecutor. Even if the police do it right, the reality is that evidence is often lost, or not processed the right way, which makes it inadmissible in court.
False report and corruption: Attitude of the police towards domestic violence
The police should protect victims of violence. However, they often act with no concern for the women, trying to reconcile the woman with her family. They prefer to convince the woman to solve the problem within the family instead of reporting the crime, as they legally should or humiliate and discriminate the survivor.
In India there have been cases where a rape by a politician/politician’s son/wealthy man has gone unreported because of the status and connections of the rapist. Please bear this in mind when dealing with the police, as they may not even file the FIR for you against your rapist.
Despite efforts of NGOs and government, the sad reality remains that overwhelmingly, women have extremely bad experiences with the police. The police is often corrupt and can be bribed by money or their own religious/social prejudices. Sometimes when a woman goes to the police to complain, some corrupted policemen call the family to tell them what has happened. This makes the situation for the women extremely dangerous. The police refer to the men in the family to take care of the matter and send the women back to the abusive home which will become even more dangerous because of this incident. It is easier for abusive men to turn situations to their advantage because they can give policemen bribes whereas women do not have money to pay them.
Perhaps one of the most common worries of women is that some families can make a false claim to punish the woman. Research has shown that in these cases, women can be forced to go to the abusive home or face prostitution/kidnapping charges which can result in lengthy jail times. Situation is far worse inside jails for women. Women often have to face violence while in custody; they can be beaten up or sexually assaulted even from female officers.