At the end of last week, we featured a story on the Dedicated Rape Unit. Now we’ve gone behind the scenes, to find out what working in the unit is actually like.
Being an officer for the Dedicated Rape Unit requires dedication and a special type of person to carry out a difficult and emotionally challenging specialist job, which isn’t suited to everyone.
Detective Lianne MacFarlane is one of the specialist officers, who works in the Unit, and spends her days responding to cases of rape and sexual assault on a daily basis.
“When I first joined the police, I thought that rape and serious sexual assault would be the hardest crime to deal with,” said Lianne. “When I began to respond to these types of incidents as a response officer, I realised that my approach gained victims trust and cooperation and I was able to make a difference to their cases.”
“The Dedicated Rape Unit was relatively new when I was a response officer, and I was impressed that Cheshire Police had taken this positive step, to offer specialist help to victims of this extremely serious crime.”
“No day is ever the same in the Unit. There are days when the team are dealing with brand new cases that are often just hours old, to dealing with on-going investigations, liaising with victims, witnesses, crime scene investigators and other supporting organisations, all with the aim of helping the victim through their ordeal.
“I encourage victims to speak to me about what has happened to them, by letting them see I am there to help. I reassure them, listen to them and build the trust with them so that we can achieve justice. Victims are my priority. I never push my victims to do anything they don’t want to do, but I do make it clear that I’m there for them, when and where they need me.”
Due to the nature of the crimes they deal with officers in the Unit often hear details that are distressing and upsetting, which can have a profound impact on them.
“I have a ‘home-mode’ and a ‘work-mode’. When I clock on, I adopt my ‘work-mode’ and deal with the difficult situations in the most professional way I can, because the victim needs me to be the strong one, to help them through their ordeal. I’m only human, so sometimes some of the details I hear upset me or make me angry, but I channel my energy into building the best, most water tight case I can in order to achieve justice for the victim.”
The Dedicated Rape Unit’s priorities are to support victims, investigate and build the case to bring the offender to justice, providing victims access to excellent medical services (Sexual Assault Referral Centre at St Mary’s in Manchester) to ensure their physical wellbeing as well as signposting them to specialist services who can offer counselling and additional emotional support.
“The job we do is not an easy one; it takes a lot of strength of character to be able to investigate these crimes without it affecting your professional judgement. All of the hard work is worth the time and energy the officers in the Dedicated Rape Unit pour into the individual cases. It all becomes worthwhile when we achieve convictions and sentences ranging from 17-23 years for our victims.
“No matter how difficult my day is, it will never have been as difficult as that of the victims I support. I can always be certain that I have spent it doing something that really makes a difference to someone in Cheshire.”