NOTE: All bolded items are to indicate things that surprised me about giving a report about sexual assault at the police station in Rome.
I arrived at the station wet and tired, and realized I had lost the piece of paper the Embassy officer gave me with the police captain’s name on it. I was supposed to request the captain of Sezione 4. That’s all I could remember. So, I approached the female officer who was standing guard outside the station entrance with two male officers and asked her if she could help direct me. She immediately barked “No inglese!” Fantastic. I looked at the male officer and told him I was there to report a crime. He could not have been less interested. With a smirk, and I mean SMIRK, he asked me “What? Were you mugged or something?” “No,” I thought to myself, “But how about I knee you in the crotch?”
This was the second time that day I started to lose my cool. Obviously, I can handle a lot of things. Being condescended to in this way, with my nose still dribbling blood, was not one of them. I instantly whipped out the Embassy officer’s business card and told him I had an appointment in Sezione 4 (I did not realize it, but that’s code for “sex crimes and pedophelia unit”). He took the card and walked away. When he came back, I tell you, it was like a different person; he was polite, helpful and told me where I needed to go.
Walking through the station was so…surreal. ’80s decor and foreign to my eyes, and I just kept thinking, “Ok, I’m really doing this. I am about to do this thing that will change my life.” And then, there I was, in Sezione 4, seated on a couch in a private office, with a high-ranking female officer who had a concerned expression on her face. Soon, the room filled up with people: the station psychologist, my interpreter, and about three other investigators, all just staring at me very intently. The psychologist, it was explained, would be there to make sure I was ok and also, to give her assessment to the police about my behaviors (if my words were matching up with my behaviors), the interpreter was there to aid me and the police in writing the report, and the officers with me in the room were going to retrieve Marco if I could help them find him. I recall the look of complete intensity on the face of one of the police captains. He was so ready to haul Marco in. When I gave him the photo of me with Marco, Marco’s business card and art book, and when I drew on a street map where I believed Marco lived, the offficers were off like a shot, out the door and gone.
Next, I was moved to a private room where three female detectives – all who were drop-dead gorgeous and wearing skinny jeans, high-heeled black boots, with long, flowing hair – conducted the photo shoot of my injuries. Seriously? Is exotic beauty a requirement for police women in Italy? But I digress…Psychologically, it was a strange sensation to disrobe in front of them and have my body examined and my cuts measured with a ruler and photographed. It was one of those moments where you sort of step outside yourself in order to get through it. Unfortunately for me, their photos got screwed up and I had to go through the entire experience again.
Then, I sat waiting for an hour until my official report began. I was brought into a room with a surprisingly large number of people in it. The psychologist had brought her students from a grad school class she teaches so they could observe me. I didn’t even know you could do that. But I just tuned them out and got to work (I will write a future post on the report process). During the report process, there were many starts and stops, especially as officers arrived back from the crime scene. At certain times, I was escorted out to the hallway to wait.
I just remember sitting stiffly on the metal bench outside my interview room, watching the police run up and down the hall, stopping at the lockers in front of me to get their guns or wallets, and more often than not, with their cigarettes dangling out of their mouths. Sometimes, an officer would pass me just as he exhaled a huge puff of smoke. That was special. Even more special? My suddenly raging case of asthma. The coughing hurt my body. I had no ice and hadn’t had any at all in the time after the assault nor was it offered to me. (Italy, and Europe for that matter, are not big fans of ice). But I knew enough not to complain. I wanted them to see me as an exemplary witness.
Also, I did not cry. I was just stoic. Kind of resigned to my misfortune as I sat there. Only during my recitations to the officer typing the report did I become animated, often leaving my chair to physically demonstrate the various aspects of the assault (at times, it probably looked like I was performing some kind of martial art as it seemed my body remembered every movement from my fistfight with Marco). For some reason, I felt that crying would make them think I was a hysterical female or a dumb American. In keeping myself calm, I believed they would find me more credible. It never occured to me that maybe they would find a lack of tears a sign of a lack of trauma (they didn’t, I’m just saying that I hadn’t considered a possible alternative viewpoint).
About five hours into my visit, I was offered food by a very sweet officer who had stopped in the hall and patted me on the head. While none of them ever talked to me in any way other than an investigative one, this guy brought me bowtie pasta with tuna. I gladly accepted and valiantly tried to get it down, but the smell made me queasy. Still, I appreciated the gesture. Until that point, sitting on the bench, I had this growing desire for a hug. For some sort of human contact. I had not been hugged at all that day and I felt very lonely.
A little while later, I was brought back in for more questioning, then placed outside in the hallway again where I witnessed a number of officers all congregated at one end of the hallway, shoulder to shoulder moving as a huddled mass. They were blocking my view of whomever they had in front of them. Later on, I learned it was Marco they were moving from one room to another for his interrogation. I am glad I didn’t realize he was so close to me – within 20 feet. I would have climbed over that group of officers and unloaded on him. I still can’t believe they had me so close to him though. It’s another part of the experience that struck me as different from what you’d expect.
At around 6:30 p.m., the police separated me from my interpreter and put me in a Fiat-like car with three other officers, none of whom spoke English well. They were taking me back, in the dark and rain, to Marco’s street. I could not believe it…
EXTRA THOUGHT: I am saving my most favorite part of the story of my police report for a future post. You will understand why.