Today it’s my absolute pleasure to be joining the blog tour for Into The Valley by Chris Clements Green. With thanks to the publisher and Laura Summers at Book Machine for inviting me to join the tour. I’ll be sharing an extract from the book with you in just a moment, as soon as we’ve taken a look at what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
Encouraged by the sizeable pay increase and high divorce rate, Chris decided that answering a recruitment ad for the Thames Valley Police was just the thing for a much-needed overhaul of her life.
It was 1984, a time before political correctness, at the height of the miner’s strike and in the middle of five years of race riots.
Expanding her police knowledge, and her love life, undeterred by sexist remarks and chauvinists she decided to make her mark, kissing goodbye to her previous dull and conventional existence.
Chris captures the colourful characters and humour in the situations she found herself in, but the job had its serious side, too. She was at the centre of a riot in Oxford, during which her life was saved by a young black man she had previously stopped and questioned, and was attacked by a man with mental-health problems a consequence of the decision to move care into the community.
Consistently coming up against the effects of Margaret Thatcher s politics; from miner s picket-lines, covering (poorly) for striking paramedics during the ambulance dispute to everyday drunken disturbances caused by the haves (Yuppies and Oxford students) and the have-nots (alcoholic homeless and unemployed youth), Chris also tackled sex crimes and abuse.
An often humorous, always candid and no-holds-barred reflection of the life of a policewoman in the 80s, this book offers a personal account of a life in uniform, while touching on the Newbury Bypass demos, the effects of Scarman, the Hungerford Massacre, the bombing of Libya, the AIDS epidemic and working under the notorious Ali Dizaei.
Into The Valley
Chris Clements Green
After three years of uniform shift work, I thought it was time to celebrate my recent divorce. I decided that my new personal status should be matched by a new professional one, so I applied for the Women’s Specialist Unit. Euphemistically known as the ‘Rape & Pillage Squad’, the WSU was viewed by all as a female back-door into CID.
At this time women were still not encouraged to attempt any specialisation, so the setting up of the WSU offered a rare chance for females to undertake plain-clothes work. Even in the late Eighties female officers needed this trade entrance if they wanted a chance at entering the hallowed halls of non-uniform work (before being given the opportunity to bang their heads against the glass ceiling inside). Senior officers always declared that CID wasn’t a promotion, but offending detective constables were always ‘busted back to uniform’ and uniformed offenders could kiss goodbye to CID for years after being disciplined.
As its name suggests, the WSU was a clear breach of equal opportunity legislation as men could not join the unit. It had been created as a knee-jerk reaction to a controversial 1982 Thames Valley Police fly-on-the-wall documentary, in which a detective constable and his sergeant had given a convicted prostitute a savagely hard time on camera regarding an allegation of rape. The public outrage following the programme was to bring about the start of a fundamental change in the way the police handled rape cases.
With the WSU my next goal, I applied for the ‘indecency course’. It was a standing joke that Thames Valley whoopsies needed to be taught how to be indecent. The three-week training covered the various elements of sexual deviation that constituted criminal offences. It also covered the problems inherent in bringing a successful prosecution for rape – the easiest of offences to allege and the hardest to prove.
If a victim didn’t resist the assault, as recommended by the Home Office as the best way of preventing the attack becoming a murder, an offender who admitted to having sex with the victim could claim it was ‘consensual’ and so make any physical evidence irrelevant. The most life-shattering of crimes could often boil down to the victim’s word against the offender’s, and not many courts were willing to convict on this alone.
The complex question of ‘true consent’ was another area of theory clouded by assumptions and emotion. In theory, a woman who agrees to go back to a man’s home or hotel room for a drink is consenting only to the drink, but the prevailing attitude of the male-dominated justice system was that she was asking for it; just like wearing short skirts or low-cut blouses was asking for it. Some members of the justice system still hold this view but they hide it better.
Another legal technicality was the definition of ‘penetration’. At the time I was wading through these muddied waters, there was no offence of male rape; penetration was restricted to penis in vagina. Therefore, the sadist who used something other than his penis to penetrate the vagina, or penetrated an anus – although he caused as much emotional damage and usually far more physical damage – was actually guilty of the lesser offence of indecent assault. And these variations were not uncommon. For the truth is that rape is not about sex; it’s about power. If a man just wanted sex, even anal sex, he could pay for it. But many rapists get a twisted satisfaction from the power they wield over their victims, including the power involved in what gets put where. In rape, sex is a means not an end.
My first rape victim looked particularly small and fragile. Her tortured body made the shallowest of bumps under the hospital bed’s thin green cover. Six hours earlier she’d been grabbed in the street and pulled into some bushes by a stranger. He’d forced her to perform oral sex at knife point, before he thrust a broken glass bottle inside her. She needed over 70 internal and external stitches.
As I interviewed this woman, she talked about the crime in such calm detail that you’d think she was giving me a statement about a minor traffic accident. But her eyes were dead as well as dry, her tone was flat and her body had a stillness to it that reminded me of the morgue. In 1988 post-traumatic stress disorder had only just appeared on the clinical horizon and was still unrecognised and far from understood by most professionals.
Several weeks later I was taking a statement from a victim of a relatively minor indecent assault. A passing jogger had momentarily groped the woman’s breast over her jumper. As she tried to describe the man, her shoulders became hunched as she began to drown in a rising panic. Her whole body broke out in hives and she began to shake uncontrollably. I called for an ambulance, which rushed her to hospital suffering from clinical shock.
Although we’d be taught the ins and outs of sex-related law, I would once more find myself leaving training equipped with only the theory. Dealing with the emotion of such crimes was left to experience, and the first thing experience taught me was that no two people would react in the same way to such physical and mental invasions of their lives – invasions that robbed these women of so much more than their dignity.
Into the Valley is available now and you can purchase the book by following the link here.
Make sure to check out some of the other great blogs taking part in the tour.