Rotherham, Rape Culture, and A Dearth of Mental Health

I’ve had a very difficult time reading this article, “A Rotherham abuse survivor speaks out. It’s taken me as long as the article has been online to read it because it’s such a horrible story and I don’t deal well with this kind of stuff. I could never be a counselor to help girls who have gone through such ordeals because I’d become too emotionally affected.

Speaking of counseling, it is absolutely atrocious that this woman has not been provided the necessary counseling she needs and most definitely deserves.

Even when she says she’d like to tell her apathetic police officers to “drop dead”, she then breaks into a laugh. The most emotion she shows is when discussing Laura’s death. Sarah bends her head as she talks about her sister’s murder and picks repeatedly at the label on her water bottle, ripping off the paper in short shreds.

Sarah hasn’t had any therapy to help cope with her trauma. She was offered bereavement counselling when her sister died but after the first session, the therapist said she could have a second appointment in two months time. “I told her not to bother,” says Sarah.

Sarah says she hasn’t heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, though she seems to show the classic symptoms, and doesn’t understand depression. “Some days I just sit there all day and cry, and some days I can laugh about it all,” she says.

She has flashbacks and nightmares, periods of insomnia and intense anger. “I sit there and think, I just need to go out and batter someone. But then I think, where’s that going to get me?” Sarah also suffers panic attacks, which can be triggered by anything from a spider on the wall to a fly buzzing near. “I get right stressed and then I just hide away for a couple of days,” says Sarah. “I won’t leave the house.”

It’s beyond obvious that she is in need of counseling, serious and empathetic counseling with someone who respects her and takes her seriously instead of simply brushing her away as the police had repeatedly. I don’t know if she’s likely to hurt herself, though. She seems very strong and defiant despite the terrifying experience she’s had.

Photographs © Copyright by Julian Andrews. Eye R8 Productions Ltd. 2015. 29/06/15. Victoria, London, England. Commission May0063541 Portraits of Sarah Wilson who has waived her anonymity and written a book about her experiences at the hands of the abusers in Rotherham
Photographs © Copyright by Julian Andrews. Eye R8 Productions Ltd. 2015.
29/06/15. Victoria, London, England.
Commission May0063541
Portraits of Sarah Wilson who has waived her anonymity and written a book about her experiences at the hands of the abusers in Rotherham

Sarah is currently working with the police to help them recognise signs of grooming, and has begun to compile evidence to build a case against her attackers. She has recently given birth to her 14-week-old son, Myles, and plans to raise him in Rotherham. When I ask why she doesn’t move away, she’s quick to respond: “My sister’s buried there,” she says.

“Rotherham’s my town, why should I be run out of my town because of what they did?,” says Sarah. “If it was up to me, I’d be living next door to the b******s to intimidate them. Rotherham’s where I was born and grew up. It’s my home.”

It requires a tough as nails person to be willing to face her abusers like that.

But she needs therapy to cope better with the trauma she’s endured –  not for her safety but to help her move on with a healthy life without the obvious symptoms of PTSD she’s not been treated for. When uneducated and helpless, people with PTSD can fall prey to dangerous substance abuse to cope with their anxiety and depression. She’s already had enough to deal with due to drug abuse; she doesn’t need any more drug abuse in her life, whether it’s a dependency on legal drugs such as alcohol, or harder drugs.

The fact that she is a victim of such horror and hasn’t been provided the necessary help she should be getting (a two month wait is pure negligence) is evidence the UK does not do a good job taking care of its victims of assault despite their perceived progressive health care system. Perhaps if they had a more capitalist health care system, they’d have counselors who were more eager to provide good counseling and actually give a damn about providing a good service instead of being more interested in clocking out.

She’s similarly disgusted by her two social workers, who used to moan about their caseload and treated both Sarah and her mother with disdain. “I f*ing hate them. They’re crap, they’re crap, they’re just crap,” she says. The social workers, she claims, never showed any concern for Sarah, and acted as though they couldn’t wait for the workday to end so they wouldn’t have to think about Sarah any more.

Perhaps she’s projecting a bit here, but I haven’t seen any good evidence about the UK health care system being that good as it is. The American mental health system is a travesty even with the monetary incentive to provide decent service (too often, mediocre service is provided to milk people instead of truly setting them on a healthy path [see “F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems” by Michael Bennett, M.D.), so I can only imagine a socialist health care system like the UK’s system would be this terrible.

My wife decided to get the autobiography mentioned in the article. I could never finish it if I picked it up and tried to read it. I’m far too sensitive to this subject despite the strong stomach I have for almost everything else in life. I’m fine looking at gore, both fantasy and from closed-circuit footage, I’m fine with details of violence and assault, I’m even fine with tales of people mistaking a fantasy story for a science fiction story (I shudder at the thought, though), but when it comes to rape, I have problems. It’s why, when I hear of people minimizing rape by redefining rape as every innocuous slight or transgression toward a woman, I get especially pissed off. Rape is almost as serious as murder, but we as a society do not trivialize murder as much as some have been trying to trivialize rape in an attempt to make it seem like it’s happening everywhere.

Yes, Rape Culture does exist. It exists in the Middle East and parts of Africa. It exists in Rotherham. It exists in parts of South Asia. But based on some people’s telling of it, Rape Culture exists in Antarctica of all places, too, simply because a man has stepped on that plot of earth.

Everything is rape, y’all

Both men and women need help with cases of rape and sexual assault. It’s serious business and not something to trivialize, either by police, counselors, or activists trying to use victims of sexual assault to gain social control and power.

Don’t neglect stories of rape simply because talking about pockets of rape culture requires acknowledgment that certain cultures are not civilized and equal in moral value relative to modern western mores. It’s not fair to the victims and it’s what these monsters want you to do.

Violated’ by Sarah Wilson can be purchased for  $5.99 on Kindle or less on paperback. (The link is not an affiliate link.)

Read about another account of grooming and rape here, “They like us naive’: How teenage girls are groomed for a life of prostitution by UK gangs.” Emma Jackson’s story can be read in-depth via her autobiographical telling in Exploited’ for $9.99 on Kindle.