The publication of a report into the experiences of victims of crime with mental health issues has highlighted a lack of understanding for their plight and the damaging impact on their lives. Sunil Peck talks to one victim about her nightmare and its aftermath.
“He was almost rewarded for raping me and I ended up homeless,” says Ruby speaking about the neighbour who, she claims, raped her in 2006. “I was being treated for depression and I was self-medicating with alcohol but I wasn’t drunk the night it happened. There was an empty wine bottle on the coffee table and there was a strip of medication and the police were like, ‘ok, we’ll take your statement’ knowing that it would go nowhere. I was treated like a child telling tales. I was refused the right to a female doctor for the rape kit test and the doctor who did it acted like he was doing an Autopsy. He didn’t speak to me or tell me what he was going to do. I was completely in shock and had to speak to a man to give my statement.”
The police arrested her alleged attacker but he was later released after the Crown Prosecution Service said that there was insufficient evidence to press charges. While Ruby says that the man had legal representation and was bailed to his home address, she was never given access to a police liaison officer and found out that charges would not be pressed when she rang the police a few days later.
As well as claiming that the man stalked her for a year before the rape, Ruby says that he subjected her to a campaign of abuse that included trying to set fire to her flat, putting cigarettes through her letterbox and stamping on her kitten.
She reported the incidents and the police arrested him several times.
Ruby’s experiences are reflected in the findings of a report published by Mind, Victim Support and a number of universities which found that people with mental health issues are more likely to be repeat victims of crime and less likely to be satisfied with their treatment by police.
The report found that 62 per cent of women with severe mental health issues report being victims of sexual violence as adults; women with severe mental health issues are 10 times more likely than the general population to experience assault and that people with severe mental health issues are significantly more likely to report unfair or disrespectful treatment by the police.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “People with mental health problems have an equal right to justice, yet this report reveals that this is not the reality for far too many of us. It is unacceptable that the police, healthcare staff and others who are supposed to support victims of crime may be dismissive of or not believe a person’s experience, or may even blame them for the crime.”
The report puts forward a number of recommendations including training for staff in health, social care and police services to deal with victims of crime with mental health issues; more effective support services for victims; the removal of barriers for victims in court; better peer support; and more cooperation between the police, housing, health and social care sectors.
Meanwhile, Ruby has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and rarely leaves her house.
“I’m upset that now I know my rights, I know what could have been. I could have healed from this. It’s been nearly seven years. I could have been back at work, I could have been safe, and I could have achieved something. But instead I’ve become a prisoner in my own home.”