This week a very special campaigner for the rights of victims, died, at the age of just 51. Google Ealing Vicarage Rape, and you'll find lots of information about Jill Saward. If you read just ONE article about this strong, articulate and brave women, let it be this one published in 2006.
What happened to Jill Saward in 1986 must be top of the list of most people's worst nightmare.
It is 20 years since three men in balaclavas broke into her family home.
They were high on drugs and drink and armed with knives. Jill Saward
and her boyfriend, David Kerr, were watching television. Her father,
Canon Michael Saward, answered the door to find a kitchen knife being
held at his stomach. The men demanded money and "jewels". Finding none,
they went on an orgy of violence.
But, it wasn't just the horrors bestowed on Jill and her dad and boyfriend that shocked and angered folk, as if those facts weren't enough. It was the sentences handed out, and some of the words uttered by the Judge. Hard to even contemplate now.
The gang leader, Robert Horscroft, who did not take part in the rape,
was jailed for 14 years for burglary and assault. Martin McCall, the
most vicious attacker, got five years for rape and five years for
aggravated burglary; Christopher Byrne, three years for rape and five
years for burglary and assault. The judge was censured for putting a
greater value on property than on the person.
Jill's 'calm and resilience' are no doubt what kept her going all these years. Imagine her suffering as you read on. Tell me if it affects you as it does me ?
What affected her most deeply, physically and mentally, she
says, was the anal rape by McCall and the threat that he would use his
knife to damage her inside and prevent her from having children.
no way is buggery similar to rape," she says. "The inhumanity of it
puts it in a class of its own. You have no self-esteem, no self-worth
and your life doesn't look as if it can get better. The psychological
damage is totally different from rape. It should be recognised in law as
a separate crime."
And then there's the so-called helpers
One psychotherapist treated her shame as verging on the
absurd. Another told her that pregnancy "could be the one good thing to
come out of the rape". She disagreed with both, dispensed with
counselling altogether and still has a dim view of what she calls
"They didn't understand the
stiff-upper-lip British family and thought we were weird and
dysfunctional. They said my problem was we couldn't talk to each other,
but that was the way we worked. My real problem was I'd been raped by
two violent men."
And then there's the 'buzzwords' - Oh yes, the jargon - if you've been there you'll know. As so often, the help one is offered bears little relation to the help that is needed, there and then, not in three, four, fives months time, via several different agencies
"The buzz word is 'signposting'. As a victim, the last thing you need is
signposts to 50 different places. You need one place where everybody is
on tap and you can have all your needs met without having to go through
things over and over again. Sexual assault referral centres [the
Government's attempt at a comprehensive one-stop resource] are limited
in what they can do."
But she wasn't just moaning, she had some damned good ideas about what needed to be changed. Common sense really isn't it ?
Saward wants to see specialist juries "who understand the complexities
of rape" and more options for judges to differentiate between degrees of
rape. "Some activists will say any rape is violent, but there is a
difference where weapons are involved and you fear for your life
Fast forward to 2013 and Jill has her opinions on anonymity for those accused of rape and sexual offences. Did YOU know that in 1986 Jill was not allowed to know WHO her attackers were ? I didn't, no wonder some are so vociferous about the issue.
The law back then was crazy wasn't it ? The weight was indeed stacked against the complainant. Not that she wasn't aware that innocent folk could be victims too.
Jill said these words long before Cliff Richard's life was turned upside down. Her's was a campaign on behave of the complainants, the majority of whom, she believed were telling the truth, and I salute her for that. But, what I want to know is, how many of Jill's suggestions have been given the consideration and respect, they deserved. Not because we know what happened to her, or because we feel sympathy for her. But because much of what she said was sensible.
Here she is just four years after the attack
Here's her blog - sad that it attracted so few comments. I hope it was well read at least
Apparently, the men who raped Jill Saward are all dead. As is the man who took no part in the attack but received the biggest sentence. Nice to know that Jill met and forgave Robert Horscroft in 1998
The other gang member was beaten inside
This is just my tribute to a woman who may, or may not, have transcended a tag stuck on her by those vicious, evil, selfish men. What else is there to say ?
Saward knows that her vocal concerns and her willingness to put herself
in the firing line can make her seem obsessive. But, 20 years on, she
feels there's still much to be obsessive about. "I don't for ever want
to be Jill Saward, the Ealing Vicarage Rape Victim. Something different
would be nice. But it's not going to happen now." (from Telegraph above)