Monday, September 11, 2006

Women and mental health

Many women who blog on the subject of sexual violence and abuse have had some experience of it in their own lives. A lot of these women have suffered or still do suffer various mental health problems, from depression to panic attacks, personality "disorders" and severe mood swings, often directly linked to their experiences.

In some cases of domestic violence, a woman's mental "illness" is used against her in court, despite the illness being caused by the violence itself. If a woman who reports her rape has mental health or drug-related problems, this is used as evidence against her reliability as a witness, despite the fact that rapists often target these women specifically.

Depression, anxiety, mood-disorders and other issues can all affect womens' ability to work, study or simply get on with life, and women are consistently penalised for this without the root causes being looked into. The very things that can help women are being prioritized against, such as Rape Crisis Centres; there is now one, compared to over twenty in the '70s. These have been replaced by Sexual Assault Referral Centres, which, while better than nothing, are affiliated with the police and encourage women to report the crime - despite the obscenely low conviction rate and the fact that women are even more traumatized after a trial in which they are not believed.

When looking at these facts and considering the light sentences that most child-abusers and rapists get, if they are sentenced at all (the heavier sentences go to those who have offended numerous times, and the vast irreparable damage is already done), points to a society that sanctions the abuse of women and children to it's own ends. Under patriarchy, it serves men well to keep girls and women controlled and frightened and out of the workplace - unless that workplace happens to be prostitution or pornography.
And I don't think I need to point out how the majority of girls and women get into prostitution and pornography.

There are some organisations that will happily employ women (and men) with emotional or mental-health problems, realising that they can be flexible enough to accomodate and cultivate individual talents - but most will not. Until the stigma is gone, and more information about mental illness is available, women will continue to suffer at the hands of a society that feeds and waters their abusers; the very people who caused or contributed to their "illness".

And that folks, just ain't fair.


Blogger stormy said...

Jo, a very well-observed post. My first visit here, and look forward to rummaging through your archives!

5:39 PM  
Blogger jo22 said...

Hi Stormy, you are one of my absolute favourite commenters on the blogs! x

5:54 PM  
Blogger stormy said...


No pressure there then, eh?

Good comment #129 at LITR.

12:06 AM  
Blogger witchy-woo said...

Excellent post Jo - thank you.

It's amazing how much some abused women's mental health can improve with talking therapies - especially from women-centred organisations which, as you say, are vastly under funded.

There are many Rape Crisis Centres in the UK - mostly small groups of women who volunteer their counselling skills to any woman who has been raped, sexually assaulted or sexually abused as a child. These groups continually struggle for funding in order to be able to keep going.

They're seen as 'safe' by most of the women who use them - safe because there is no statutory agency involvement. And yet holding out as a service delivered 'by women, for women' often results in reduced funding opportunities. This goes for most women centred counselling organisations, I think.

SARCs are ok as they go but their brief is too broad and the involvement of the police is too off putting for many survivors.

It isn't in the interests of the patriarchy for women to heal from experiences of male violence which is why any organisation that attempts to enable that to happen - from Refuges to Rape Crisis Centres - is starved of funding.

You're right. It isn't fair at all.

12:32 PM  
Blogger jo22 said...

Thanks for correcting me on the Rape Crisis Centres Witchy.

I've mostly found talk-therapy unhelpful but then I've seen some bad therapists. I've heard there are some good ones out there...


3:43 PM  

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