12th July 2013
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
Re: J. H
I am a clinical psychologist and work for the NHS and I am also an associate of ********* ***** in that capacity. I have worked as a psychologist for twenty years.
J. H. came to ********* ****** in January this year requesting help to understand and more effectively manage her emotions, in order to improve her relationships. J. also wanted to reassure herself that she is not “mad”. I believe the latter concern has followed both as a consequence of the traumas she has experienced and because of others’ reportedly malign attitudes towards her following these experiences. I have met J. a number of times over this period, and she has talked to me about her very troubled upbringing as well as the difficulties she has faced since then.
J. talked about her family in which she is one of fifteen siblings all brought up by their biological parents. J. described her father as authoritative, punitive and sometimes physically abusive. For example, J. recounted that she had only attended school for two terms when she was about eight years old and she was largely home-taught by her father. J. stated that her father used to beat her for not doing well at maths. J. said that she later discovered that she had a specific learning difficulty with mathematics (dyscalculia). Despite this poor educational experience, J. observed that at 14 she bought her own books from money she earned from paper rounds and taught herself. J. attained five GCSEs at age 16 and a further two since then. J. later went to a careers advisor who suggested that she take up a course in horticulture and agriculture.
J. further observed that she felt that although her father could not cope well with the demands of life he was better at seeing to the children’s needs than her mother who she described as more often ill or too “obsessed” by concerns outside the family to be emotionally and practically accessible to her children. For example, J. noted that her mother would be involved with Court cases and quarrels with the neighbours. In this context, J. recounted that the family sometimes lived in hostels for the homeless, at times in council housing. J. recounted that her family was seen in the eyes of others as the “the family from hell”, and often targeted by the neighbours in some communities including having fireworks put in the letter box, and in which communities gang violence was prevalent. Overall, J.’s account was of an extremely unstable and disrupted home life. J. noted that she experienced extreme emotional distress when she was 12 years old.
J. further described her parents as having rigidly held, extreme beliefs about the educational establishment and the medical profession, noting that her parents distrusted doctors and midwives. For example, J. noted that her mother did not call an ambulance when her father was critically ill because the “hospital would try to kill him”, and that doctors could be “practising warlocks”. These paranoid beliefs resulted in the children being raised in an insular, cultish atmosphere in which J. and her siblings were “terrified” to refute such beliefs.
This brief description alone would be sufficient to suggest that J. might develop significant emotional problems arising from disrupted attachments to parents, and an overall parental inadequacy in providing a nurturing environment. In the absence of protective factors, for example, at least one significant nurturing adult, these experiences are likely to lead to later difficulties in relationships.
J. left home when she was 17, with the idea of seeking a “normal” life. She has not since returned and she noted that her father died a few years ago. J. attended college where she met a counsellor who was also a Vicar of the local church in the Winchester diocese. J. initially found the counsellor helpful but that this person had crossed her professional boundaries in her role as counsellor. J. apparently reminded the counsellor of one of her own family members and the counsellor befriended her rather than maintaining a professional relationship. J. stated that the counsellor, being also a vicar, encouraged J. to join the church, which J. did. J. recounted that between 19 and 20 years old the Vicar’s husband sexually abused her. J. noted that the Vicar did not believe that this had happened. Since then J. has experienced the secondary trauma of not only being disbelieved but accused by Church officials of being “mad”. J.’s efforts to have her complaint upheld have resulted, she said, in being unjustly incarcerated by the police for “harassing” the church. J. noted that she was also physically assaulted by police officers during this episode. J. recounted her experience of being sexually abused in Jersey when she was 26 years old. J.’s story is one in which repeated efforts to be heard have fallen on deaf ears. J. noted that she had once attempted suicide but has not done since. J. described herself as fit and strong before becoming homeless and had enjoyed life. J. has since been struggling to overcome both the trauma of sexual abuse and the negative impact of not having her voice heard by officials, an issue well documented in other such cases.
In relation to the traumas J. has experienced flashbacks and nightmares, and avoids people other than friends whom she knows to be trustworthy; she experiences high levels of anxiety when thinking of these issues, very noticeable in sessions with J.. J. has interpreted her anger as problematic yet these feelings are to be understood in the context of the abuse she has suffered and are well documented in the experiences of post traumatic stress. J. shows some insight into the difficulties with her relationships and her feelings and has tried assiduously both to understand her experiences and to improve herself from these. Despite her parents’ distrust of doctors and her learnt discomfort with them, J. sought medical help and was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome when she was 25. One of the key issues experienced by people with this condition is some difficulty in relating to others. For example, it is often not easy for people with Aspergers to understand the intentions or motives of others. J. noted that she becomes anxious about others’ views of her, but this is hardly surprising in the light of her having internalised so many negative views of herself both from her early family experiences and by the perpetrators of the sexual abuse she has experienced, and those who have reportedly refused her justice.
In my opinion, J. is suffering from post-traumatic stress brought about by sexual abuse and exacerbated by the responses she has experienced from the Church in her attempts to seek justice.
J. has a history of depression arising from this and has difficulty sustaining relationships, although she has a few understanding friends. J.’s experiences have been and continue to be further compounded by the limits imposed by Aspergers on her social communication skills, making her very vulnerable to exploitation by others. Such potential exploitation and abuse may be facilitated by J.’s already fragile sense of self. Despite these significant difficulties J. evidently displays strength and tenacity in trying to overcome the impact of her past experiences. Her desire to come to terms with the past and to improve her life says more about her “normality” than anything else. I believe that J. will need a lot of further support in her endeavours to achieve these outcomes.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.