The day before I left to be returned to prison I was restrained by all-male staff for a period of four hours. I accept that my behaviour necessitated physical intervention, but its length and nature was traumatic.
There was only one female member of staff on duty and she was newly qualified and had not undergone control and restraint training so could not be directly involved. A decision was also made to only ‘lightly’ sedate me as I needed to be transferred to court the next day and stand up and enter a plea.
For four hours, I was pinned face down on to the floor by three male staff. Most of the time no female member of staff was present and unnecessary and deliberate force was exerted accompanied by verbal abuse indicating why the excess force was deemed justified. This experience feels very like my experience of rape.
The use of physical restraint in the mental health system is a complicated and an emotive issue. Having no sensitivity to prior traumatic experiences, largely because it is underestimated as a cause of distress throughout the whole system, can lead to re-traumatising already damaged individuals.
I spent four years in a high security hospital being given massive quantities of psychotropic medication that left me feeling even more emotionally detached and depersonalised. I also witnessed and experienced the sinister need for power and control exerted by some staff. Despite being constantly surrounded by people I felt profoundly lonely, scared and unloved just like I often felt as a small child.
I was also preyed upon by already convicted sex offenders. There was regular ill thought out mixed social events where staff witnessed coercive sexual activity and did nothing. Allowing vulnerable women to engage in relationships with sexual predators is unacceptable and shows a lack of understanding about the nature of consent and a profoundly poor approach to safeguarding more generally. These social activities were treated as if they were like school discos with no consideration of the vulnerabilities and predatory predilections of many of those attending.
I also experienced a sexual assault when I was left unsupervised as the only women amongst a group of male patients in a workshop. When I reported this attack, whilst believed, the suggestion was that it should be me that should no longer be attending the workshop.
These experiences, as well as being traumatic in themselves, meant that the environment did not feel safe enough for me to discuss previous traumatic experiences including a childhood rape.
Continued in Part 8.
Written by Anonymous