Tag Archives: victim

The Elephant in the Room

Mental Health and Anti-Social Behaviour

This week is Mental Health Awareness week.  As we hear from victims and speak to agencies, it is clear that mental health and anti-social behaviour are closely interlinked.

It is a difficult topic and we would suggest that often in cases of ASB it is the elephant in the room – that is, the obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss or challenge.

Doubtful?  Listen to the account of this victim who completed our online survey:

“I have been accused of being put here by the Housing Association and Council to spy on my neighbour, then he raved for 4 hours about cults making sacrifices and murdering people, that his car had been tampered with by residents, that myself and other residents were all acting together in a cult, watching him with binoculars and using radios to communicate with each other.  He says the nurses from nearby home are involved too.  He told me that men dressed all in back go into his house when he’s not there.  Says tenancy officer had been accessing his medical records and that he goes into his house when it’s empty.  Accused me of putting blue crystals in his water and tampering with his supply.”

The upshot of all this, which has caused real distress to the victim, is that the Housing Association has closed his complaint because the person is not violating their tenancy agreement.

The Challenges when Mental Health is involved

There are unique challenges when there is mental health involved.  First of all, in a situation like that described above, both perpetrator and victim are victims – one of the anti-social behaviour, the other of what would seem to be mental health leading to delusions.  There are also people who report anti-social behaviour who themselves are suffering mental health.  This may affect their perception of what is really anti-social, and therefore seem unreasonable in their complaint.

Further complications include:

  1. some agencies can seem reluctant to get involved in reported ASB or a neighbour dispute when there is mental health involved
  2. some victims are left to suffer in silence because the agency they report the ASB to is unsure what to do about the perpetrator because of his or her mental health and the vulnerability involved
  3. because of confidentiality, often the victim cannot even be told that the perpetrator is suffering mental health – it is never mentioned, only suspected

The Community Trigger

We have championed the Community Trigger since its introduction in October 2014.  Interestingly, we have been told by agencies that they sometimes recommend the Community Trigger to a victim they are working to help, because “it is the only way to get Mental Health round the table”.

This is extremely concerning.  An agency like the Council needs to get the victim to activate a formal process like the Community Trigger to get the Mental Health department of the same Council to attend a meeting and contribute their solution to the situation.

We are sure there is a high correlation between mental health and anti-social behaviour, especially given how subjective the definition of anti-social behaviour is, and how dependent on perception it is.  Dealing effectively with anti-social behaviour involves good partnership working.  It also involves individuals and communities being reasonable and tolerant but seeing action taken when behaviour is unacceptable.

If mental health is hidden and unspoken, proper partnership and communication is impossible and victims will continue to be fobbed off and unsupported, and those suffering the debilitating effects of mental health will not receive the support they so desperately need.  So let’s get the elephant out of the room and be more mental health aware.

Emily Maitlis opens up about being victim of stalker

I can’t see how it will end.” Emily Maitlis, BBC Newsnight presenter

This weekend all the main newspapers picked up the story that BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis had opened up about her nightmare of being a victim of stalking for 25 years. Here is ‘The Guardian’s’ version: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/14/newsnight-presenter-emily-maitlis-opens-up-about-being-victim-of-stalker?CMP=twt_gu

In summary, Maitlis explains that she has been stalked by someone she knew from University and that in spite of convictions for harassing her and bombarding her with messages, it has not deterred him. She feels powerless, fears for her family and has to have an escort to go to the local supermarket as well as for her children to go to the school bus. You can feel the pain in her words:

“There is a weariness to it. It feels never ending. His life is ruined; I try to blank it. It’s a heaviness that sits on you, and when he comes back it’s dreadful. I get calls at all times of the day and night. It feels desperately sad. I can’t see how it will end.”

What’s particularly concerning on reading Emily’s story is those haunting words: “I can’t see how it will end,” How can you not sense the deep weariness of those 25 years of being stalked hanging over her? The conviction and restraining order in place seem to have done little to stop him and so it is no surprise Emily can’t see how it will end.

As a public figure, she is also not in a position to choose to move, hide away and hope he doesn’t find her. Nor should she have to. We were pleased to see that the Daily Mail’s report on this story includes a link to a National Stalking Helpline video.

It does seem, however, that the lack of a resounding cry for justice in any of the reports suggests a certain acceptance that this can be a problem victims must carry for life, through no fault of their own. This is something the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has been campaigning to change. They recently led a Stalking Awareness Week (18th-24th April) and issued a telling report: ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind‘ which shows that a lot more needs to be done to tackle stalking and support the victims, devastated by this crime.

If you are a victim of stalking, you should call the police, but you can also get helpful advice from the National Stalking Helpline.

Trigger Happy

We welcome the introduction today of legislation designed to put victims of anti-social behaviour first. We sincerely hope that victims will indeed feel like they are being put first as agencies implement the new tools. We are very interested to hear from victims about their experiences.

We are particularly optimistic about the Community Trigger – a tool that will enable victims to require a case review by a multi-agency group including the Police and Council if they have reported incidents of anti-social behaviour 3 times or more in the past 6 months without an adequate response (note: the exact threshold will differ from one local authority area to another).

These agencies will be required by law to report to victims on what is being done and any recommendations they have for the agency leading on the case. This tool has been designed because the government believes there are a number of victims experiencing these problems. We believe that is the case too. So will we become trigger happy, activating them and getting those results we have a right to expect?

There is certainly a need for it. 79% of respondents of our online survey report that they are still waiting for a resolution to the anti-social behaviour they are suffering; 72% of people accessing our Act Now! guide have reported the ASB 3 times or more. However, it would seem unlikely that we will become trigger happy as the report from Trigger Pilots in specific areas of the country indicated: very little take-up though positive responses from victims who did activate it.

We believe there are 3 main reasons we can’t expect a flurry of triggers to be activated:

1.Complexity of it – each local area has a different threshold and as soon as you get into the explanation of how and when you cross this threshold, you may have lost some victims. That key message needs to get across first and foremost – if you are reporting anti-social behaviour but not being helped, or just being passed from one agency to another, the Trigger exists for you.

2. No funds for promoting it – Councils may often be the main point of contact but they do not have a budget to heavily promote it to the public in their local area. Funding cuts means local authority bulletins going out to every household are a thing of the past in many areas. Just sticking the Trigger somewhere on their website is not going to help many victims – those who do not have Internet access and those not keen on navigating their way through pages of text on Council websites!

3. No independent voice – we are optimistic that the Community Trigger can identify areas of bad practice amongst agencies – but if these same agencies are the points of contact this is going to be a real challenge. If a victim is struggling to get anywhere with their local authority because the local authority is unresponsive, it is unlikely that this same local authority is going to point the victim towards the Trigger.

We hope the Home Office will take a strong lead in getting the word out about the Community Trigger. We hope too that the media will give it some exposure – so far it has not been highlighted as other tools such as the Community Remedy have taken prominence.

We are compiling a Community Trigger Directory here and hope to raise awareness for victims. We are delighted to have this tool as victims contact us after years of suffering anti-social behaviour who seem to have reported it in vain. We are heartily recommending the Community Trigger and hope to get that all-important contact page for each area so that victims are equipped with all the necessary information to activate the Trigger.

Please email admin@asbhelp.co.uk with your local Community Trigger webpage if we don’t yet have it included in our Directory.