In an industry tainted by horrific accidents, operating in a society increasingly frenzied with health and safety, British theme parks continue to thrive. Not only that, but their reach is expanding; new parks are in the pipeline for both Rotherham and Kent. Grace Holliday takes a look at how these establishments continue to function.
It’s been quite the year thus far for announcements of new British theme parks.
Back in February we learned that South Yorkshire will be getting a new Rotherham theme park, Gulliver’s Kingdom. However, the planned budget of just £37 million pales in comparison to the £3.5 billion that Kuwait investors on Friday said they hope to plough into a new Kent-based theme park.
Whatsmore, while those in the north have to wait until 2030 for the Rotherham park to finish taking shape, the new Kent park could be ready as soon as 2022.
Already touted to be the UK’s very own Disneyland Paris, it will be double the size of its French competitor, at 872 acres. Official plans for the park, which will have the theme of Paramount movies and BBC TV shows, will be submitted later this year.
Built on a landfill site on the Swancombe Peninsula, north Kent, a boat from central London may be made part of the attraction. More than 50 rides and 33,000 jobs will be on offer at the park, which hopes to attract 50,000 visitors each day. A full-price adult ticket is said to be around £57.
While entry can often be steep without vouchers and deals, the UK has quite the legacy for successful theme parks. While the Midlands has Alton Towers and Drayton Manor, the North smaller offerings like Lightwater Valley and Flamingo Land. However, it has been the case for a while now that the South gets the big boys; Thorpe Park, Chessington and Legoland are all within a 40-minute drive each other.
But in a society where Health and Safety is King, how do these parks continue to function so successfully? And how do investors and developers ensure that their park won’t one day make a big splash for all of the wrong reason?
According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance: “Fairgrounds and amusement parks have been shown to be relatively safe compared to such activities as driving a car or riding a bicycle.” However, each of these parks has had their fair share of casualties and in some cases, fatalities.
Alton Towers hits the headlines hard last year when its Smiler rollercoaster malfunctioned and crashed. While it can normally reach speeds of 53mph, the prosecution in the subsequent court case likened the incident to a 90mph car crash. Five people were gravely injured, including 18-year-old Yorkshire girl Leah Washington. Her leg was subsequently amputated.
The park owners, Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, were prosecuted by The Health and Safety Executive under an allegation that they breached clause 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They plead guilty, and were fined £5 million.
Lawyers also estimated a £14 million loss of revenue as a result of the crash. A “catalogue of failures culminating in the tragedy that day” was cited by Paul Paxton, who represented eight of the injured.
Incidents like the one at Alton Towers on that June day are rare. More than one billion rides were taken in the UK last year, and only 35 people were hospitalised as a result. On modern steel rollercoasters, only one fatality has been recorded since 2004, when a 16-year-old girl fell 100ft at Oakwood Park. An inquest later found that the ride controller had only received 20 minutes of supervised training on managing the ride.
The record of Yorkshire-based theme parks is less blighted; Flamingo Land has never suffered a fatality, while Lightwater Valley hasn’t had a fatality since 2001. Then yet another young South Yorkshire woman died from severe injuries to her head and spine when her rollercoaster car collided with another. The ride manufacturers were fined £120,000 while the park was fined £35,000 and an electrician £2,500.
Public interest was renewed in the wake of the Alton Towers crash last year, and many parks jostled to release statements reassuring park visitors. Drayton Manor Operations Manager, David Bromilow, said that their rides underwent “rigorous daily safety inspection”.
The official HSE guidance adds: “The most important steps to managing health and safety are the policy, organisation, planning, monitoring, auditing and reviewing.” Even still, accidents still happen; some through a manufacturing fault, some through wear and tear, and others through what is legally termed as ‘an act of God’.
The President and CEO of The International Association of Amusement Parks (IAAPA), Paul Noland, last year said: “One injury is one too many in our industry. Delivering the highest levels of safety is fundamental to our industry’s existence and is a part of everything we do.”
While fatalities do sometimes spoil what should be a fun day, and injuries continue to seem inevitable, the general risk of being hurt at a park is low; around 1 in 9 million according to IAAPA. It can only be hoped that as awareness, training and technology improves, the numbers of those let down by their park decreased.
Let us know what your biggest concern is when you visit a theme park by voting in our Twitter
On JUS NEWS.
9 Barbie dolls and sprinters are not enough Mixed race Britain is on the rise, and it’s about time politics caught up
It’s 2002, and my mother is in the hall downstairs, seething down our white rotary phone to my Head Teacher. I have returned home from school to tell her that some kids saw us together at last nights parents evening. They have started a rumour that she is ‘a Paki’ and I am adopted. Aged 12, I am as confused as I am mortified.
Born to a black Jamaican father and a white British mother in the 1950s, my mother had hoped she’d left this shit behind in her own childhood. Following suit with her own interracial marriage to a white man, they’d settled in South Yorkshire to have a Dulux chart of three kids. People saw the five of us together and did cartoon-style double takes. Racist thoughts were verbalised far less often in these days.
With only two ethnic minority families in my village as a child- mine being one of them- I grew up with white dolls and white friends in a white world. Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2 and the boys in Cool Runnings were my imaginary siblings. I was half of my community, and half of these fictional characters, so I constructed a jigsaw puzzle identity of my own choosing. When hauled up in front of the entire school the following week for an anti-racism assembly (mortification level now off the scale), this rumour became part of my identity too.
We don’t have to look far for mixed-race representation in popular culture today. The official award ceremonies (#OscarSoWhite is just begging for a revival) may not be recognising us, but the film and television industry is improving. I can find familiar faces here. Reggie Yates and Maya Rudolph resemble members of my family far more than Sister Mary Clarence and Sanka ever did. The music industry takes steps too. Spice Girls had a token mixed race girl; Little Mix has a token white girl.
At either end of the mixed race representation spectrum we have Fashion and Sport. The former has let us down numerous times; John Galliano’s racism and Raf Simons Dior whitewashing are neither forgiven nor forgotten. The latter, though, is a trailblazer, with Lewis Hamilton, Tiger Woods, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Theo Walcott spanning many disciplines.
Mixed race celebrities signal widening level of acceptance, and can be worthy, important role models. We may even see a real-life mixed race Princess in the form of Meghan Markle soon. Every new hero takes us one step further from school children who can’t comprehend that a child and her mother might be a different colour.
Yet there remains one area of society that has failed to represent me, almost entirely, and that’s politics.
It’s 2009, and a mixed race man is now in arguably the most powerful role in the world. Major corporations are at last prompted into action. Mattel gives birth to a mixed-race Barbie. Disney introduces us to a black Princess and invites us to her interracial wedding.
So our pop culture is progressing. The US political sphere has just taken a huge leap. Yet British politics remains almost entirely stagnant. Prior to Obama, in 2005, the UK had 15 ethnic minority MPs, but even with his appointment this figure only rose by 12 at our next election.
The mixed race victories, while rare, are still significant. Oona King, despite failing to make the nomination for London Mayor in 2010 is the very next year honoured with the title Baroness. In 2015 we get our own shot at a mixed race leader, with Chuka Umunna announcing his Labour leadership bid (though this ended disappointingly). Mixed-race MPs like James Cleverly, Helen Grant, Chi Onwurah and Clive Lewis are appointed.
We celebrate the victories of our fellow minorities too, both in the UK and abroad. Sadiq Khan’s appointment as London Mayor signals a big step, and in popular culture, we cheer for our Mo Farah and Kendrick Lamar. We try to cheer louder than the roars of Twitter eggs’ proclaiming that Bond is supposed to be white; louder than journalists telling us to ignore the huge significance of casting Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Grainger.
It’s 2017, and the UK has just 41 ethic minority MPs. Only a fraction are mixed race.
Compare this to the fact that 1.2 million of us in the UK identify as mixed race. For so few MPs to be representative of the 3rd largest ethnic group in the country is more than unacceptable; it’s embarrassing. We are predicted to be the largest ethnic group of all in just three years time, but politics isn’t following the same trajectory.
In the world of politics, the mixed race community continue to share the victories of our black cousins. We stand alongside them as they take the blows. Dawn Butler, mistaken for a cleaner. Gina Miller trolled and told that as ‘a coloured woman’, she is not human. Diane Abbot described as an ape in lipstick. Abbot hits back as she says: “our leaders need to make it clear that there is no place for racism in public life.”
We need this and so much more. Just as our leaders must keep working to eradicate racism in public life, they need to tackle what is happening behind their own closed doors. They must make changes that are visible and transparent and decisively punish racism wherever it occurs. Meanwhile, many Brits bemoan Trump’s outlandishly white cabinet, but the UK needs to get its own house in order and fix the deficit in representation here.
The people who are leading our country should be the ones setting the example, not lagging behind. To accept our lack of substantial role models is to perpetuate complacency in the pitiful progress there has been in current and past generations. As Umunna said in 2015: “we still have some way to go before we have a form of politics that represents modern Britain.”
We do. Disney princesses and Spice Girls are fantastic- but we deserve better.
The latest Crime Survey for England and Wales has found that sexual offences have reached the highest volume recorded since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in April 2002.
Published in April 2017, the quarterly independent survey of crime also stated that there had been a 12% rise in the number of sexual offences in 2016, compared to 2015.
These findings are supported by the 2015/2016 Rape Monitoring Group (RMG) digest from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
The group, which independently assesses police forces and policing activity, stated in its October 2016 digest that the number of reported rapes has risen by 123% since 2011/2012.
Addressing these findings, a further ONS report ‘Overview of violent crime and sexual offences’, published in February 2017, says the increase may “reflect both an improvement in the recording of sexual offences by the police and an increased willingness of victims to come forward to report these crimes to the police.”
It is indeed the case that 2012’s Operation Yewtree signalled a turning of the tides and a shift from the negative trends of old. Formed in response to mass claims of sexual assault on children by Jimmy Savile, the operation resulted in the jailing abusers including Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris and Max Clifford.
Not only was attention now being paid to the historical, but also the pertinent. When a drop in the number of reported cases referred by police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was noted in 2014, action was once again taken.
In response, a National Scrutiny Panel met and formulated a detailed action plan of improvements and deadlines. This was published the following year.
It was not just the criminals who were, at last, being held to account either, but also those who had stood by and failed to act sufficiently or appropriately.
The pressurised resignation of South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright acts as a prime example. Between 2005 and 2010, Wright headed up Rotherham council’s children’s services, before being made PCC in 2012.
The Jay Report followed, with what the then-Home Secretary Theresa May called “damning revelations” about the sexual abuse of 1,400 children in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
PCC Alan Billings took over Wrights role, writing in December 2016: “mistakes have to be admitted if the service is to learn from the past and make improvements.”
Support for victims of all ages has been demonstrated by Billings since his appointment, with budget allocated in 2016 to partially fund a new Sheffield Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
Michelle Challis, Manager of a Dorset Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) The Shores, states how crucial SARCs are to victims: “if there is any uncertainty around making a report, we can support them with that decision or still support them without the police.”
Meanwhile, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, stated in the capital’s Police and Crime Plan for 2017-2021 an intention to ensure “harmful but often less visible crimes are treated as priority in the coming years.”
Indeed, various sexual abuse support centres have reported an improvement in the experiences of those who do report.
Brian Jones, Senior Helpliner at Survivors UK, a charity male assault victims, say: “more recent experiences of reporting are generally more positive as the police have a better understanding and training around the issue.”
However, Joan Smith, the author of 2016 Guardian opinion piece “What if there’s more sexual violence now, not just reports of it?” says:
“I recently asked a senior police officer his thoughts on these figures. Like me, he suspects it may reflect an actual increase in sexual assault. Rapists are opportunistic, blame victims and know that conviction rates are low. My fear is that a sense of impunity is driving higher levels of sexual violence.”
It is not even the case that a successful conviction means closure and justice for the victim. When footballer Ched Evans was re-trialled after serving two and a half years in prison for rape, the prosecution used intimate details of the victim’s prior sex life. Almost identical evidence was presented, yet Evans was found not guilty.
Despite a right to lifetime anonymity, the victim was named in some media and received death threats. Evans, on the other hand, is now reported to be re-signing with Sheffield United in a £1 million deal.
There is also the uncomfortable truth that over the period of time that reports of rape rose by 123%, convictions only rose by 11%.
This isn’t a finding that shocks those on the frontline. Charity Rape Crisis England & Wales say: “large numbers of victims drop out of the criminal justice process after reporting. Survivors feeling both uninformed and unsupported are common reasons.”
Additional reasons suggested by the aforementioned RMG digest are a victim changing their mind, the CPS advising no further action, the offence being changed, the defendant being acquitted following a trial and police not recording the incident as a crime.
This last reason has proved a contentious point in recent years. Following a 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection of crime recording by all 43 police forces in England and Wales, HMIC announced a rolling programme of re-inspections to check progress.
Recently released data shows disappointing results. Greater Manchester Police (GMP), who were embroiled in the Rochdale child sexual assault scandal, which in 2012 saw 12 men convicted and jailed, were in 2016 accused of ‘systematic’ failures. 500 reports of sex offence crimes had not been recorded, and neither had 11 out of 111 reports of rape audited by HMIC.
According to the BBC, Tony Lloyd, the then-interim mayor of Greater Manchester blamed “inadequate IT systems."
Report rates may be on the rise, but it still appears that those who speak out face a road paved with insensitive police behaviour, unscrupulous crime recording, low conviction rates, immoral court decisions and shame.
Health and nutrition experts in Sheffield have today welcomed a new rule banning the advertisement of junk food in children’s media.
The move, which will come into play next summer, aims to reduce obesity, and increase overall levels of health and nutrition in young people.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) are responsible for the ruling after months of pressure from the public and various health organisations. Online platforms including YouTube will be targeted, as well as apps and social media sites, along with children’s magazines and cinema.
It’s welcome news for many in Sheffield; the latest government Health Profile for the city found that just under 20% of year 6 children were obese.
A step in the right direction
Jo Herchberg, founder of the Sheffield’s two Real Junk Food Project cafés and school scheme Fuel for Schools said she thought the ruling was “a great step in the right direction.”
“The fact that these adverts will no longer appear online will help parents to educate their children as to which foods are best for them. Organisations like ourselves are always in favour of any move to teach children- and adults- about real food and why it is so important.”
However, ads will still be allowed to run during TV programmes that appeal to both adults and children, such as entertainment shows and soaps.
Professor Robert Copeland of the National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine, and The Centre of Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University has expressed support for the ruling, calling it “part of the solution, and a welcome step.” However, he remains cautious as to just how effect it will be in its current form.
“I think the ruling is a positive one, providing it goes far enough; it's not necessarily children that make the decision when it comes to purchasing. This ruling needs to be part of a whole system of change, including physical activity, that makes it easier for people to make healthier choices.”
Similar ruling made in 2007
Broadcasting regulators Ofcom made a similar ruling back in 2007. Advertisements aired during television programmes aimed at under-16s that featured food high in fat, sugar and salt were banned.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Shahriar Coupal, Director of CAP, said: “Our rules will eliminate high sugar product ads from children’s media, and media where adults comprise up to 75% of the audience. We don’t feel it necessary to push that figure up to 90% or ban these adds entirely.”
The new ruling comes into force next summer, on the 1st July 2017.
On JUS NEWS.
The owner of a Sheffield café that serves meals made from out-of-date food is warning of ‘disastrous’ consequences if people continue to waste so many of the planet’s scarce resources.
Jo Hercberg, the founder of The Steeple Corner Café, spoke to JUS News as part of our #SheffRubbish campaign.
She says that unless attitudes towards food waste, global warming and growing global population change, the impact on the environment will be catastrophic.
“Food waste rotting as landfill causes greenhouse gases to be emitted, meaning it contributes directly to global warming. This reduces our capabilities to grow food and feed our people,” Jo says.
“Throwing away perfectly edible food in an already overpopulated world where some countries can’t feed their people is crazy!”
It’s these issues that Jo and her team of volunteers are aiming to tackle with their Park Hill community café. Part of The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield (TRJFP), everything on the ever-changing menu is made from intercepted waste, and diners can pay whatever they want for the meal.
Operations began in the city back in 2015 with a Sharrow-based branch. The Park Hill branch followed in late 2016. Shortly after, the Sharrow café was closed and all focus was placed on the new café. Their unique payment model attracts a range of visitors, as diners can pay whatever they can afford anonymously.
Turning surplus waste into meals isn’t the café’s only day-to-day challenge. A carefully planned process, following WRAP’s ‘food waste pyramid’, means that every single scrap of waste is either used or disposed of responsibly.
If intercepted food is not suitable for humans, it is transported to Heeley City Farm and the Sheffield Wildlife Trust to become pig feed or compost. Hercberg says that working with the charities is a no-brainer.
“Several times a week we take the waste next door to the trust and over to the farm in our electric van. We are hoping to do more in the future with the team at Heeley City Farm too in terms of looking at the full circle of food to waste to food again.”
If the waste they’ve recovered is not suitable for compost, ReFood in Doncaster meet the recycling element of the pyramid. They use renewable energy for responsible disposable. Meanwhile, dry recycling is managed by the Sheffield-based social enterprise, Recycling Revolution.
But while the Sheffield café and its sister branches across the country are doing their bit, Jo is concerned that not enough is being done elsewhere. She notes that while Veolia, who currently manage the city’s waste, do encourage recycling, there is no food waste collection system in place.
“Veolia have a 35-year contract with Sheffield City Council, who are currently looking to re-tender this service. But whilst households separate the waste it does mainly all end up in an incinerator. Most other cities have a food waste collection service as part of their waste management systems,” Jo explains.
As for the solution, Jo says that an increase in home-grown food and eating seasonally is key. “This would reduce a vast amount of the waste we produce now. Food would become less of a chemically produced and preserved commodity. We’d eat as naturally as possible using age-old preservation methods such as fermenting.”
The café’s Fuel For School programme also aims to educate the next generation. “We’ve found that primary aged children tend to be really surprised by the volume of food wasted,” Jo says. “We hope that every child in Sheffield gets to learn about where food really comes from and why it shouldn’t be wasted.”
Today, The Steeple Corner Café is open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday. The team pride themselves not just on their waste management but also on having now fed 11,000 Sheffield people.
“In the café, a lawyer can be sat next to a homeless person, having the same meal, and both contribute in the same way. That is the joy of the project.”
The Steeple Corner Café is located at 37 Stafford Road, Norfolk Park, S2 2SE, and is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10am-4pm (and 7-9pm on Saturday) and Thursday 10.30am-4pm.
It is currently looking for volunteers; a driver, a café assistant and a sharehouse assistant.
On JUS News.
In the wake of Kanye West’s apparent psychotic episode last weekend, Sheffield charities have spoken of the positive impact celebrities can have on the discussion over mental health issues. Grace Holliday explores the theories behind Kanye’s breakdown, and consider the charities’ advice on how to deal with friends and family who may be suffering from mental health problems.
ON Saturday evening, Kanye West walked off stage at his gig in California after just 30 minutes, two songs and a furious rant. He railed at old friends, current friends, politicians and corporations before leaving the stage. Fans went home angry and disappointed, the remainder of his Saint Pablo tour was cancelled, and on Monday he was admitted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre Los Angeles. It is believed that he may have suffered a mental breakdown. Confirmed details in subsequent days have been sketchy, but he is believed to have been discharged in order to spend Thanksgiving with his family.
While the official reason cited by his official spokespeople is “exhaustion”, those who have followed Kanye’s journey over recent years may suspect more is at play. He has a reputation as an eccentric and erratic character, and has drawn disapproval from many over the years. A 30-minute video entitled ‘Feel Like That’, created in collaboration with Steve McQueen and published earlier this year, was seen by many as a cry for help. It featured lines such as “Do you feel tempered outbursts, that you cannot control? I feel like that all the time,” as well as reference to him ending his own life and feeling tearful, dizzy and lonely. In the months that followed, his wife Kim Kardashian was held at gunpoint in a hotel room in Paris. November also marks the month that Kanye lost his mother, after complications caused by plastic surgery. Speaking about her death in Q magazine, Kanye has said: “If I had never moved to LA, she’d be alive.”
The ‘Feel Like That’ video has since been taken down, but the videos of his rant on Saturday remain. So does the lingering suspicion for many that Kanye suffered a very public psychotic episode, of which the repercussions are now beginning to surface. Previous fans have now turned on him, and his finances will surely take a hit due to the cancelled remaining shows and wide-spread demand for ticket refunds.
The legitimacy of Kanye’s outburst and resulting hospitalisation has also been questioned, with some refusing to consider that anything more serious than a diva tantrum may have been at the centre of his apparent implosion. However, Sarah Carson, Co-Owner and Cognitive Behavioural Therapist at Sheffield CBT Practice says: “Mental health affects people in ways that are unique to them. Although their diagnosis may fit into depression, how that impacts on them is unique to the person.” In other words, just because Kanye’s behaviour is unusual compared to what we normally see, it doesn’t make it any less worthy of urgent help and attention.
He would not be the first celebrity to have had his mental health made public. Depression was quickly understood to be the cause of actor Robin Williams’ 2014 suicide, and a factor in the accidental overdose of actor Heath Ledger in 2008.
What these three celebrities have in common is that they did not necessarily intend for their mental state to be public knowledge. However, it each of their struggles became the focus of their very own media storm.
Yet, as unlikely as it may seem, there is a silver lining to the struggles of these public figures. Mental health charity Mind believe that the publicity celebrities bring to mental health issue can have a positive effect in raising awareness and combatting negative stigmas. While Kanye has yet to speak out about what happened on Saturday, its occurrence has thrust the topic into the public conscience once again. Mental health charity Mind believe that it is vital that those in the public eye work to raise awareness about mental health.
Mind says: “The impact of high profile individuals speaking out about their own mental health shouldn’t be underestimated. They help normalise mental health problems by talking about their own experiences.”
The suicide of celebrities in the wake of mental health issues can also work to bring much needed attention to mental illness. The National Suicide Prevention Line reported a spike in calls to their services in the day that followed Robin Williams’ death. Citing around 3,000 phone calls a day as “fairly typical”, the centre reported that 7,375 people rang the day after his death. This is the highest number of phone calls the helpline had ever received. This isn’t a new phenomenon. A spike was also seen back in 1994, following the suicide of singer Kurt Cobain.
Indeed, research by Mind found that: “28% of people who know someone with mental health problems said they had started a conversation with a loved one about their mental health as a direct result of reading or hearing about a celebrity’s experiences.” Similarly, they add: “25% also said hearing a celebrity talk openly about their own mental health had directly inspired them to seek help and 52% said it has helped them to feel like they weren’t alone.”
Time will tell what happens next to Kanye, and whether he speaks out directly about his mental state. But while it is on our minds, checking in with our friends, family, and indeed ourselves, is something we can all do. Mind’s advice for anyone suffering with mental health issues is clear: “It’s vital to talk to someone, so you are not alone in dealing with it and can get the right help and support. Getting help is really important, whether that’s by joining a support group like Mind’s online community Elefriends, learning relaxation techniques, or speaking to your GP.”
If you are noticing a change in the behaviour of your friends and family, Sarah Carson says communication is the key: “If you notice a person acting differently, ask them why. It’s important to take time to talk to friends and family about how they are. All too often people can forget to ask.”
On JUS News.
3 The portrayal of police reaction to rape accusation in Broadchurch was refreshing yet idealised, and now we need to see it in reality
Broadchurch comes to an end as both a season and a series today, and its concluding storyline has been receiving much-deserved praise. Its depiction of an idealised police response to an allegation of rape has been refreshing, a stark reality to what we so often hear from real-life victims.
TV shows spark debates across every community they reach, no matter the content. Summer has become almost synonymous with baking, thanks to The Great British Bake Off, while talent shows are so well-loved we’ll spend our own money to vote for a winner.
This undeniable influence is a huge part of why a sensitive and relatively unique take on a rape crisis is welcome. Salacious portrayals of sexual assault and rape on our TV screens have become increasingly tolerated; from Luther and Silent Witness to Game of Thrones, the victim is often a cliché rather than a three dimensional character. But season 3 of Broadchurch gave us just this, in Julie Hesmondhalgh’s portrayal of Trish Winterman. A mother and ex-wife in her 50s, she is attacked at a friend’s extravagant birthday party.
Rape isn’t the only weighty issue tackled. Rather, it’s a veritable who’s who of societal issues in the sexual assault sphere. Pornography, sexting, ‘slut shaming’, harassment, stalking, gender politics and even lad’s mags have their place. Given the delicate subject matter, the expectation on the show to deliver was palpably high.
Dorset-based rape charity, The Shores, worked closely with the show’s writer, Chris Chibnall, during the research and development stage. Michelle Challis, The Shores manager, has spoken about the importance of realistic portrayals.
“Seeking support following an assault is never easy so we wanted it to be demonstrated that there is dedicated support available and you will be taken seriously and looked after,” she says.
It’s a proven fact that there is a discrepancy between sexual assaults and report rates across the world. Seemingly influenced by this, the show demonstrated a sensitive and dignified first response process. The first third of episode one is dedicated to just this, with the police station depicted as a safe haven. David Tennant’s DI Alex Hardy and Olivia Colman’s DS Ellie Miller arrive quickly and make every request of Trish with gentle clarity. The most minute of details are considered; Miller sits in the backseat with Trish on the drive to the station, then Hardy shelters her from a downpour with an umbrella.
Once inside the police station, a crisis worker tells Trish: “If you’re feeling unsafe or uncomfortable in any way, we will stop. Everything will be led by you.” From taking swabs, samples and fibres to submitting her clothing for evidence and photographing her wounds, dignity is the buzzword for the entire process. She is informed of support available, given a cup of tea, allowed to shower and escorted home. It is as idealised a portrayal as such circumstances could ever allow.
Yet Rape Crisis UK reports that some callers to their helplines have been upset by the show’s portrayal. “Some have expressed anger that their cases weren’t handled as sensitively as Trish’s.”
Indeed, when I speak to an anonymous 29-year-old female rape survivor, she too feels this anger. “It's all well and good presenting the police well on TV, but the experience does not match up in real life,” she tells me.
Rape Crisis agree: “It's positive for viewers to see police officers react with compassion, belief, empathy and understanding. Some rape victims and survivors do have comparable experiences when they report to the police but sadly very many do not.”
The aforementioned rape survivor approached the police two years after being date raped and watching Broadchurch found herself unable to relate to the on-screen depiction. “In my experience, the police were insensitive, managed my case badly and weren't transparent about my options. It felt like they were focused more on protecting themselves than protecting me, and made me feel a million times worse. Afterwards, I received no emotional support, and they eventually dropped my case.”
Rape Crisis say that Trish’s support from Beth Latimer, who plays a specialist Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA), can make all the difference: “both to the case and to the longer-term health and well-being of survivors. This is why sustainable resourcing for the specialist sexual violence sector is so important.”
While the anonymised victim I spoke to did reach out to the police, many do not.
It’s something Rape Crisis are familiar with: “The vast majority of those who experience sexual violence never report to the police, for a range of complex reasons personal to each individual but undoubtedly including fear of not being believed or of being treated badly by the criminal justice process.”
We can now only hope that the show does encourage more victims to come forward. As Rape Crisis tell me: “Some viewers who have been considering whether or not to report might be encouraged by such a positive portrayal.” But what is needed even more is for them to be provided with an experience that mirrors Trish’s.
Acknowledgement that there is a vast chasm between the Broadchurch portrayal and what is so often the reality is critical. It’s now for the police to follow the example set, and it’s on all of us to be Millers and Hardys.
Recent research from Sheffield University has suggested that the more time children and teens spend on social media, the less happy they feel. Many of the headlines in response to this study focused on the idea that engaging with social media platforms makes children more likely to compare themselves negatively with their friends. Girls were found to suffer more than boys, and in particular feel discontented with school and their appearance. The comparisons they made were overwhelmingly negative because, as the report explained, “the material people chose to present online represents selectively idealised versions of their true appearance, activities, and achievements”.
But while social media has its pitfalls, it also has benefits that the headlines rarely focus on. That same study found that, overall, social media can make children feel happier about their friendships. With girls especially, the study found that more time on social networks had a positive effect on how they felt about their friends. And other research, from North Florida University, suggests that chatting online via apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp could increase levels of empathetic concern for others, as it gives young people a chance to widen their perspectives and practise empathic responses. As a result, expressing empathy becomes habitual.
These findings complement those of a DePaul University study, which found that increased social media exposure allowed for more time in an environment that fostered feelings and expressions of empathy. This might be sharing a funny video to cheer up a friend or simply offering words of comfort.
The North Florida study also concluded that, rather than primarily being a platform for self-promotion, Facebook was first and foremost a tool for making social connections.
There has been evidence, too, to suggest that social media can help combat feelings of isolation. Research from Wisconsin-Madison University has found that young adults who regularly use social media while transitioning from home to university demonstrate lower levels of self-reported loneliness than those who don’t. Why? Because they use those platforms to adjust socially and maintain friendships.
I can vouch for the importance of Facebook in combating loneliness. I took a year out of university in the UK to study abroad in the US. This meant that when I returned to London for my final year, most of my peers had graduated. Meanwhile, I’d left behind my American cohort. The isolation that came with managing the notoriously tough final year of a degree without either set of friends was nothing compared with what it could have been without social media. I was able to keep in touch with them all; excluded in the physical sense, yes, but with at least some connection. In lieu of taking new photographs, we re-posted old photographs, used Facebook Messenger to organise a return visit, and I watched their graduation ceremony through a live stream.
Six years on, Facebook has enabled me to maintain friendships – and Instagram and Snapchat have played a part too. I’m not a regular user of Twitter, but that platform also has benefits. Upon becoming self-employed two years ago I proudly printed business cards, but in reality, I just add them on Twitter instead.
The finding that young people can be hurt as a result of comparing themselves to their peers online is an important one. Whatever your age, feeling not as popular, or funny, or perfect as the people you’re surrounded with can be damaging. For younger generations still struggling with how social media can make them feel, my advice is simple: remember that social media is often a highlights reel; not a no-holds-barred diary of every up and down in life. I don’t post about a blazing argument with my husband, or finding a mouldy pack of cream cheese in the back of the fridge. I post about days with my nieces and nephew, and nights out with friends, not the dull weekends in which I binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy and don’t bother getting dressed. It’s so important to remember that just because you can’t see those days in a person’s life, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
If you’re feeling oppressed by all the happy, smiling people on your Facebook page, limit the time you spend there. Don’t let yourself go down the rabbit hole; looking at photos of your friend’s aunt’s sister’s 2015 holiday to Magaluf at 2am is, let’s be honest, pretty weird. We should also back away from people who make us feel like rubbish online in the same way we do offline; carefully, but with conviction. Leave frenetic group chats; they’re nowhere near as crucial as you think they are. Trust your friends to let you know separately if something important happens. Every now and again, just turn your devices off. This acts as a good reminder that, despite what you may think, the world doesn’t burst into flames without them. Finally, keep your friend list to a realistic and manageable number. Can you really name all 1,300 of them? I didn’t think so.
On the Guardian.
‘It makes me feel less isolated’: Teen speaks out about the benefits of social media
Recent research from the University of Sheffield suggests that overexposure to social media makes young people unhappy.
It cites a tendency to negatively compare themselves with friends, and also suggested feelings of discontentment around elements including school life and appearance.
However, the same data also found social media can make young people happier about their friendships.
Other research bodies have also linked social media usage with improved skills in expressing empathy, and lower levels of self-reported loneliness.
But what do young people themselves think? Hassan, 17, from Doncaster, shares his views.