Suicide following rape is not necessarily a filmy remedy Indian brand. A Welsh girl who threw herself off a bridge August last had killed herself unable to put up with humiliation of rape, an inquest revealed.
Harriet McCormick, 20, was a "vivacious and happy" woman until she was attacked on a night out with friends, her mother Cheryl told Cardiff Coroner's Court Friday.
AdvertisementThe body of Miss McCormick was found on the hard shoulder of the M4 motorway at Radyr, Cardiff, in the early hours of August 26 last year, underneath a footbridge she been seen walking on.
She had tried taking her life twice before, by taking paracetamol overdose, but had been looking forward to starting a languages degree the following month.
Mrs McCormick said her daughter was in Cardiff city centre for a friend's birthday in November 2006 when she was raped in a car park by a man she had met earlier that night.
Miss McCormick, who like her friends had been in fancy dress as a policewoman for the evening, confided in her mother the following day, but did not tell police as she could not sufficiently remember the man, the inquest heard. He was described as being tall, with a South Wales valleys accent.
Mrs McCormick, a nurse, said: "I think she felt dirty. She felt as if she'd been violated, which she had."
She added her daughter felt she had broken the "golden rule" agreed with friends - not to separate from the group on a night out.
"She was very upset," said Mrs McCormick, who has three other children. "She experienced flashbacks and insomnia, and she didn't like the dark. She felt very vulnerable and found it difficult to cope. She had never had any of these feelings before."
Miss McCormick was referred to a psychiatrist after her first overdose, and was making progress, her mother said.
Shortly before her death, she was preparing for her French and Spanish degree at Bristol University and had bought Fresher's Week tickets, stationary, an academic diary and posters to put up in her room in halls of residence.
The last time she saw her daughter was when she dropped her and a friend off in Cardiff on the Saturday night before her death. She said: "She blew me a kiss, and said: 'Bye mum, I love you. See you later'. I didn't see her again."
Her body was found by a lorry driver heading towards a South Wales supermarket just after midnight. She died of a blunt head injury, a post-mortem found.
Mary Hassell, coroner for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, read an email Miss McCormick had written to Samaritans last May, which her mother had printed after finding it on her computer. In it, she wrote: "I'm finding life really difficult at the moment. It's even a struggle to get out of bed. The first thing I think about is dying, and I'm worried because I want it to happen."
She wrote she was "tired of putting on an act" and pretending to be "happy normal me".
The email continued: "I've been through something traumatic. Though I hate feeling sorry for myself, it's been the hardest thing I've had to deal with in my life."
She said she couldn't cope with other people's concern, and that it made her feel guilty. Speaking about her overdose, and the effect her death would have on people, she said: "I just thought that with time they would get over me, and everyone would be better off."
She concluded: "Mostly, I want all the pain to end."
Ms Hassell said the death was "an extraordinarily sad story". She said Miss McCormick "really had everything, but had that taken away from her by the man who raped her".
She added: "I am absolutely appalled at the consequences for Harriet.
"She was a young woman on the threshold of the rest of her life."
Ms Hassell, who said the young woman "somehow blamed herself for the rape", recorded a verdict saying: "Harriet was raped on 18 November, 2006. On 26 August, 2007, she took her own life as a direct consequence of the deterioration in her formerly excellent mental health because of the rape."
Miss McCormick had been drinking in Cardiff city centre with a friend before she returned to the Radyr area on the night she died, the inquest heard. Toxicology tests revealed her blood alcohol levels were double the drink-drive limit.
Miss McCormick, who was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after the rape, had been cutting herself, and the post-mortem revealed signs of self-harm on her thighs and arms.
The inquest was told Miss McCormick's own trauma had such an effect on her friends that some also self-harmed after she was sexually assaulted.
Ms Hassell said: "The knock-on effects of this rape were so severe that her friends' mental health had deteriorated as a result of Harriet's deterioration of mental health.
"I'm appalled by this, that so many young women could have been so badly injured by the actions - the terrible actions - of one man.
"It stuns me terribly. I hope those other young women will try to get some help for themselves."
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs McCormick urged other young people in her daughter's situation to get help.
She said: "Harriet didn't report what happened to her because she blamed herself.
"We feel that if anything that happens to another young girl, please, please seek help straight away. Don't be afraid. Don't blame yourself.
"Talk to people, because people would be there. There is help available. Please, please come forward."
She said she felt particularly strongly about the issue in the light of the recent suicides in the Bridgend area of South Wales, and added: "Everyone needs to talk. Families need to talk together, to help each other out."
Her father William, a company director, said: "I think when people blame themselves, they find it very difficult to let you in. They close the shell around themselves."
Detective Constable Esyr Jones, the investigating officer in the case, said after the inquest: "It's half the battle getting people to report things. It's our job to make sure cases get to crown court."
He said there was a great deal of support open to rape victims, including counselling.