Three masked men had subjected Saward’s father and boyfriend to a vicious beating. Two of them repeatedly raped the vicar’s daughter. The judge in the trial, considering Jill’s trauma to have been “not so great”, sentenced the two rapists to five years’ imprisonment and the man who had indulged himself in plain, unvarnished nonsexual violence to 10. The judge did later admit that he had been wrong, but not until he’d been told many times, very loudly and in no uncertain terms.
I don’t know what medical details provoked Jill Saward’s stroke at the age of 51. But I do think it’s worth mentioning, in the context of this tragedy, that there is a strong link between trauma in women and stroke or heart attack. Research suggests that increased risk may be as high as 60%. There’s a heightened risk for men too, though not as strong. That phrase from the judge, that the trauma of rape is “not so great”? It is a great deal more ignorant and wrong than it appeared to be even in 1986.
We know who Saward is only because she chose to waive her automatic anonymity – the first woman to do so – in order to campaign more effectively for changes in attitudes and the law. Not everyone thought this was a good thing.