Semina: Too often, the only escape is to sleep.

Semina Halliwell, a rape victim, who at the tender age of just 12, took her own life. A young girl with autism; whose condition was both a blessing and curse, for to feel everything so very deeply, may have led Semina to end her life directly after yet another police interview failed to take forward her complaint and act. You could say, he raped her once, society raped her many times…

This is not an easy story to tell but tell it I must, and whilst writing this piece, my heart broke a little more each day. Semina, a year 7 pupil at Stanley High School in Southport and following a severe episode of self-harm, broke down and confessed to her mother that she had been groomed on Snapchat by an older boy at her school and that this boy had then raped her.

In one police interview, as told by Semina’s Mother Rachel, a detective had said to Semina that, “you know, basically, it’s your word against his and do you really want this hanging over your head for 18 months, because it wouldn’t go to court for 18 months to 2 years.” Semina felt discouraged from pressing charges and was made to feel like an inconvenience. Furthermore, in the final interview with police, 3 months after the initial complaint was made, Semina, whose autism made it challenging for her to express herself to strangers, had said, “I’ve had enough of this” and went upstairs and unbeknownst to her family, took a lethal dose of a toxic drug used to treat a chronic condition.

On 12th June 2021, as a result of the overdose, Semina had her fourth heart attack and after being placed into an induced coma, Semina suffered multiple organ failure and died at 10:00am of the same morning. Rachel Halliwell, Semina’s Mother was there at the end and has said of that horrific day, “I held your hand not knowing you were leaving, my scream of pain will haunt me for the rest of my days, the doctors laid me on your bed and put your arm around me as I lay and held you tight till you went cold. My heart is broken, and every day is a struggle between life and death, the pain is unbearable, only my family keeps me here.”

Despite Semina’s untimely and horrific death leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of her family, sadly the suffering did not end there.  Just one day after laying Semina to rest, an anonymous person, posted on a Snapchat fake account, an offer of the sum of £10,000 to anybody who would trash Semina’s grave and video the event. Two weeks later the grave was trashed. According to her family, videos emerged of Semina being bullied and violently attacked, heart-breaking clips showing Semina being dragged, kicked and pushed to the ground by other girls, all of these videos were directed at the family on social media, as were messages celebrating Semina’s death. Unbelievably, edited pictures of Semina lying in a coffin, or decomposing were sent from further fake accounts to her devastated family.

Shockingly, her family say, none of these allegations of harassment were investigated, just as Merseyside police force allegedly failed to properly investigate Semina’s rape.  The police have stated, if she had been murdered, then more could have been done to link the phones to the harassment, but, in the absence of murder [they] allege it wasn’t a serious enough crime.

Rachel Halliwell believes all those, that should have protected Semina, let her down, and contributed to her decline in mental health, and ultimately her death, Merseyside Police, social services and of course, the justice system itself.    

Figures from the National Statistics released in early January 2022, showed that police forces recorded the highest ever number of rapes and sexual offences last year, with 63,136 rapes recorded in the year to September, up 13% from the previous period. These new figures revealed that 576 rape cases had been waiting for over a year to go to court at the end of September 2021, well over double the average of the previous 5 years. Furthermore, these new figures came just days after government data revealed that the rape prosecution rate has fallen again, with only 1.3% of rapes now being prosecuted.

Commenting on the findings, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “There is no escaping the numbers; record highs in reported rapes and sexual assaults and charging rates so low as to be barely discernible.” The crushing reality is, in effect, rape has been decriminalised and both boys and men know they can rape with impunity. The system is continuously allowing rape victims to be failed in ever-increasing numbers.

For Semina’s case, a spokesperson for Merseyside police say it is not appropriate for the force to comment on any of the allegations, as they do not wish to prejudice the coronial investigation. The senior administrator at the Sefton, St helens & Knowsley Coroner’s Service has stated that the initial inquiry was ongoing and a full inquest into Semina’s death would be held in due course.  A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “No woman or girl should live in fear of violence or sexual abuse and victims should never be denied the justice they deserve.” However, in the case of Semina, and in the thousands and thousands of rapes each year, in which the numbers are increasing year on year, there is little to no justice.

Almost one year ago, on 12th June twelve-year-old Semina died a horrendous death, disgracefully and woefully let down by Merseyside police and social services. I fear her family will die internally multiple times, whilst searching for justice for Semina. As a feminist, I am absolutely appalled by state of the justice system and the disgustingly poor conviction rates for rape. As a mother, I am devastated for Semina’s family’s loss and the future as family they should have had, ripped from their hearts. As an autistic woman and rape survivor, I write this article, to help bring both justice for Semina’s family and long overdue justice for Semina.

Rape is a crime against memory; it’s afterimage ingrains on the mind like the lens of a camera of nightmares that can never be shattered. But mostly rape is a crime against life itself whether the victim is living or not.

Semina, your life ended in darkness, but you are made of light, a light to make all other stars in the night sky, seem dim and unilluminated.

Below is a GoFundMe page set up in memory of Semina. Please, if you can, consider a donation.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/semina-Halliwell?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

Below is a petition in support of bringing justice for rape victims. Please consider signing.

https://www.petitiononline.uk/justice_for_rape_victims?uv=43025840&utm_source=twitter

If you have been affected by issues discussed in this article, for confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123, or visit their local branch.

Written by Marie S