A Psychologist's Victim Ponzi Scheme, i
Jess Taylor’s VictimFocus Trafficks in Grooming Survivors of Sexual Assault
Publication note: When I started researching this piece over a year ago, many women feared coming forth due to reprisal. I had to put this project on the back burner until several weeks ago when many more women and professionals who were willing to speak out and be named contacted me. Each day while writing this article over the past weeks, so many people have come forth with their stories that this project is now impossible to contain within one article. Hence, this article represents the first of a multi-part series on this scandal.
Rose Latham is a 50-year-old registered psychotherapist and one of the founding members of Empower The Invisible Project in Lancashire, an organisation that supports adults who were sexually abused as children. Latham has spent a lifetime recognising and addressing the problems faced by victims of sexual abuse beginning with her own story of having survived sexual abuse as a child, being excluded from mainstream schooling as a result, and later going on to make it her life’s mission to ensure that the adults who were sexually abused as children would never remain invisible. Latham would go on to graduate in 2010 with a BA (Hons) Law in Psychology later training as a psychotherapist in order to work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Like many professionals in the field of psychology, Latham uses social media to engage with fellow professionals and survivors of sexual abuse and this is how Latham encountered Jess Taylor (then Jess Eaton) in 2018 on Twitter.
At the time, Jess Taylor was a PhD student at the University of Birmingham at the Centre for Forensic and Criminological Psychology. In April 2017, Taylor formed VictimFocus, an organisation which, according to its website, specialises in “sexual and domestic violence, child abuse, mental health, childhood trauma, criminal justice support and sexual exploitation.” Taylor completed her doctorate in Forensic Psychology from the University of Birmingham in 2019.
Latham, who has over ten years of experience in the field and has guest lectured on victimology at the University of Central Lancashire, was initially inspired by Taylor’s social media presence and she even bought some of Taylor’s resources. “Here’s a young woman who totally gets it, who speaks about victims from a victim’s perspective, so I started following her,” Latham tells me recalling her initial impression of Taylor. For about 18 months, Latham was impressed by Taylor’s academic achievements, and her professional accomplishments as Taylor expounded to women on social media that she had managed rape centres since the age of 18, that she had worked on domestic abuse criminal cases to support women and girls before giving evidence, and much more. I went to Jess Taylor’s personal website and Latham’s claims are evidenced by Taylor’s own words. In addition, Taylor adds to the professional credentials that Latham recalls:
From there, her roles included service and area management of vulnerable and intimidated witness programmes, victim support services, management of rape centre services and therapist training, and management in research and training in child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation services.
Latham adds, “She really was a powerful voice, or that is how she came across—she was relentless and always out there.” Latham was a true believer in Taylor’s history and work among survivors of sexual assault.
But then several things happened over the years since Latham began following Taylor that forced her into confronting that much of what Taylor professed and represented was not as it seemed. The scales fell from Latham’s eyes in the Spring of 2022 when she was forced to confront a tsunami of incidents that ranged from unethical to downright corrupt which left her no choice but to pull briskly away from Taylor and her project and denounce on social media the professional malfeasance she observed.
Correspondingly, Latham noticed that VictimFocus was running one fundraiser after another with no public updates as to what happened to the money raised: “I first had my doubts when she sent out an email asking to support her fundraiser to translate her book. She was asking for £40,000. Then there were many fundraisers that would be set up for so many thousands of pounds and these accounts would be shut down with no explanation once then the funds had been raised.” Latham deftly lists several fundraisers off the top of her head: “There was one for women fleeing domestic violence, there was one for MOCRA (Mothers of Children Conceived in Rape and Abuse) which raised just over £5,000, one to help an unspecified “Young mum in poverty,” to raise money for an unnamed mother with an asthmatic four-year-old living in a house with mould, and another to translate VictimFocus resources into foreign languages. I wondered what had happened to the money with every campaign and had the money been used for what she said it would?” Latham confesses to me that she began to grow suspicious of Taylor’s professional background, qualifications, and ethics after seeing the stream of fundraisers that seemed to never have an end nor any public-facing updates as to the status, use and outcomes of the funds raised.
Relatedly, Latham noticed that Taylor offered courses through VictimFocus for which she engaged Klarna, a company that specialises in “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) loans that are entirely unregulated in the UK and negatively affect the credit scores of users thus obstructing these lenders from conventional and less expensive credit. Taylor openly advertises Klarna throughout VictimFocus and her social media accounts. Even though Klarna does not charge interest or late fees, it nonetheless encourages young consumers to spend more than they can afford. Also of note, Klarna makes its money charging the seller fees and the seller decides if loan repayments take place over a period of anywhere from three to thirty-six months—Taylor allows for repayment within three months. “She is offering her course at a discount of £999 that can be spread over up to 3 months on Klarna," Latham reports, "She’s a disgrace as she made this offer immediately after she released some bullshit article about the link between trauma and poverty. It was transparent to many of us following her on social media." The ethics of BNPL aside, Taylor’s words on social media that speak to the injustices done to lower-class women do not square with her asking her lower-class clients to take on debt.
Latham also raised concerns about the “Pay it forward” options that VictimFocus advertised on its site as there were never any public announcements about how much money was raised for these funds ostensibly earmarked for “someone in need of a free resource, self-help guide, report or e-learning package.” Like many with whom I spoke, Latham was suspicious of Taylor having raised money while not being transparent about these free learning packages or materials. It felt, for Latham, that Taylor created a pretext to “help out” women who are economically disenfranchised in order to, in the end, help out Taylor.
Latham expressed concerns over some of the materials that Taylor produced and sold given her professional training in a field that she and Taylor share. She tells me, “I bought Woman in Progress: The Reflective Journal for Women and Girls Subjected to Abuse and Trauma and I bought copies for some of the women I was supporting. It’s not everything she makes it out to be.” Latham reports, “Some of the exercises in the journal have the potential to ‘re-traumatise’ victims by asking the victim to go through a book with no support. It is sold as a self-help book, yet being asked to write down her trauma or to write a letter to her abuser, where does she go with it if these exercises re-traumatise her?” Latham recounts that in reading this “reflective journal” she had concerns for the many women who don’t have any support system to work through such an exercise. “I think it has the potential to do harm,” Latham confides. Citing from the VictimFocus resources web page where the journal is sold, she reads to me the description for this journal: “You can use this space to process the experiences you have been through.” Latham, astonished and exasperated, asks, “Really?”
The final nail in the coffin for Latham that cemented her thoughts about Taylor was when on 18 March, a woman named Sally-Ann Robinson came forward on Twitter and accused Taylor of having printed her sexual abuse story without her consent in Why Women Are Blamed For Everything: Exposing The Culture of Victim Blaming (Constable, 2020). Latham reports, “I saw Sally-Ann’s tweet and responded that it was wrong of any author to use her story and offer support and solidarity. I didn’t know it was Jess Taylor since Sally-Ann hadn’t yet named her. I retweeted Sally-Ann’s tweets about it, then it was later revealed that the author was Jess. This is when Jess sent me a string of messages.”
Latham shared with me her private messages with Taylor where I observed the arc of good faith invested by Latham to listen to Taylor. In the first Twitter private message dated 22 March, Taylor writes Latham to discuss Sally-Ann Robinson’s claim on Twitter which Latham had retweeted and offered support by way of a separate tweet:
I can’t do this publicly but she messaged me on Friday night saying that someone has told her that they think her life story is in WWBE [Why Women Are Blamed For Everything], and I told her that’s impossible because it’s based on PhD interviews. She said she doesn’t know what to think because someone has told her[.] I told her that I would never do such a thing (and of course I haven’t, she’s lovely, she’s always been lovely, I’ve never betrayed anyone) and she blocked me. She then tweeted that it was in SBP [Sexy But Psycho] and she’s allowed people to say that without correcting anyone, even tho she messaged me saying it isn’t SBP at all. Every single woman in my books is someone I’m still in contact with, I have full consent forms etc[.] My books go through lawyers before publishing[.] I don’t know why this person is lying to her but none of this is true and she needs to talk to me so I can reassure her—I don’t know what this person is getting out of harming her like this. I can’t publicly write any of this because it puts Sally Ann at risk and despite everything I still care about her as my friend.
Latham’s response indicates that she is caught in the headlights of two different versions of a story and writes, “I had no idea she was referring to you when I retweeted her original tweet with my comment. However, that said I offered her my full support immediately and I have been extremely mindful not to get into any public spats and tried to keep any replies professional and factual as I’ve seen the additional pile on.” Latham tells Taylor that she is unaware of who informed Robinson about her being included in Taylor’s book but that she believes that Robinson’s tweets indicate that she has actually read the book herself and was not merely informed second-hand that her personal story was included in Taylor’s book. Taylor then gives out confidential information to Latham stating that the “someone[who] has told her” about being included in Taylor’s book was Robinson’s support worker from a local charity for survivors of abuse naming the charity. Taylor also makes reference to Robinson’s medical history: “There is no way that her life story or anything else about her perps or diagnosis is in there…” Taylor goes on to frame her narrative around feigned concern for Robinson while framing her as a liar in what is the ultimate in gaslighting by claiming that Robinson is herself being gaslit:
She needs to tell the truth…
I desperately need her to tell the truth...and she knows she’s lying…
But I cannot publicly say what they have done because it will doxx where [Robinson] lives [a]nd it could put her in danger”
[Robinson] is being put at serious risk by the support worker—someone needs to step in and protect her from the worker—I don’t know why the worker would want to gaslight her like this and trigger her so badly...
Latham goes on to give Taylor the benefit of the doubt stating that she will remove her tweet but continue to offer support to Robinson offering Taylor an apology for not getting Taylor’s side of the story before sending out a tweet she had fully researched with all parties.
Taylor reiterates her innocence writing:
What she is accusing me of is impossible—I have the name and contact details of every single woman in my books and they had to be checked by lawyers[.] I can’t understand why she would do this to me, I’ve been friends with her for years and she’s never been anything but lovely. And the fact that so many of you instantly jumped to believe I would do this to a woman has broken me. Please will you stop Shona[?] She needs to know that this isn’t true.
Taylor persists in stating that Robinson is lying and that she has been “triggered” by other actors. Taylor asks Latham to approach another woman, Shona Priddey, a 43-year-old criminologist, asking Latham to stop Priddey from publicly supporting Robinson on Twitter. Taylor reiterates that her book, Why Women Are Blamed For Everything, is based on her PhD interviews and does not include Robinson’s story and she goes on to besmirch the charity supporting Robinson writing, “They’ve been reported to the charities commission more times than I can count…” adding, “this entire issue feels like the ultimate fuck you to me, for all those people who don’t like and think I’m a monster…” Again, Latham assures Taylor that she doesn’t think of her as a “monster” and assures Taylor that she will delete her tweets. Latham considered this a misunderstanding at best and delivered on her promise to Taylor to delete her tweets regarding this matter of Robinson’s claims.
Then on 4 April 2022, Latham started reading Taylor’s latest book, Sexy But Psycho: How the Patriarchy Uses Women's Trauma Against Them (Constable, March 2022). Here is Taylor’s description of the book: “I want the world to see how psychiatry and the mental health movement has deliberately positioned women and girls as defective, inferior, hysterical liars since time began, and how that still impacts every woman and girl in the world to this day.” It’s quite the irony, given what Latham discovered while reading Taylor’s latest book.
Latham recounts, “That is when I recognised Rosie Flatman, one of my daughter’s best friends growing up, in the book.” Latham has known Flatman since she was eleven years old and knew about her having survived childhood sexual abuse first-hand from Flatman so her story was easily recognisable to Latham. Latham was curious as to why her friend’s story was in Jess Taylor’s book so she messaged Flatman on 5 April, writing, “I didn’t know you were in Jess Taylor’s latest book?” Flatman responded, “I’m not.”
As it turns out, Taylor had taken Flatman’s story and published it without her knowledge or consent and Flatman later confirmed with her friend who had sent her screenshots from the book. For obvious reasons, it came as a shock to both women that Flatman’s story was reproduced in Sexy But Psycho and Latham was left feeling both foolish for believing Taylor and outraged for her friend whom Taylor had violated.
Latham wrote Taylor a message on 4 April writing:
...I was truly sucked in by your messages about [Sally-Ann] and feel rather foolish. I’m reading your book and unbeknown to you I know Rosie Flatman very well[.] [I]n fact I’ve known her since her childhood and she told me at the time about the Chinese meal you had together a few years ago and you’ve written about her experiences and the meal in your book without her consent[.] I recognised her immediately. I have sent her screenshots of the pages and she is very upset and she too immediately recognised her own words and experiences and you have NEVER sought her permission or consent to repeat a private conversation in your book.
Latham goes on to criticise Taylor’s actions:
So you’ll excuse me for thinking there’s a pattern emerging and being very angry on Rosie’s behalf[.] [She deserved confidentiality about a private conversation she had with someone who claims to support other women...I’m disappointed as I thought you were the real deal and you convinced me you had full consent for all the women you spoke about in your book and that [Sally-Ann] was mistaken[.] [W]el I’m genuinely not going to be gaslit twice.
Latham recounts this story with anger—outrage for her friend who was lied to and her story stolen, umbrage for the other women who have since come forward in the aftermath of Robinson’s tweets since 18 March, all speaking to Taylor having taken their stories and using them in her books without their consent. Latham also discusses with me feeling fooled by Taylor and believing her private messages from March. But Latham was just one of many of Taylor’s followers who were “managed” by Taylor’s ability to undertake damage control after seeing Robinson’s early tweets.
At the time of Taylor’s messages on 22 March, however, Latham had no idea that she was one of many women receiving similar denials of wrongdoing from Taylor who was busily trying to shore up the damage to her reputation while everyone was responding sympathetically to Robinson’s tweets. Taylor sent those individuals private messages, as she had with Latham, to let them know that Robinson was lying, that Robinson’s story was not included in her books, reaching out to effectively besmirch Robinson with her followers. Latham reports, “She was gaslighting everyone in private messages and those people were relating back to Robinson the lies Taylor was saying.”
But this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill gaslighting—it was aggressive, nuclear gaslighting, especially when it reached some of the women who supported Robinson. Rachel Williams was also subject to Taylor’s campaign of defamation to spread the word via Twitter private messages that Robinson was lying and needed to be contained. And because of lending her support to Robinson, Williams became targeted by Taylor in what can only be described as sadistic, twisted aggression. Williams, a 50-year-old qualified IDVA (independent domestic violence advisor) and a campaigner for getting “non-fatal strangulation” on the statute books as a stand-alone offence became embroiled in the online discussions surrounding Taylor’s lifting of women’s sexual assault stories for her book. She speaks of how she came to know of Taylor and her work in the field of victimology:
I’ve been in this field for over seven years after my perpetrator came into my hair salon and shot me with a sawed-off shotgun, killed himself, and my 16-year-old son hung himself six weeks later. So, I became active in this arena after seeing all the failings with my case. I had 36 police officers deal with my case before the shooting. Because of these failings, I became a campaigner working with UK and Welsh government and police forces and I have delivered domestic abuse training. This is where I came across Jess Taylor on Twitter.
Williams tells me that she started following Jess Taylor at the end of 2019 when she saw her article shared on Twitter entitled “Stop asking me ‘what about men?’” She recounts, “It was a really good article about the “What about the men?” argument, so I invited Jess on my webinar series that deals with domestic abuse during lockdown, around the summer of 2020. She confesses that the webinar had not gone as hoped: “I was underwhelmed quite frankly.” Williams describes that she began to suspect that something was not quite right with Taylor’s public-facing social media presence and her professional narrative about protecting victims. She relates how Taylor’s “constant overload of tweeting and self-promotion” became too much for her and she had to eventually put Taylor on mute. Then during the Depp v Heard trial, she tells me how the stories of two women’s private narratives of sexual assault had been included within Taylor’s books without obtaining these women’s permission:
I was made aware of the stories being taken from women such as Sally-Ann and Rosie and I was disgusted. I followed this debate and watched it unfold. First came the revelation of Sally-Ann’s inclusion in Taylor’s book in March. I retweeted Sally’s tweets and then Jess wrote me a private message, asking me not to: “Rachel will you please stop furthering this[?] There is a real risk to [Robinson] here and no one is listening because it’s all entertainment.”
Williams received this and a flurry of other messages from Taylor on 22 March 2022, the same day that Taylor had also contacted Latham. The messages to Williams from here on in were a copy and paste of the exact messages Taylor had sent Latham beginning with the same message she had sent Latham, word for word, with a few minor changes here and there. The same private messages that Taylor sent to Williams and Latham, she had also sent out to many other women on Twitter. It was a campaign of defamation to be certain.
Williams stood by her support for Robinson, telling Taylor that her retweeting Robinson’s tweets posed a risk to Robinson, adding, “If no one is listening and it’s all entertainment what is the problem?” She goes on to give Taylor evidence from other women who also recognised Robinson’s placement within Why Women Are Blamed For Everything. Williams advises Taylor to go through her lawyers adding, “If it’s all nonsense just scroll past and don’t give it the light of day….I’m sure it will all become transparent in the end, it always does and those skeletons always come out one way or another.” Taylor continues with her attempt to push Williams into removing her tweets and retweets: “Your sharing this stuff and furthering misinformation isn’t helping and nor is Shona. Whoever has told [Robinson] that she’s in WWBE is lying to her, and people guessing in SBP are all wrong too. It’s harming [Robinson] clearly, and it’s harming me.” Williams stands her ground and doesn’t budge even when Taylor tries to use her childhood trauma as a tool.
Taylor then goes on to discuss the blowback against her on Twitter stating, “[P]eople are going to have to say sorry for the utter trauma I’ve been put through the last few days.” Williams was not having any of that and blasted back at Taylor setting her straight on her misuse of the term “trauma”: “Trauma is when you have a perp who is 6ft 7 and 22 stone hold a shotgun, pointing at your chest, and shoot you twice then kick your head in. Losing your son who was 16 as a result of it and having 11 years of further shit from his flying monkeys!”
At this point, one would think “game over,” but Taylor doesn’t give up and instead challenges Williams’s intellect and writes, “...I disagree with your limited understanding of trauma. Being trolled relentlessly for days is is traumatic for anyone.” Williams did not reply and Taylor blocked her.
Then on 18 August 2022, Williams was sent screenshots of a VictimFocus WhatsApp group dated from 2 May 2022. In this group’s chat were Taylor’s wife, Jaimi Shrive, Shrive’s mother, Mandy Shrive, Taylor and other members of the group whose names were blanked out. The discussion was a long exchange about Rachel Williams’ support of Robinson and Flatman with members of the group criticising Williams for having supported these women on Twitter. Taylor claims that Williams “doxxed” Taylor, a claim that has not been substantiated with evidence. There were many ad hominem attacks made about Williams.
Then one of the members of the group whose name was redacted, wrote, “Been counting bullets and sharpening knives all day long…” attaching a smiley face emoji. The group discussion continued to engage in more personal attacks on Williams and then 33 minutes later one of the group members posted a doctored photo of a rap battle scene from the movie 8 Mile (2002).
The original still from the movie shows Eminem holding a microphone leaning into his rival, Lotto, played by Nashawn Breedlove, who has just dissed Eminem, mocking his potential suicide, rapping, “That's why I didn't wanna have to be the one you commit suicide to.” The doctored photo is taken from the next part of this rap battle: Eminem’s diss track as he leans into Breedlove who leans back as Eminem engages in lyrical low blows. Whoever doctored this photo and shared within the VictimFocus group has removed Breedlove’s head and photoshopped William’s head perfectly trimmed around her face and hair onto Breedlove’s. Similary, Eminem’s head has been removed and Taylor’s head has been photoshopped onto his body. However, behind Taylor’s head is a metal oblong object which has either been purposefully left in from the original photo of Taylor or it has been added. Either way, this rectangular, metal object together with the position of Eminem’s body gives the appearance of Taylor’s figure holding what looks like an axe, where the microcophone that Eminem holds in the original photo is transformed—by virtue of its position to the axehead—into an axe handle. What we are shown is Taylor leaning into Williams about to deliver a physical blow to her. Taylor’s response to this photoshopped image: “This is gross misconduct” with a follow-up post of a laughing emoji.
Between the comment about the bullets and knives and this photo, Williams was horrified by what transpired in this group and was significantly traumatised given the attack on her life eleven years prior by her estranged husband wielding a shotgun which resulted in the suicide of her son. Apparently, so was another member of the group who redacted the names of everyone but Taylor, her wife and mother-in-law and then sent the files to Williams.
I reached out to Rosie Flatman, a 29-year-old children’s homes manager, previously an exploitation consultant, from northwest England. Flatman tells me her story:
I began speaking with Jessica in 2018 over Twitter. I eventually went to an event she was speaking at some time that summer. It was a joint event on CSE [child sexual exploitation], Islam and culture. After this event, we started chatting on Twitter for some time and she eventually invited me to her home. We met again in Manchester and went for Chinese food and we met again when she was doing some training in the north. We would communicate through Twitter and WhatsApp. When I met with her in Chinatown we spoke about our experiences and opinions in regard to our work.
Flatman tells me how she trusted Taylor and enjoyed meeting up with her and sharing a meal. She evidences this meal through screen caps of Tayor’s Twitter feed, now deleted. Taylor’s Twitter feed shows both women at the Chinese restaurant on 29 October 2018 where she attached three photos, writing: “Hahaha we just ate so much food we might both burst. And just realised we talk for almost 4 hours and didn’t even stop lol @RosieFlatman...Thanks for a lovely evening!” Then again on 31 December, Taylor reposts two of these photos on Twitter, writing, “Having the pleasure of becoming friends with @RosieFlatman and eating our body weight in food in [C]hinatown. lmfao.” Flatman confides that she had thought of Taylor as a friend until she discovered her betrayal earlier this year.
She received photos of the sections of Taylor’s book that Latham had sent her after recognising her friend in Taylor’s book. Flatman was mortified. The very conversation that Flatman had with Taylor during their meal in Manchester’s Chinatown is recorded in detail within Taylor’s book including the sexual violence to which Flatman was subjected as a child. Taylor also included their discussion about Flatman’s professional beliefs about resilience and endurance.
She immediately wrote Taylor a message on 5 April 2022 asking her why she published her story for her book without her consent. Taylor never responded. Flatman explains what happened next: “Rose, whom I have known since I was very young, also messaged Jessica. She also received no response.”
After receiving no response from Taylor, Flatman wrote the BPS (British Psychological Society) on 14 April and received a blanket response stating that effectively third parties (eg. employers) are the first line of redress, but if this is not possible, they will consider complaints if evidence is submitted, adding:
Members of the British Psychological Society are required to follow the Member Conduct Rules and there is a procedure for considering whether a member has breached these; however, the Society does not investigate fitness to practise allegations. The Member Conduct Rules can be viewed here.
Flatman didn’t take matters further since the proof of Taylor’s unauthorised publication of her story rested with her friend, Rose Latham, who had told her she would follow up with the BPS. Flatman had hoped to get answers from Taylor’s publisher and the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office). The ICO is currently investigating this matter.
Latham then wrote the BPS on 28 April asking about their procedures for filing a complaint against a psychologist. The BPS responded on 4 May with the same form mail they sent Flatman and Latham responded to the BPS on 31 May sending the messages she exchanged with Taylor which evidence Taylor’s denial of using Robinson’s story and her attempt to make Robinson out to be both a liar and mentally unstable. It also contains evidence that Latham recognised Flatman’s story from Sexy but Psycho and Taylor’s claim that she never used Flatman’s story. Latham didn’t hear back from the BPS and contacted them on 29 September after Taylor put out a statement on Twitter saying that the BPS “found that there is no evidence for any of the allegations” made against her. Flatman wrote the BPS that same day to query if Taylor’s announcement was, in fact, true. The BPS responded to Latham on 30 September clarifying their decision:
We have discussed in detail the eligible concerns you have raised and the evidence you provided under the Member Conduct Rules. As part of our deliberations we also took into consideration relevant information that is publicly available. We have concluded that there isn’t sufficient evidence to progress your complaint under the Member Conduct Rules and therefore we will not be pursuing this matter any further.
Latham responded forthwith:
I am somewhat perplexed as to how your member can tell a complete stranger on Twitter private and confidential information about someone else and this is deemed acceptable conduct by the BPS. Could you please give me a full and clear explanation as to the reasoning behind your decision and how it was made and by whom it was made?
I provided clear evidence that your member shared confidential information yet you find nothing wrong with this kind of conduct. I am shocked that you cannot see the safeguarding issues around this issue. I politely request that the full explanation is forwarded as soon as possible and not allowed to drag on for another 5 months like this complaint did.
The BPS wrote Latham on 14 October to say that they would reply to her email. She is still awaiting that follow-up.
Flatman then wrote Taylor’s publisher, Little, Brown Book Group (Constable is Little, Brown’s imprint), on 26 April 2022 alerting them that she had never given Taylor her consent to publish her story while asking to raise a formal complaint. She heard back from Taylor’s editor, Andreas Campomar, who asked Flatman to “identify the salient passages in Sexy But Psycho.” On 28 April Flatman sent Campomar pictures from Taylor’s Twitter feed having a meal in a Manchester Chinese restaurant, the passages from Taylor’s book which match both the timeline and Flatman’s narrative, a statement as to the violation of privacy she felt by Taylor having written about her as someone who was abused, trafficked and addicted to drugs and a statement on her professional narratives surrounding resilience and endurance which were also included in the book. Aside from Flatman telling Campomar that she was identified by those who read the book who knew her story, the disclosure was first made by Taylor when she tweeted photos of herself and Flatman having a meal in Chinatown. Any of her Twitter followers who read the book could have easily identified Flatman. She stated that Taylor did not have her consent to publish any conversations or stories about her private life despite Taylor having later maintained to Latham and everyone on social media that she had informed consent from all the participants. Campomar never responded to Flatman.
Latham then emailed Little, Brown on 28 April asking to file a complaint regarding the fact that she had recognised one of the women in the book and learned that this person had never consented, adding:
As the publisher, I would like to know what the process was for ensuring the women had given full consent and at the very least due diligence to ensure how this could have happened. It should also be noted that other women came forward to also say their confidential information has also been used in the book and I had a conversation in writing with the author regarding this in which the author completely unprompted, gave me private information about one of the women.
Here she refers to the fact that Taylor sent Latham private information about Robinson in their Twitter message exchange to include naming Robinson. Robinson had not named Taylor on Twitter at this point. Latham also alerted me of other privacy issues that Taylor violated: “She told me the name of the organisation supporting Sally-Ann. That’s confidential. And she inadvertently alerted me to the area that Sally-Ann lives in. A quick google search brings up the organisation details.” Latham refers to these disclosures in writing Little, Brown.
Charlie King from Little, Brown wrote Latham back stating:
I have looked at the passage that you have referred to. As a person was not named or identifiable, there was no legal obligation to contact them or to ask for consent. To reassure you, I should add that we follow stringent processes for our books. We have also been told by Jessica that where she interviewed women for the books, she obtained their consent.
Flatman’s reaction cements the insanity of Little, Brown’s response: “The response they sent claimed that I wasn’t recognisable—however, Rose recognised me!” Latham echoes this sentiment in her response to King in what verges as a perfect rendering of the publisher’s surreal response to her:
With respect it is my honestly held belief that Jessica did not have consent to print personal details about Rosie Flatman. It would be much more beneficial if Jessica or even yourself can categorically confirm that the person in the book is not Rosie Flatman and just someone with the exact same experiences who ate a meal in the exact same restaurant at the exact same time and looks exactly the same as Rosie & Jess in the photos that I know Rosie has provided…
Latham tells King that his response does not address the concerns raised. In short, Little, Brown deflected Taylor’s claim that she had received consent from the book’s participants. However, the purpose of a complaint process is to fact-check all aspects of a complaint and if you are a publisher receiving numerous complaints about the dishonesty of one of your writers, the thing not to do is to say, “We have also been told by Jessica that where she interviewed women for the books, she obtained their consent.” Little, Brown did not exercise due diligence in the necessary consent verifications that should be part of the pre-publication process and it equally failed to investigate complaints made against Taylor by blindly taking her at her word. Latham never received a response from King.
Flatman expresses her outrage over the situation, specifically Taylor’s claims on social media related to her inclusion in the book, “She said I was delusional and that I wasn’t in the book. She made this claim about all the women whose stories she took.” While Taylor claimed Flatman wasn’t in Sexy But Psycho, her publisher Little, Brown confirmed that she was even if their rationale for accepting the manuscript was under the editorial guise that she was “not named or identifiable.” Little, Brown sent two women two different responses: one that Taylor obtained consent from all women who were interviewed for her books, another that claimed “we good” as long as the subject is not identifiable.
Flatman goes on to describe the effect that Taylor’s cooptation of her story has had on her:
Being exploited is all about power. Believing you have it for it to be taken away and realise that you have no choice but to be part of an experience for someone else’s benefit. Also, a lot of the time it includes not being believed. In my experience, it involves people whom you believe care about you, whom you trusted, who end up hurting and betraying you. This situation with Jessica is all that and a bit more. It's about her gain, her power, and my inability to do anything because I don't have the money to do anything about it. She betrayed my trust and published my pain for her profit. The worst thing about it is if she just asked me and took out the stuff about how I had been abused and an addict, I would have let her keep the rest in the book. But she didn't ask.
Flatman doesn’t miss a beat in analysing Taylor’s actions:
Her book is profiting off the backs of victims without their consent. She won’t respond to me or Rose and her partner hasn’t either. Often times when people retweet my tweets and they call her out, she responds with, “It’s a lie.” But she never approached us or asked for our permission to print our stories. When you look at Sally-Ann and me, there are significant differences in vulnerability. I have an academic background and I am accredited. I was registered with the BPS as my Master's degree is in psychology. Rose is also well-educated. But Sally-Ann is vulnerable and Jess went straight for her, making false accusations about her on Twitter and casting aspersions on her mental health.
I reached out to Taylor for comment regarding the accusations made against her. I also requested copies of the consent forms which she has repeatedly claimed that she possesses for each of the women whose story she relates in her books. I received no response.
There are larger issues attached to how Taylor operates as a psychologist and researcher, pretending to conduct professional interviews while dredging a dinner conversation or drinks with a “friend” for material. Unbeknownst to her interlocutor, Taylor extracts private narratives, intimate stories—to include a tale of childhood sexual assault, drug addiction and trafficking—that she later drops directly into her next book or blog. There are many looming ethical issues surrounding a chartered psychologist trained in an academic capacity who pretends to be a chartered Clinical Psychologist by omission within her research reports, e-learning, webinars, reflective journals, flashcards, books, resources for professionals, resources for schools, and social media presence where the information and advice she doles out rests far outside her knowledge and training and which negligently elides of any sort of standard safeguarding practices in the clinical field.
There are even greater ethical and legal issues surrounding the way that Taylor has taken women’s stories of sexual violence by grooming them into a relationship of trust, friendship even, only to extract narratives for her blog or books without gaining informed consent for these stories’ dissemination. There are many victims of Taylor who are coming out of the woodwork who all share the same stories of being lulled into confidence and whose stories were extracted under false pretences only to find their stories in print.
Of course, other players have their share of responsibility towards Taylor’s victims not least of which are the British Psychological Society and Little, Brown Book Group who have been sent many of the facts contained herein. There are also far greater professional ethics at play for the BPS to address where a chartered psychologist can tread into territory that is not within her expertise or training and then set up shop in order to create an empire of products that for the most part, rehash outdated psychological theories and practices to sell an ideology of empowerment and what one might call “victim feminism.”
For Little, Brown, the publishing of personal stories—especially those of sexual violence—cannot skip over the professional ethics of informed consent that social scientists are required to observe. If trade book publishers abandon informed consent allowing anyone to cobble together "tales from the bar-side" and present it as "research," then the work published is nothing short of fraudulently conceived and written. Worse, when the author pretends to be something she is not, then it is inevitable that the doors of these publishers will be teeming with writers who wish to dodge academic presses for which informed consent is required thus creating a new genre of psychology “up-skirting.”
There is also a larger moral question that concerns how crowds form on social media under the auspices of helping and supporting victims only to join forces with those who victimise the most vulnerable of our society. The evidence was there, otherwise, Latham and Williams and many other women would never have stepped up after examining the evidence.
Taylor claims to defend and safeguard women from re-exploitation at the hands of bad policing, outdated psychological practices, harmful psychiatric diagnoses, a skewed judicial system where victims are never believed, and the targeting of poor women who are put into the crosshairs of the worst of all public services and financial exploitation only to be called liars about the very sexual assaults which they are trying to bring to justice and from which they seek psychological support.
The dynamics of power that Taylor exercises over victims whom she grooms and pretends to represent become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. The irony here is inescapable: the woman who claims to stand up to the re-victimising executed within the public sector, healthcare, the criminal justice system, psychology and psychiatry has perfectly fine-tuned her business model and practices around grooming and exploiting the very women she claims to champion.
This leaves me heartbroken. I'm always stunned by just how vicious women can be to each other. This entire story speaks to the internalized misogyny of so many women which makes it exponentially more difficult to fight patriarchy. If women cannot support each other, and we cannot trust men either, our daughters are doomed to a truly nightmarish future.
"Identity politics is a considerable challenge for us, not just in feminist circles but actually within all social justice movements. Identity politics have taken root in a way that I feel is profoundly regressive. It is a focus on individual experiences of victimhood. It is a focus on difference rather than unity….I fear that all social movements are now tainted by a narrow form of identity politics…it has fragmented our struggles…..It is leading us down a political blind alley. (Interview on BBC, Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour January 5th 2022.)" I cite this from the intro to my book "Identity Politics: Where Did It All Go Wrong? (Phoenix 2022) The case of the sad Taylor highlights this divisive aspect of victimhood. Social media affords a norm of amorality alongside moral grandstanding in identity politics. Universalism is replaced by special pleading and spitefullness to outgroup members. As Patel noted this is a blind alley and the Taylor case is one amongst many around us today.