Police: Women are high risk and unstable. Case closed.
Why the police statement about Nicola Bulley and the menopause is such dangerous bullshit.
An audio version of this post is available below:
Don’t worry, Lancashire Police know exactly what happened to Nicola Bulley: she was struggling with the menopause! Case closed. Move along. Nothing to see here.
Nicola disappeared while walking her springer spaniel, Willow, alongside the River Wyre, after dropping her daughters off at school on 27 January. She emailed her boss and joined a Teams meeting. 10 minutes later, another dog walker found Willow alone and Nicola’s phone – still logged onto Teams – on a bench. There was no sign of the 45-year-old mortgage advisor.
The internet went into overdrive with approaches, assumptions and arguments. True-crime tourists, armchair detectives and social-media sleuths rocked up to the local area, knocking on doors, taking photos and harassing people. Nicola’s friends and family were appalled and the police were pissed.
So, on 15 February, Lancashire Police conducted an entirely bizarre press conference in which they said that Nicola was classed as “high risk” due to a “number of specific vulnerabilities”. They did not expand on what those vulnerabilities were, why they made her “high risk”, or even what “high risk” in this context meant.
If it was an attempt to quiet the cacophony of conspiracy theories, it couldn’t have been more ill-judged. What a way to stoke the mystery fires! Why was she vulnerable? Why was she high risk? Why were the police dropping these breadcrumbs of information – was it leading to a grand reveal?! The internet was set alight in the worst possible way. Again.
What was the police’s point here? What were they trying to achieve? If they knew something, why weren’t they saying it? Ah! But there was worse to come.
It was the menopause what did it.
In answer to the latest whirlwind of rabid theorising that they themselves provoked, the police later ‘clarified’ their points by releasing the below statement:
We have described how Nicola had some vulnerabilities at the time she went missing and we just wanted to expand on that a little.
Sadly, it is clear from speaking to Paul and the family that Nicola had in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause and that these struggles had resurfaced over recent months. This caused some real challenges for Paul and the family.
Excuse me while I scream into the abyss. “This caused some real challenges for Paul and the family”! The language isn’t even subtle – it is brazen: Nicola’s struggles were problematic; she was problematic. You can’t say this is ‘victim blaming’ because we don’t know what happened to Nicola, but by God, we can absolutely say it’s ‘woman blaming’. The statement links whatever happened to Nicola directly to alcohol issues caused by the menopause – menopause being something that only affects women (and something that will affect all women) – without explaining how.
They effectively said, “Ah, menopause! That’ll do it,” and dusted off their hands.
Were they insinuating that she was suicidal – due to the menopause? What an extraordinarily dangerous precedent to set if so. And why insinuate anything at all? Was it some kind of defence mechanism, a kind of “We know more than you know” flip o’ the bird? What happened to good old fashioned, “Mind your business”, “Investigations are ongoing”, “We’re not looking for anyone else in connection with Nicola’s disappearance at this time”?
The police can’t be surprised that people believe the entire institution is misogynistic when someone wrote that statement and at least one other person signed it off. Particularly coming so soon after the revelations around David Carrick, not to mention the 800 other Met officers currently under investigation for crimes including sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Why this matters
I am absolutely gutted to hear that a body has been found in the River Wyre within a mile of where Nicola went missing. At the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed as yet regarding the identity, but it’s an awful update to a deeply distressing case. A case that has been made all the more grim by Lancashire Police’s damaging insinuations and gross invasions of privacy that they’ll now no doubt double down on.
Lancashire police’s menopause statement:
forced Nicola’s family to make qualifying comments on something deeply personal.
dangled a massive carrot in front of all armchair detectives.
contributed to the stigma surrounding perimenopause and menopause. This entirely normal and natural process is steeped in shame and secrecy and this kind of bullshit only adds to that.
will make women and their families less likely to approach police through fear that personal details of their lives will be made public; that they won’t be believed as they’ll be considered somehow ‘not in their right minds’; or they’ll think they’re a drain on people’s time and resources.
made Nicola somehow complicit in whatever happened to her before having any idea what happened to her.
may make police less likely to investigate crimes or disappearances involving women (especially menopausal women) in the future.
As Dame Vera Baird, former victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If [this information] was relevant, it needed to be in the public domain at the start, and it wasn’t. It’s going to undermine trust in the police even further.” She said she doubted that the police would take the same tack if a man had disappeared in the same circumstances: “Would we have had police officers saying, ‘He’s been unfortunately tied down with alcohol because he’s been suffering from erectile dysfunction for the last few weeks’. I think not. No, it is a dreadful error to put this in the public domain for absolutely nothing and I'm afraid I think it's as sexist as it comes.”
It is literally a lesson in how not to do it.
I sincerely hope that Nicola’s family are given the support they need to deal with whatever news comes from the latest updates. And I sincerely hope that the police sort their shit out.
Just one more thing
One good thing to have come out of Lancashire Police’s awfulness is that more people are talking about perimenopause and menopause with numerous news sites dedicating articles to explaining what they are. Isn’t it mad though that so many of us weren’t taught about this at school at all, when it will affect every single woman on the planet as well as everyone who loves them?
If this post struck a chord, I’d hugely appreciate a share. And please let me know how you think the police handled these press conferences and statements below!