Thursday, 30 July 2015

To object or not to object? Fear is the factor.

17:14:00 Posted by Steve Rowland , , , , 2 comments
The year is 1982. She is a confident and outgoing 26 year old, working in the city and living in the suburbs.  Her job is well- paid, she buys good quality, stylish clothes and stays in town a little later one evening a week to relax at a reputable dance studio.  Her manager is happy to leave her in sole charge for two weeks while she takes a vacation.

One perfectly ordinary day the telephone rings in the office and a male voice asks, “Are you the girl in the blue dress, sitting in the … office?” Alarm bells ring.  “Who is this please?” she asks the voice.
“I work in an office across the street,” he replies, “I can see you from up here. Are you aware that someone is following you?” The voice, (with no name) goes on to describe a man, wearing a black leather jacket, who he claims to have observed is following and watching her.
The girl is confused. The description could be anyone. The voice could be the stalker. The whole incident is un-nerving to say the least. As she locks up and leaves the office, she is frightened. She walks to her dance class, passing two newsagent stands for The Evening Standard with billboards that bear the same menacing headline, “Railway sidings attacker strikes again.” Two hours later, she walks into the station and boards a train home.  She reads a book but is aware of a presence, she feels eyes on her. Commuters don’t really look at each other. They live in their own little bubbles, don’t make conversation. This is a man, thirty to forty, black curly hair, navy pinstripe suit, navy and white polka dot tie, black shoes, blue eyes, beige mackintosh.  She takes in every possible detail. Everything she will need to remember.  After he rapes her!
She looks around the other passengers. They are leaving the train a few at a time. The compartment is not interconnected with the others: It only has doors at each side. She knows that when the last person gets off, she will be trapped alone with her assailant, so she makes a recalculation. She gets off at the next station. She knows that her usual stop has an automatic barrier and that she will be vulnerable. This station is manned.  She bolts. She runs as fast as she can, over the footbridge to the other platform and up the stone steps to the exit.  In her panic, she pushes herself inside the guard’s open door. “You have to help me,” she gasps, “a man is following me!”
The guard, surprised by her action, pushes her backwards and says, “There will be a taxi at the top of the stairs.” He has no intention of helping her. She walks tentatively to the top only to find that the taxi rank is empty. She looks around.  To her right, on the opposite side of the street is a row of shops, all shut apart from a Chinese take-away. To her left, on the street-lit opposite side, there is a Waitrose, (also closed), a telephone box and pub. She makes a judgement call and crosses the street.  It is a dreadful error. Before she reaches the telephone box, her stalker is standing between her and safety. This is a busy main road.  There should be cars passing, people walking.  She can hear music through the pub windows but no-one comes out.

It wasn’t rape. He grabbed her arm, pulled her back across the road into a disused railway building and forced her onto the ground. She had no voice. She couldn’t scream. She didn’t fight. He didn’t remove any of his clothing, just dropped his pants, did the deed and left.  It wasn’t rape.  She didn’t object.  She told no-one, just went back to her shared flat and showered, alone, ashamed and relieved to be alive.  Three weeks later, she saw him on the street outside her home. She asked the people she shared with to call the police. She gave them a description and told them all about the assault. (She couldn’t call it rape because she didn’t object. She didn’t fight. She did what she had to in order to preserve her life.)  She moved back to live with her family after that. She couldn’t travel alone on the train or go in a telephone box.
Twenty years later, she was buzzing about her house.  The TV was switched on for company.  She wasn’t watching. Suddenly his face was on the screen.  A Channel 4 documentary. Women who he had stalked and assaulted, families of women he had assaulted, were all trying to keep him behind bars. He had served a total of 17 years up to that date for assaulting and raping women.  He selected his victims by joining dance schools, country clubs and picking out lovely young women.  He stalked them, raped them and train-wrecked their lives. She telephoned the Metropolitan Police that night.  She gave them all the details, told them his name. They came north to speak to her a week later.
She couldn’t have her stalker charged with rape because to preserve her life, she did not object. But perhaps at last she could remove him from her nightmares. Women went missing in London in the 1980’s who have never been found. Perhaps they did object.



Fiona said...

This is about a strong lady who was brave in 1982, twenty years later and today. Beautifully written. It's made me very emotional and I sincerely hope he is still locked up!

Steve Rowland said...

Powerful and shocking, Adele, from one who knows what it took you to write it. Bravo.