OPINION: Why a harassment case gave me hope in the next generation of women

By Emily Dalton

12th Nov 2023 | Opinion

The case took place at Kingston Crown Court. (Photo: Google Maps)
The case took place at Kingston Crown Court. (Photo: Google Maps)

Last week I covered a court case on a (then) 61-year-old-man stalking a (then) 14-year-old girl on her way to school.  

I hope, and please don't take this personally, that none of you have to go to court. Unless for the right reasons- of which I am struggling to name.  

It's nothing like those court room dramas on TV; what surprised me during my brief stint of work experience at the Old Bailey was how poorly everything is run.  

The number of times trials are running late, the defendant does not turn up to court because the prison forgets or are too short-staffed to bring them, hearings and sentencings are delayed (by hours, not minutes)- it's a surprise anything gets done between 10-4 at all.  

As a r*pe survivor and assault, these cases are tremendously important to me to report on. As the mantra goes, so justice is done, and justice is seen to be done by the public.  

The details of the case were that a man, who was working at a garage nearby Fulwell train station, waited for the young schoolgirl every day and tried to talk to her. The court heard how he would wink and ask questions about her. 

The girl made an excuse about needing to catch the bus and went on her way. The court heard how she would speed past him and made it clear that his eagerness to make conversation was unwelcome.   

He even made a comment inferring how she, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, had "nice legs". This was legally viewed as a sexual communication towards a child which would cause "psychological harm". 

This went on for three weeks until the girl broke down to her parents, and so began the manhunt for evidence. 

Truth be told, I was still waiting for the penny to drop. And? What else happened?  

But that was it. A man, significantly senior to her, had ignored the girl's discomfort at being approached and continued to pursue her. 

I do not for a second want to minimise the victim or her close friends and family's pain and trauma through this episode. I cannot even start to imagine what an arduous two-year long process this would have been.  

The girl was just walking to school and yet she was made to feel uncomfortable and in danger. 

Reading her victim impact statement from behind a curtain in the court room, the girl spoke of the fear and anxiety she suffered as a result of the man's unsettling advances. 

The girl had video evidence of the man harassing her, and the court saw CCTV footage of the man waiting behind cars for her as she walked from the station. 

Thinking back to when I was 14, the same experience would have been terrifying. A time when her biggest anxiety should have been if she had done all her homework or whether she would be invited to a certain birthday party.  

Yet for three weeks this poor girl was almost watching herself as the main character in minute episodes of a crime drama.  

I was somewhat surprised this had made it to court. Surely, getting the parents and police involved was perhaps enough to stop this man? He consequently lost his job from the garage. Yet I watched him experience the full force of the law in being sentenced. 

I realised, maybe I was the problem. I had no idea someone could be convicted of harassing someone like this. I had no idea that women and girls did not have to put up with unwanted attention or inappropriate behaviour.  

All this time I was under the impression that people could catcall you, grope you, harass you, intimidate you, follow you, assault you and women would just put up with it.  

Unless something really bad happens, then get the police involved.  

We learn hacks around it, learn the caged responses, avoid the gaze, walk with keys clenched in hands. Not walk certain routes at certain times of the day in certain clothes. We police our own actions before the police get involved. 

But why bother? Research suggests over the past four years, rape prosecutions in England and Wales have fallen to 70%. Whilst the highest reported case of rape were 70,330 in March 2022, only 2,223 charges were brought in these cases. And this is the reported claims.

When I expect, when I go out, I will feel unsafe. After the r*pe and being assaulted by a story contact, I have to be careful when reporting and being alone with men. This is not something my male colleagues are likely to consider.  

But this was just a girl. I was saddened at the idea she was brought quickly into the world of male violence so young.  

One in four women have been raped or sexually assaulted in England and Wales. You will likely know one. Then one in six children in England and Wales have been sexually assaulted. Terrifying.

Ultimately, she said she was "frightened at what might happen next". This is every girl's worst fear. And I do mean girl: sexual assault is about power and it makes you feel powerless and infantilised.  

I commend the girl's bravery in speaking out. She said in her statement she wanted him to not be able to stalk and harass other young girls. By going through the courts and the police, she has done this. 

I was not strong enough to do this in either of my cases. This then 14 now 16-year-old girl was, and is, braver than I.  

Although another tragic case of male entitlement, this young girl gives me hope that a future generation of women will not just accept or expect harassment. But will demand better for themselves. 

For support or more information, contact: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/


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