The Stalker of the Child
Yes, I am continuing my fine tradition of being all interfere-y and refusing to keep my sticky beak out of it. No, I am not the person to whom I refer in the title of this blog, you cheeky gets!
So, I’m stood at the bus stop, after a long day at work being all responsible and legalish, waiting for my carriage to take me to hearth, home and lovely snuggly husband. I become aware of raised voices behind me. I wait, keeping my body turned away (it was a walking stick day) until I hear the words “You come near my daughter again and I’ll…”. Child. That’s like a red rag to me. I look round, expecting to see a couple of kids harassing another kid, whose mother has stepped in.
Oh, how wrong I was. This tiny, tiny 13 year old girl is in near hysterics, which develop into full-on hysteria as time goes by. Her mother is shielding her and moving away from a very large adult woman aged at least over 25, who keeps moving towards her. Every time the woman and her daughter move, this stalker (as she shall now be known) moves towards her. This scenario keeps looking more and more threatening, and frankly I am not the kind of person who can stand by and let such situations develop, walking stick and challenged stature notwithstanding.
The stalker is stood about 3 inches away from the mother, who has her arm around her hysterical daughter and is clearly very, very angry but making no physical moves apart from the attempt to get away (thwarted at every turn by the stalker, who keeps looking at the daughter). The mother and daughter are now trapped between the bus stand, a telephone junction and people behind them. So I sidle over, saying nothing and making no eye contact, and slip my walking stick in between the mother and the stalker. Slowly I edge forward, until I am fully in between them, still saying nothing but making my presence VERY obvious. After a couple of minutes, I ask the mother if she is okay. She is not, and again tries to walk away from the stalker, clutching her daughter VERY tightly. They end up a good 4 metres away, to no avail as the stalker carries on the slanging match and follows. No matter where the mother and daughter move, she is there, too close and very threatening.
The mother has had enough, and by this time I have overheard that this woman regularly follows her daughter home from school, getting on her daughter’s bus and has even at one point pulled the little girl’s hair. The mother calls the police, and I go over to say I have heard and seen everything, and am perfectly willing to be a witness.
The mother starts to tell me the full history, confirming what I had overheard. It has also become painfully apparent that the stalker has mental health problems. That is no excuse, but may provide an explanation.
The mother has reported a previous incident to the police, and been told that they can’t do anything because the stalker has mental health problems. That is a disservice to the stalker; she clearly needs help. This becomes more apparent as I am told the stalker has previously stalked another girl from the time the other girl was in Year 5. She has also, allegedly (because this is hearsay and I have no proof), got a conviction for previously attacking another child. It is painfully obvious this woman needs help.
I am going nowhere until I have either seen the police or seen the mother and daughter safely on to the bus to their home without being followed; I really don’t care how long it might take, I am not putting up with this. The police don’t come, and the stalker stands about three metres away, constantly looking around but by this time silent. The daughter is just about starting to calm down, so I do my usual “attempt to make them laugh” whilst trying to cover up my utter shock at the attitude of the police and the inadequacy of mental health services. I work in Lewisham Centre, between the daughter’s school and the bus stop where the daughter has to get the bus. I give her my name, work address, details of where the office is EXACTLY, my work land line and my mobile number, and tell her if she is being followed or if she feels threatened at all in any way, to come to the office and I will call her mother while she is in safety. I tell the mother exactly what I have done and suggest they call me on Monday to confirm the information is bona fide. The mother works, she can only collect her daughter on Mondays and Fridays. It is not always practical for people to arrange someone to pick up a child from school. I wanted to ensure she could feel safe, and that her mother was happy with the arrangement. I did wonder if that was maybe going too far, but you know what? I don’t think it was. If ANY child I know and love is at any time feeling threatened, I hope they might have a contact of safety. I hope no-one I know is ever in need of such a bolthole, but I am glad I had the opportunity of providing one. If it is never used, it is there.
There are people all around us, and some school-friends of the girl come over (they were not there before). It is confirmed they have seen the stalker before. Neither the daughter or the mother have any idea who the stalker is. She picked the daughter out completely at random.
We are surrounded by people; a young tall skinny alternative-looking man (who may have been responsible for the very strong smell of a certain substance that wafted by occasionally, which mother and I had joked out of earshot of daughter about) made it clear he, too, was keeping an eye out. I became aware of how many people there were around us, no-one being as interfere-y as me of course, who were keeping a subtle eye out. Community at its best.
At no point did anyone make any threat towards the stalker. Then a woman who obviously knew the stalker came up to talk to her, and jokingly asked if she was all right and if any of the kids has been harassing her again. As she said this to the stalker, she looked towards the daughter probably not realising what the impact of what she was saying was having. The mother naturally stood up for her daughter (never at any time making any move away from cradling her daughter as close to her as she could); there is a history of harassment and her daughter has never harassed anyone. The woman accepts this. However, she states, loudly and many times, that the stalker has been harassed by schoolchildren before, and therefore it is perfectly acceptable, understandable, and the fault of the daughter for being a schoolchild that she is being stalked, and has been physically assaulted before. Further, because the woman has mental health issues, she cannot be held responsible and it is unfair if any steps be taken to try and stop the woman doing this. The daughter should just put up with it.
I cannot believe my ears. I think my jaw bounced off the floor at least twice. This is an adult woman stating that because a few, a minority, of children have behaved in a disgusting manner towards someone with mental health issues then ALL children will just have to put up with criminal, threatening behaviour. However, I don’t need to say anything and can concentrate on the mother and daughter because the young man immediately steps in and takes quite a lot of verbal abuse, deflecting the attention. Eventually this idiot moves on.
We are still waiting for the police.
The stalker moves away to sit at a bus stop, and two other school-girls who have never met the daughter before stay near us, checking occasionally without drawing attention to themselves where the stalker is. Yes, school-children, you know, those ones that deserve to be harassed because a couple of kids behave badly. Well, there are adults in prison who have behaved badly, and no-one thinks ALL adults should just put up with assault, stalking, being threatened and harassment just because some adults have been harassed. I do not subscribe to that point of view.
The stalker is so obviously in desperate need of help; there is a clear pattern of behaviour and it is not helping her at all to excuse, accept and ignore this behaviour. She needs help. She is not getting it. I assume she must actually do someone a serious injury before she gets any help.
Finally, after 50 minutes, the stalker gets onto a bus and leaves. The daughter, who has calmed down considerably, visibly relaxes. I suggest that the mother and daughter get on the next bus to their home and phone the police from there. They have all my contact information, I assure them I will be a witness, and the mother is happy that her daughter seek refuge in my solicitors office if she needs it. I see them off, adamant I am NOT LEAVING until I see them both safely onto their bus. I did not see the stalker get on the bus, and I am not taking any chances. I have no idea what I would do if actually confronted, but I believe that the mere presence of witnesses can do a lot to deter action. There were a lot of people around, but sometimes a word, a look, an assurance that yes you have noticed and no you are not going to stand by and let it happen, is enough. They leave, smiling and thanking me. I don’t think I need thanking. I am sure if I hadn’t stepped in, someone else would have. There were others around, keeping an eye out. I think I just got there first.
The police never turned up. Apparently, and this is what they told the mother, there was a serious car accident in Lewisham, and some other incidents, so the largest police station in Europe which was located 200 yards walk away from where we were stood could not provide even a special constable to come and ensure that a child who was being harassed and stalked by a known stalker was okay.