The Metropolitan Police, despite having caught the guy who did it, are doing nothing about it.
One sentence I hoped I'd never write, and one that's just horrifying. You choose which is which.
I was walking home in the evening, a journey I've made hundreds of time. It was dark and quite cold, but early and there were people around.
As I crossed a road, I registered the guy a few paces to the side of me. I don't know what it was - maybe his demeanour, or an imperceptible turn of his head - but my gut instantly told me something wasn't right. It's a powerful evolutionary mechanism, the gut feeling. I slowed my pace and dropped back so I was walking behind him, still in the same direction.
He turned into my road. I, slowly, turned into it too, down the other side, thinking I was far enough behind him to be safe.
Some ten paces in, I saw him ahead turn around to face me, run across the street with outstretched hands, and then grab me by my arms.
I've never been so utterly terrified. This is it. This is the moment I'm killed ten feet from my own front door.
Rooted to the spot by fear, I did the only thing I could: scream. Loud, bloodcurdling, blue murder.
He froze. Still screaming, I ran towards my flat, where I could see lights, but no one in the window. I thought no one was coming. I screamed louder. My neighbours came barreling out of the front door, and behind them The Writer, in no shoes, who flew up the street like a whirling dervish to grab the guy as he began to walk away.
The next minutes are a bit of a blur. I remember TW keeping the guy there, and the neighbours taking a picture of him, and phoning the police. I stopped screaming, and instead started yelling (I blame the shock - it was massively undignified) directly at the guy: how dare he? How dare he touch me? Come after me? What gave him the right? Would he accept that behaviour against a family member?
The police on the ground were good. They took me seriously, they told us they knew the guy in question, that "he's not a nice guy", and they took a statement. I had a call yesterday morning to say they'd kept him overnight and were interviewing him, and I'd hear more soon.
Then came the call to say there's no CCTV on our street. That there were no witnesses to the actual incident. That the suspect has mental health issues. That his lawyer had advised him, instead of keeping silent, to give an account: in it, he said he'd been jogging and had bumped into me, throwing out his arms to steady himself. And, despite the fact he's known to them, because of all this, it's my word against his, so there's no further action they can take.
Oh, but the PC I spoke to did suggest I change my route home and carry a panic alarm. I can easily imagine him telling a woman not to wear a short skirt if she didn't want to be raped.
I was completely terrified. I've never felt so threatened. I was convinced that this was the point at which I was raped. Or stabbed. Or, like my darling friend earlier this year, had my head smashed against a car until I passed out (and no: she's never had any help from the CPS either).
I understand it's hard to prove. I do. I understand police budgets are shrinking. I understand mental health services are under the cosh. But what I don't understand is an unwillingness by the people who're paid to protect us to make a stand, and to say, "we might not have irrefutable evidence, but it's your word against his and if you're willing to take that chance and the stand in court, then we'll fight for you."
I don't understand why I get to be terrified when I've done nothing wrong. Why this guy - who clearly has problems - is allowed out onto the street where he clearly thinks that this is acceptable behaviour; why he isn't looked after better, and cared for, so that he doesn't do this to women going about their private lives. I call bullshit on budget cuts: it's not good enough. Why should he get to be out there with every possibility that he'll do it to someone else?
You hear that the crime rate is falling, and it's easy to think no more of it than, "well, that's excellent." And then it's reported that crime stats are being fixed in order to meet targets, but it's so easy just to tut and think, "how awful, they should have more integrity."
And then it happens to you. And you're terrified out of your wits. You're convinced that this might be "your rape", and this is the moment you become a statistic.
And then the police, there to protect you, fail you. And you think, well, I'm not even a statistic now.