After publishing my supposedly so controversial article about the non-rape of Landen Gambill, I was asked if I knew of anyone close to me who had been sexually assaulted. I replied “Yes. Me. Maybe I should write about it.”
I certainly should, because I was so assaulted twice by different individuals in different places the same day, or if not precisely the same day then within about a 12 hour period, which must be some sort of record. Anyway, here goes.
In 1974-5, my home was a Ladbroke Grove bedsit in West London. Although not a skilled worker I was earning decent money by this time. I was also doing shift work, so I kept unusual hours, something I have done largely to this day. My social life, such as it was, revolved around chess.
I listened to music, read voraciously both fiction and non-fiction, and studied classical guitar. I also went to the cinema a lot. I wouldn’t say it was a passion, but at one time I would go once or twice a week.
This particular day, aged 18 or 19, I went to a matinee at a cinema in Victoria. The film was Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, an off-beat gangster flick which frankly I found weird. (The complete film was uploaded to YouTube last month).
I was sitting close to the front, and the cinema was practically empty when some way into the film a young bloke with a well trimmed beard walked down the aisle and sat right next to me. I thought this was a bit odd, but paid no attention. It may have been that he had been in the cinema sometime, but the thought didn’t occur to me then. I think it was the scene in which the coffin was opened - at around 1 hour 5 minutes, well over half way into the film - that I had the strange feeling that a spider was climbing up my left leg. It jerked right up in the air, and I mean right up, and I looked at the bearded man. He got up and moved away; I had the feeling he may have left the cinema.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but about 12 minutes into the film there is a scene in which two gangsters are in a bar, and two prostitutes come up to them. One of them begins feeling one of the gangsters up the leg, very high up, and he simply punches her out. She falls to the floor unconscious, and is carried out by the patrons. I can’t imagine ever doing that to either a woman or a man. After watching this strange film, I went back to my bedsit. This was well over thirty years ago, so I can say only that I think I crashed out for a few hours before going down the West End. There was a cinema off Leicester Square which ran an all-night show. It alternated between five sex films and five horror films. I went twice and saw one of each. I was never into and am still not into sex films but I think there may have been a comedy or two amongst them, and I have never been averse to sex comedies. On this occasion however it was definitely horror films.
The cinema was small and informal. I think in the interval you could help yourself to tea and coffee. This time it was fairly crowded, and it may have been that it was patronised by people who had nowhere else to go. That may have been the case with the young bloke sitting next to me. He had been drinking, and smelt like it. During one of the intervals he attempted to strike up a conversation with me, I can’t remember what about, but I humoured him to be polite. The next thing I know he had put his hand on my leg, the same left leg as before. This time I was very angry and told him to keep his hands to himself or I would tell the manager. He apologised, and one of us moved to another seat.
I could of course have taken more drastic action, like thumping him; he was smaller than me and drunk into the bargain, but it takes a lot to provoke me to violence. Having both a big mouth and a high tolerance threshold I have always tended to assume others have too. Of course, such is not the case.
In this instance, no further action was either needed or taken. Apart from one totally bizarre incident during the 1990s, that has been the sole extent of my suffering at the hands of homosexuals, although to be fair I think the guy in this second incident may have been bisexual or simply had wandering hands. And the latter incident from the 1990s was, well, bizarre in the extreme, and the individual concerned was outwardly heterosexual, and still is.
Did these two incidents in London cinemas ruin my life? No, I managed to do that all by myself for reasons totally unrelated to sex, but let’s not mention poker. Except pot limit razz, of course! Having said that, if I had not had such a hard life, I would not have achieved the notoriety that I have, something of which I am immensely proud. That though is another story.
So, these two very minor sexual assaults did not ruin my life, but they did ruin my day off, and I would rather they had not happened.
While I’m at it, I might as well go the whole hog and cover the issues of propositioning and historical sexual offences, the latter of which has earned me some flak from at least one woman who should know better but doesn’t. Propositioning first. This is one of the allegations made against Lord Rennard.
About the same time as my cinema misadventures, certainly within a year of them, I was propositioned by a homosexual in entirely different circumstances. His name was Victor; he probably told me his surname but I have long since forgotten it. One day I was on a Hammersmith & City Line train, and there was someone who was drunk or otherwise misbehaving. As often happens, this caused a bit of comment from other passengers, and I exchanged some banter with a man sitting opposite me. He was at least twenty years older than me, if not thirty - I’ve always been a terrible judge of ages.
Sometime later I got on another train and there he was; recognising him, I made a comment about a drunk, and he asked what I was talking about. When I refreshed his memory he said “I know who you are now...” - that I remember.
We got talking, and it transpired he lived perhaps half a mile from me. On one occasion he invited me to his flat. It was very nice, ground floor, and we had a drink or two. He was a telephonist, though I’m not sure for whom he worked.
I visited him perhaps three times, in retrospect I should have realised he was a bit effeminate, but I’ve always tried not to judge people too much by their mannerisms. If you watch videos of a young Andrew Lloyd Webber, you’d swear he bats for the opposition, but he is as emphatic a heterosexual as any man could be, and has both the alimony and the offspring to prove it. By the same token, it never occurred to me that George Michael was queer. It always seemed that his attitude was “I’m gorgeous girls, and I know it, now wait in line, and if you’re very lucky I’ll let you give me a blow job as well giving you my autograph”. I was nothing less than astounded when he was arrested for... but I digress.
The last time I met Victor I was feeling depressed; it was probably shortly after I’d been stood up, not for the first time, and I was going on about my non-existent love life. It was only at this point I realised he was homosexual, because he offered to fellate me. I’d been so naďve as to assume that he was, like me, a lonely male in the big city who wanted someone to talk to. I didn’t become outraged, nor did I make my excuses and leave, as the tabloids say, rather I declined politely. Needless to say I never went back, and he never contacted me again.
At that time the age of consent for queer sex in the UK was 21; I was under 21, so technically by propositioning he had committed a criminal offence, but he was not one of those predatory types who scoured the streets looking for boys, and I would not have wished to have made life difficult for him.
The only other sexual proposition I had from another male during my (wasted) youth was from an Asian man in the West End who had clearly been watching me. He came up to me, asked him if I were alone, then said “Would you like to come with me?”
My response was “Why, do you want me to f*** your wife?”
That was the extent of our conversation. Again, I don’t like to judge by appearances, but this guy clearly looked the type. Oh, and there was a pervert who turned up at Greenford Chess Club when I was about 15, and tried to lure me back to his place. He was so obvious; he could barely play the game, and after about half an hour he suggested I give him private coaching. Yeah, I’ll bet. Now that was a guy who should have had his collar felt: Sidney Samuels, or whatever his real name was.
Let us return though to Victor; I didn’t take offence at his proposition, and he took the hint. Apply this to the Lord Rennard case. First, let us be perfectly clear that he denies touching or propositioning anyone, but if he had, would that amount to a criminal offence? Of course not.
Now put this all together, we have all this drivel about sexual harassment and sexual attack survivors. Most such so-called attacks amount to inappropriate touching. Clearly this sort of thing can be extremely disturbing, but such touching is neither as disturbing nor as damaging as gratuitously false allegations can be for innocent men. Whatever stigma is attached to rape or lesser sexual offences, the stigma attached to being branded a rapist or a sex beast, etc, is far, far greater. And even if the accused is totally exonerated, there will still be those wagging tongues who say no smoke without fire. We need to stop all this hysteria. Again, at the end of the day, most of these so-called attacks amount to no more than touching. Obviously if and when children are concerned, there need to be appropriate - and severe - sanctions, but grown women should act like grown women and not attempt to milk it for all it is worth.
As for rape, this is a serious assault, and should be treated as such, ie the stigma should be taken out of it. Having been seriously assaulted on two occasions and mugged (and almost stabbed to death on another), I can say that if rape is a fate worse than death, it has serious rivals. In all three of these cases, I did not receive justice. In the first, I was whacked in the back with a heavy chair. At the time, I was rolling around the floor fighting with someone who had attacked me; he was clearly getting the worst of it, so his psycho friend decided to lend a hand. After temporarily paralysing me with this attack, he proceeded to kick my head all around the floor. If someone hadn’t intervened, that might have been the end for Yours Truly.
The police were called, but not only did they not take a statement, because nobody had seen anything, they took no action at all, my assailant wasn’t even arrested, even though I had visible damage to my face, head and ear, and a lump on my back the size of a small melon.
The second time - the mugging - happened in the 1980s in the road where I live today, around 2am. Three of them had got me on the ground, and one was slashing at my legs with a knife. If the man in the top flat at number 159 Venner Road had not opened his window and shouted that he had called the police, it would have been good night Alexander.
The third and most serious attack occurred on November 28, 1993, a Sunday morning. My three assailants were either hired or more likely put up to it by someone whose wife has been known to frequent this website, but nuff said. I spent the night in hospital, and on my discharge went down with an opportunistic infection that nearly killed me.
On both these occasions - the mugging and the doorstep attack - the police drew a blank with their investigations, and I can say that although I have never been raped (sodomised), I can’t imagine it could possibly have been a more distressing experience. The last attack in particular has both scarred me psychologically and left me with two permanent physical injuries: one to my elbow that defies diagnosis, although it affects me only infrequently; and two fractured and ossified vertebrae in my lower back that were detected only in September 1996. This latter injury has caused and continues to cause me no end of problems, but for reasons I won’t go into here, this third attack has spurred me on to bigger and greater things, and has helped make me the man I am today.
Finally, I would like to say something about allegations of historical sex offences.
Everything I have written here is the gospel truth, and the three purely physical assaults could if necessary be confirmed by consulting official records, but what of my misadventures in the cinema? Given the period of time that has elapsed, and the fact that I have mentioned them to no one before in my life, what evidential value would they have in court? What would a defence barrister make of them? He would dismiss them as anecdotes. More to the point, what could an accused say apart from not me, guv?
The vast majority of historical sex attack claims currently in the news are not as old as my “anecdotes”, but some are very old indeed, in fact Stuart Hall has been charged with raping a woman in 1976. How can any man possibly defend himself against such a charge? If he is able to prove he was out of the country or in hospital or some such at the material time, then he would probably be acquitted, but don’t count on it.
Allegations that come to light as the result of trawls - as this one almost certainly did - are even more unreliable. Although Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex attacker, there can be little doubt that many of the allegations made against him have no basis in fact, and that the driving force behind most of them is money or something equally reprehensible. Savile cannot of course be brought to justice, but by the same token, many innocent men are likely to suffer, perhaps even to be sent to gaol, on the basis of alleged crimes that were not reported at the time, for which there is no contemporaneous evidence - documentary or otherwise - and which happened only in the mind of the accuser many years later.
It is time to draw a line under such investigations, and to stop pandering to the hysterical pronouncements of the loony wimmin’s movement that women as well as children should be both believed and believed uncritically, that way lies both ruin and madness. It seems though that we have not yet learned the lessons of Salem, much less those of McMartin or Cleveland.
[The above was published originally as a blog on March 3, 2013. It included a photograph of Lord Rennard, which has not been included here. I should perhaps have put the word Survivor in quotes, in the title at least. The blog was written before the conviction of Stuart Hall at a time I believed him to have been totally innocent; he was tried twice but was cleared of all the more serious - ie rape - charges. Regarding my comment about Jimmy Savile being a prolific sex attacker, I find most of the so-called evidence against him unconvincing, but I have suspended my judgment. I don’t think we will ever know the truth. Since starting to reset this piece for this website my memory has been jogged; Victor worked for the GPO (as it was then); the second time I met him I said “How’s the GPO?” I’m fairly certain (now) those were my exact words. At first he was confused, but when the penny dropped he replied “I know who you are now”].
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