This article was a collectively written piece by ESOL students in Beeston, and is based on a real event. Some names have been changed.
Huda would usually give Beeston ‘Ten out of ten: it’s a place I felt safe in and liked to call me home”. But a terrifying series of events changed that for a while.
Huda came to Beeston four years ago. Originally from Egypt, she settled here when her husband got the chance to study for a PhD at the nearby university “It is a place I felt good about raising my children” she says “I love the community events, and always try and be part of what’s going on. It’s a town full of things to be involved with”.
One morning, this was to change. She noticed an elderly man staring at her on the street. At first, she didn’t pay much attention to this: strange, but not that unusual. Yet when he appeared outside her house, and appear every time she was out, she started to get scared “It was not really a fear for me, but a fear for my children. I couldn’t understand why he was doing what he was doing, but he kept following me, kept standing outside my house. You don’t know if this person could have a gun or a knife, or if they could suddenly decide to do something drastic”.
The worry got to her. While her husband was sympathetic, she found it hard to convey how the stalker made her feel. Plus, the intensity of working on his doctorate made Huda reluctant to keep mentioning it: he had enough stress with the workload. Yet the effects were getting stronger: she found herself placing a pushchair across the door at night to delay anyone breaking in. She changed the route she took to and from school, turning a five-minute journey into a forty-minute one. She struggled to sleep. “It sounds crazy. I taught karate in Egypt – I’m a black belt – and he was an old man. But fear makes you irrational”. Her love for her adopted town fell away “It was no longer ten out of ten. It was zero out of ten. I felt scared, lonely and isolated”.
Huda found she was not alone in being stalked: other women had suffered the same thing in varying degrees. Talking to them made her feel less alone, and let her see that this could be dealt with.
After two months, she visited the police to report the staling, but it proved fruitless. While they were generally sympathetic, as the man had not spoken to her, or tried to physically attack her, there was little that they could do. Bereft and scared, she mentioned her troubles to a member of staff at her SureStart centre.
This got things moving. Huda found she was not alone in being stalked: other women had suffered the same thing in varying degrees. Talking to them made her feel less alone, and let her see that this could be dealt with. Her teacher at SureStart made some enquiries, eventually contacting the local PCSO, a friendly woman called Paula. Paula listened, and while she explained that the man was known to them, and mental health issues led him to act in such ways. While Paula assured her he was probably harmless, she still recognized the trauma he was subjecting Huda to.
The PCSO could act as a community officer rather than a straightforward police officer, heading off trouble before it became a criminal issue. This is a vital and effective service, as proved by Paula’s intervention. She visited the stalker.
This worked. The stalker saw the damage he was doing, and as suddenly as it began, it stopped. That’s not to say Huda was instantly ok: she now carries a personal alarm and has the number of the PCSO in her phone. But she does feel secure when out and about and is enjoying Beeston again “The help I got, and how effectively it was sorted was wonderful. There are some very kind people here. I’m back to giving Beeston ten out of ten!”