The letter in full: 'I write to tell you that Stuart Hall is another TV presenter you can investigate'
Thursday 02 May 2013
This is the letter sent to The Independent's Yasmin Alibhai-Brown from one of Stuart Hall's victims. The text has been edited for legal reasons and to avoid identification.
"I write to tell you that Stuart Hall is another television presenter who you can investigate.
I speak from personal experience; he groomed and then sexually exploited me when I was a young teenager in the 1970s.
As he did it to me so I would imagine that he did it to others.
Stuart was a presenter on Look North, a local BBC news programme. He was invited by the head of my school to come and present the prizes one year, and presented to me, among others. He exchanged a few words with me on the stage, at a microphone. I took my prize and left the hall. A while later a message came from the head teacher; would I go back to the hall, as Stuart had asked to see me. He had told the head that he was impressed by me and wondered if I would have permission to visit the local BBC studios; he thought that a girl like me could have a future in television journalism. My head teacher was naïve enough to agree, after consulting with my mother. I, of course, was thrilled and flattered.
And that is how it starts. What drew him to me? Later he told me it was my voice and manner. (I was a shy, intelligent, studious, pretty girl, destined for university and a professional career.) I was young for my years and easy meat for a man like him. To have a man of my father's age take a benevolent interest in me seemed wonderful.
Why haven't I written about this before? For several reasons – the first of which is shame. A girl who is groomed and then sexually exploited does not consider herself raped. Stuart made me complicit in my own abuse. He seemed kind and interested in me, while sexually exploiting a girl more than 25 years younger than he. It's a story as old as the hills; girls go back and then feel themselves to be as guilty as the man. As I became older, I was able to consider the position more carefully, particularly after years of therapy.
Why didn't I report it years ago? I was afraid for my reputation, my family and career. Stuart was well known and popular, particularly in that sport bloke-ish milieu which is not thoughtful about sexual predation. He appeared protected by being well known and well connected. I saw what the gutter press was like, and didn't want strangers going through my bins cross-questioning and photographing my family and friends, demonising me, traumatising my family.
Why am I writing about this now? Because I was enraged when I saw that he had received the OBE this year. Because finally it seems our culture is thinking differently about sexual predators. Because a wise friend pointed out that I really don't need to worry about [appearing] dishonourable in sending this information anonymously – everything that Stuart did to me was dishonourable. Because once again I saw that oily pretentious perma-tanned creature on the television and had to leave the room. (How do I tell my husband why I want to scream, vomit and throw a brick through the television screen?)
The furore over Jimmy Savile has spurred me on. I cannot bear to think of the lionising obituaries that may await the man who caused me so much shame, and I cannot bear the thought that he will believe that he got away with what he did to me, and most probably many others.
So what was it that happened? The head and my mother accepted the invitation, and I went off alone to the studios. (Alone! What a green light that must have given him!) The first and then the second time, all was circumspect, public and above board. Then I was invited back again. It was the end of the working day, and Stuart took me to his dressing room, where he gave me plenty of champagne before having sex with me. (In his dressing room, in the BBC studios.) I still can't bear champagne and the memory of his crepey skin makes me shudder. And yet I went back for more. He took me to other places.
Another time [I was taken] to his friend's house a long way from home. His friend had given him the key to his house, as he and his wife were often away in London, but Stuart giggled that [he] would be horrified if [he] knew how old I was. I remember being moved by the wonderful view from the windows. I also remember that Stuart knew his way around the house and the kitchen well, pulling a frying pan from a drawer below the stove for a fry-up. The frying pan had been left in the pan drawer filled with dripping and the oddness of that stuck in my mind. Apparently the friend complained later to Stuart about the state of the sheets, he had to change them quickly before his wife saw them. I was never aroused, so there was a lot of blood. Somehow Stuart got a prescription for the contraceptive pill, and gave that to me. My compliance in all this used to disgust me – but the adult woman can now have compassion for the young girl.
Stuart told me laughingly that there were a number of middle-aged women locally who gave him filthy looks when they saw him as they knew the things he did, but they weren't prepared (as my mother and I later weren't) to go public with their knowledge.
I remember a number of other details; how proud he was of his car, and how he liked to boast about that too. Was it a Jensen? I seem to remember that it was. He also talked a lot about his expensive collection of clocks.
Why am I so angry? Because what he did was to spoil my sense of myself, my relationship with myself, my feeling of who I was for many years. His actions filled me shame and secrecy, and had a terrible effect too on my relationship with my mother.
He took advantage of my youth, naïveté, loneliness, and manipulated me into having sex. I didn't seek him out, he sought and groomed me. I didn't find him sexually attractive – quite the reverse – that crepey skin, the vanity, the perma-tan. But I craved what he gave me in other ways. Attention, and a sense of being wanted, something that was signally missing elsewhere in my life. And I felt then that he was affectionate with me. How it makes my skin crawl to write that. Sadly the world is too full of girls (and boys) who are looking for love, and find too late that they have found sex with a predator instead. These children are everywhere – not just in children's homes. What can we do to protect them from the Stuarts?
I have blanked out so much of that time and have great gaps in my memory. If asked, I wouldn't be able to say how often we had sex, how often we met after he had groomed me. I suspect not often, I can only remember those three times. But it might have been much more often. I could not stand in court, all these years later, and be cross-questioned, and convinced on all the details.
But what I can say is that it did happen, that he was a sexual predator of young girls – of me. It disgusts me that he sought me out at a school prize-giving, a place where I should have been safe; the wolf invited into the fold. (All the CRB checking in the world will not protect a child from the Stuarts of this world.)
It disgusts me that he has the OBE, and that his friend gave him a place to hide, a platform for aggrandisement. It disgusts me to see him on television, to hear him on the radio. It would disgust me to see fawning obituaries for him. I hope that somehow he can come to know the damage he has caused, to feel some guilt."
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