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Greer: 'I'm not upset, or hurt. Someone else is hurt'

Germaine Greer has accused public institutions, including social services, of failing in their duty to protect vulnerable students facing debts and emotional stress.

The feminist author made her first public comment yesterday after a 19-year-old student was arrested at Ms Greer's country house in Essex on Monday for allegedly assaulting her. Ms Greer shrugged off the incident, although she admitted to being apprehensive and frightened.

She dismissed the interest in her experiences as irrelevant. "You can see I'm not hurt, that I can walk, more or less, and I haven't lost my sense of humour or my tolerance of dreadful behaviour."

Her only complaint was that her patience was becoming "a bit thin". Instead, she expressed sympathy for her alleged assailant. "I am not angry. I am not upset. I am not hurt. I am fine. Someone else is hurt," she said.

The woman arrested at Ms Greer's home in Great Chesterford, near Saffron Walden, was charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

She is to appear before magistrates in Harlow on 4 May. It is thought police were alerted after three friends who had been invited for dinner came to Ms Greer's home and heard shouting.

In an indirect reference to the case, Ms Greer, professor of comparative literature at Warwick University, suggested the incident was linked to her prominent public position and her academic duties.

She then criticised public bodies, including local social services and, by implication, Warwick University, for failing to support her before the incident took place. Ms Greer said it was a penalty and a responsibility of being in public life to receive letters from "desperate people every day of my life". But, she added: "I don't get the help from the responsible institutions I am entitled to expect. Within the limits of their competence and their civilauthority, the police have been wonderful. It is everybody else in this who has behaved like idiots."

Ms Greer added: "Ever since I published The Female Eunuch there has always been an off-chance that someone was going to pick me off somewhere, some nutter - seeing some of the hostility we get in letters.

"We had asked for help from people who were supposed to be responsible. But what you get is interference, not help. It's a bit like when your wife had a baby. Lots of interference. No help. Every university teacher deals with a vulnerable population. University students are under great stress. They are very often disorientated. Now they are in debt. All of this means that many are very vulnerable.

"We used to have pastoral responsibility. We used to be in loco parentis. But somebody decided that 18-year-olds are adults, and nobody is in loco-parentis."

Police said Miss Greer's alleged attacker had been ordered not to come within 15 miles of Ms Greer's home as a condition of her bail, or to contact any witness in the case.