UEA student speaks about her sexual assault
Eleanor hopes her confession will inspire others
Eleanor Joy Overvoorde was on her way from home from a modelling shoot on July 7 when she was assaulted.
An English Literature graduate now studying for her Masters, the 22-year-old was waiting at Colchester station for her train back to Norwich to continue her studies.
The train arrived, and she stepped onto the carriage. She heard a mumble behind her.
“I wouldn’t mind a piece of that.”
Ready to challenge her catcaller, she was about to confront him.
And then he groped her – as she described it afterwards, “in the same way you would grab meat to evaluate its quality.” Hours later, after police interviews and a struggle to find the right words to describe exactly how it feels to experience what she had, she heard the words “victim of a sexual assault” for the first time.
Speaking to Eleanor, who has waived her anonymity, we asked her about her immediate reaction.
She said: “Disbelief mostly. I have had my bum grabbed in night clubs before but this was so much worse. I just couldn’t believe someone would do that.”
The fact that nobody did or said anything is what shocked Eleanor most about the situation.
She said: “This was perhaps the most difficult part to deal with. I should stress that after the event, when I was having a panic attack, a man did come to help – but at the time I felt completely isolated.
“I couldn’t believe how little people cared, even when I was shouting for help. It scares me. How much more would have had to happen before someone would have stepped in?”
“He said ‘I didn’t mean to actually do it’ but then, as I continued to yell at him, he quickly became aggressive and abusive: ‘I wouldn’t want to touch you anyway you dirty sket’ was the last thing he said to me as he pushed past me on the train.”
After the ordeal, Eleanor had to tell her family that she’d been sexually assaulted.
She said: “Telling my parents was really difficult. I couldn’t get hold of my mum for a day or so after it happened and when I did it was after I had found out the man had been bailed a day before I was due to set off for London on the same line.
“I was in floods of tears when I finally got hold of mum. She said ‘You need to stop being upset and start being angry’ I didn’t see the sense in it. Now I feel like I might be able to use my anger to help others and that feels better somehow.”
The police met both her and her attacker at Ipswich station. He was arrested and Eleanor was taken to give a statement.
Eleanor said: “I’m sure being a police officer is really difficult but I felt that some individuals were shockingly insensitive.
“While I was giving my statement one officer answered several phone calls – his ringtone was the Looney Tunes theme tune. Later, when I called to try and get information about my case, I was asked if I was a ‘witness in a cave’ when they thought I couldn’t hear them.”
On August 21, a letter arrived through Eleanor’s door. She was told that at Ipswich Magistrates court her attacker had pled guilty.
A £150 fine.
She said: “All I really wanted was for the man to know what he had done was wrong. I didn’t get that at all.
“I know he denied everything in his interview but plead guilty at the trial – I guess to avoid a harsher sentence. The money made me feel so cheap. I never cared whether he went to prison or what happened as long as he knew what he had done was wrong.”
We asked Eleanor what advice she could offer to others if they have been sexually assaulted.
She said: “I thought reporting the crime would help me but the process was pretty horrible.
“I guess the fact that he is on the sex offenders register is positive but it doesn’t feel like it has made it any less likely that the same thing won’t happen again tomorrow.
“In hindsight I am glad I reported it but only because I have realised first hand that the system isn’t working and I need to do something to change it.”
Eleanor didn’t know her attacker. He may have a wife, a child, a high-flying job. He may be a best friend, an uncle, a local football coach. But he is also a sex offender.
If Eleanor could contact him, she said: “I would want to know what he thought about what he did.
“I want to know if he regrets what he did, or if he still thinks he did nothing wrong.”
Eleanor has been keeping a blog about her ordeal which you can read here.