Outspoken pop star Lily Allen is blunt, confident and sassy-as-hell when it comes to her music but in recent days she’s spoken out in a completely different tone about her “life-altering” experience with a stalker named Alex Gray.
In an interview with The Observer, she described her harrowing seven-year ordeal which started with offensive, accusatory tweets and ended with a man entering her bedroom while her children were sleeping across the hall and screaming at her, threatening to stick a knife through her face.
What Allen went through would have been horrifying for anyone, but what makes matters worse is the way she was treated by police. She expressed dissatisfaction with the way the investigation was handled claiming police destroyed evidence that could be used in her case, gave her a panic alarm and then removed it and refused to let her see and then keep a photo of her stalker and as a result, she didn’t recognise him when he ran screaming into her bedroom.
After the interview was made public she received the following email from a Metropolitan Police Officer:
“As you know there have been press reports suggesting you were dissatisfied with the response you received. Further, due to the high-profile of this matter, I fear other victims of similar crimes have read the story and now may not have the confidence in us to support such matters. As such, it is really important I can understand what – if anything –went wrong during the investigation. I was saddened to hear of this report, I would like to heard your views on what we could do better.”
Allen read the email out in an interview with BBC Newsnight and accused the police officer of “victim-shaming and victim-blaming.”
This story is becoming too familiar. A woman is abused and when she tries to speak out she’s faced with criticism and shame. It needs to stop.
Allen said, “I’m not in the slightest bit angry with Alex Gray. I could see from the minute that he came into my bedroom that he was ill and that he needed help. I wanted to help him. I felt immediately like there’s something really wrong with this guy. I feel like he’s been let down. I’ve been let down. And how many other people are being let down?”
People in any situation should be encouraged to speak out when they are treated badly – not only by those who abuse them but by those who are supposed to protect them. This culture of blaming the victim is disgusting and responses like that are what stops people speaking out, not Allen’s interview. That they accuse her of turning victims away from police is ridiculous, they’re doing it to themselves. Allen says “It was not special attention I looked for. It was reassurance and validation. The police made me feel like a nuisance, rather than a victim. I feel lucky I had resources to protect myself, I could move house, get a lawyer, but if you don’t have that money, how much more terrifying must it be?”
In the last few days, Alex Gray was charged with burglary for stealing Allen’s handbag but she was forced to hire her own lawyer to ensure he was also charged with harassment.
Metropolitan Police say they take stalking and harassment “extremely seriously.” We fucking hope so.
When people like Lily Allen speak out about these issues it helps fire up the conversation. People need to know that speaking out is the best thing you can do, especially if you have the profile to spread a positive message. Unfortunately, some shitty people will shame you, but the overwhelming majority (including us) will stand up and support you.
Image: The Oberver