Friday, November 18, 2005

On being a Victim

The Sun wrote again about Garri Holness a bomb survivor yesterday. This man was on my train, and he lost his leg below the knee. His courage and fortitude, the interviews he gave where he said that he did not hate the bombers made him a media star. He was held up as a shining example, a saint, a hero; few adjectives were too hyperbolic to describe the symbol of triumph of the human spirit that he had become. He became a well-known 'face of the victims', the personification of gentleness when suffering.

Then he must have fallen out of favour somehow. For having built him up so very high, the Sun did what they do with so many other 'celebrities'. They published a story in which they decried him as a gang rapist who had spent time in prison. Who had lied to the Mail about his conviction being quashed.

It is hard to know why the Sun decided to do this, unless it simply wanted a 'scoop' and to sneer at other media for their support of this man, (but then they had supported him too). Was it anger that he was to recieve £55,0000 for the loss of his leg? But they themselves had camapigned for the victims to recieve more compensation. The Sun pointed out that many people had raised money for this victim, and that gang-rape victims recieve £13,500. So they made a direct comparison between the money this man was getting as a direct result of his suffering, and the smaller amount his victims could have received (through the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority.) The implication they were making seemed to me to be he does not deserve this money, he's a bad 'un. Those poor girls he raped with his gang! They even said that at the time there had been an outcry, because the sentences were seen as too short.

Perhaps they just decided that this man had been built up too high and deserved to be cut down to size. No human being can be so heroic, perhaps they thought that. The victims, they aren't all saints and heroes. Let's teach them a lesson. That will teach them to go off-message, perhaps they thought that. too. A demonstration of our power. Fear us.

But this event - this rape - was 20 years ago, Garri Holness/Linton was 18 when he did it, and he went to prison for it, and now he is out, it was a long, long time ago. He has a good job, has an interesting life, he is a singer in his spare time, he likes working out in the gym, he has friends and family who love him. He has paid for what he had done; why must he be made to pay all over again? What bloody good can it possibly do to write about this sort of thing?

This is the problem when all you see is 'Victims', not real people. There was a cross section of London life on that train/. The man who had raped, the woman who had been raped. The cleaner and the company director. The happy and the unhappy. The lonely and the loved. Men, women, young, old, white, black, gay, straight, with complex lives and strengths and weaknesses. Individuals.

I notice that I became a cypher, a symbol, a blank screen onto which others project what they want to see, when I wrote about being a victim of the bombs. Especially as I preserved my anonymity. A prism through which you see whatever colour you want. I've had fan mail from libertarians, and liberals, from left-wingers, right-wingers, from the religious and the atheist. I've been co-opted as a Jew and a Christian. I've had hate mail, been told I deserved to die for my alleged support of Zionist imperialism, told to apologise to the Jews as apparently I and 'my sort' rejoice in suicide bombings in Jerusalem, villified and lauded for my percieved support/lack of support for freedom. Called a traitor and an appeaser, called a heroine and an inspiration.

In the end, of course, I am none of these things. I am a woman, aged 34, who got on a train one day, and found herself at the centre of a tragic and terrible event that still fascinates the media and many Londoners. I am symbolic because I could have been you, I could have been anyone.

In the end, I am myself. Different to you, but the same. Like the man the Sun calls a hero and a villain, I'm neither. He and I are just two of 7 million Londoners.
Part of the same city, travelling on the same train.
Seven Million Londoners. One London.

21 Comments:

Blogger LottieP said...

Well said, Rachel. This is a particularly despicable example of building someone up to knock them down for entirely manipulative, cynical reasons.

The guy criticising you on the Guardian website was clearly as mad as a fish and should be ignored.

L

November 18, 2005 9:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel,
Well that's the Sun for you really - got their own political and corporate agenda. It's all down to sensationalism selling stories and 7 July is obviously back on their agenda.

The guy deserves his £55k, just as he deserved prison because he was a "bad 'un". 20 years is a long time, maybe the raped woman is still getting over her ordeal, but by our "civilised" standards he has paid his debt to society and has since lead what can only be described as a normal life. He is no different to you or me.

You have been praised and condemed by a very broad range of people, which suggests what you're saying is spot on.

I will disagree with you on one point - you are both a heroine and and inspiration. Maybe not for what happened underground (you've said we'd all do the same, but I'm not certain about me and I certainly don't want the chance to find out), but since then you have spoken out, helped, contacted, written, listened, been interviewd and given every one of us an insight into our deepest feelings of what it is to be a human and share.

If that's not being a heroine and an inspiration then I really don't know what is.

All the best, Gary

November 18, 2005 11:04 am  
Blogger Clare said...

I read about that man in the Standard and I couldn't actually get what the whole point of the article was about when like you said, his crime was commited twenty years ago and he paid for what he did. It had nothing to do with what happened to him on the tube and what he has gotten out of it because of his injuries.

I would agree with Gary about the fact that you are indeed an inspiration and a heroine for the reasons he says.

Clare

November 18, 2005 6:49 pm  
Blogger cheesemeister said...

I guess the whole thing is, it could be any of us, any time. The world was never safe but now there is more fear than there had been in a long time.
I live in a landlocked state surrounded by mountains. And am also about 120 miles from nuclear missile silos and a major military facility. Noplace is safe.
Best wishes to you and thank you for letting us into your life.
Peace.

November 19, 2005 6:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel,

This is utterly standard behaviour for the press. It's like the story of the scorpion and fox - it's their nature. Prepare yourself for the same treatment if there is anything in your past life that can be spun into a negative.

Cheesemeister,

Why are you afraid? It seems rude to say so in this place, but your chances of being killed or injured by terrorists is much less than the risks involved in crossing the road. Your fear is what they need and what the idiots behind the 90 day thing need.

November 19, 2005 2:27 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

I read a bit about him in a copy of the Sun on the tube on the way in to town last night, just seeing the way they wrote about him made the blood boil.

No matter how bad the crime was, if we can't rehabilitate and reintegrate criminals, we're not a society worthy of the name. Once again, thanks for writing it up, I'll try to get a rant on the subject together when I get back to Devon.

November 19, 2005 3:44 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

'This is utterly standard behaviour for the press. It's like the story of the scorpion and fox - it's their nature. Prepare yourself for the same treatment if there is anything in your past life that can be spun into a negative.' - Anonymous

Hmmmm. I have not set myself up as a hero, nor have I campaigned for anything. I have remained anonymous and I have written the eye witness account of the train bombing and I have set up a group for survivors. All the media that I have done was done for that one reason, to let other survivors know that we existed. I've turned down most requests, passed others on to people in the group to see if they want to give interviews, offered whatever help I can if they decide they want to speak out. I've said all the way through that I am just one of the voices from the underground train. I can't think of anything in my past life that I would fear coming out in the paper, in fact, I am currently writing a piece for the paper about my past experiences and how they have informed my response to this atrocity.

I have written in the past about rape, and a man on my carriage had a conviction for rape 20 years ago, but as far as I am concerned that is not a news story. There was no especial reason for any of us to be on that train, we were just a random demographic of tube-travellers as I said in the piece, 'On Being a Victim' - we are all of us human beings with complex lives. If someone has been to prison and then they come out, as far as I am concerned that is the end of it. They've paid for it, it's over. Move on.

Attacking the man who had a conviction in the papers is casual cruelty, unneccesary - what public interest does it serve? What good does it do? What is the point of it? I can't see any point in it at all.

It was not just the Sun that wrote the story, it was carried in several papers, but the Sun broke it, as far as I know. The Standard carried it, but in the second edition moved the story back and said in the leader column that the man was 'Still a hero'. The Sun however referred to him as a 'monster'. He's not a monster, he is not a saint. He is a human being who hurt people, who was himself hurt, he is a man who was on my train. And as a man who survived the Piccadilly line bomb, he would be welcome to sit at a table with me and drink to life after the bombs, and hope for the future. The future and the present is what I focus on, not the past. The past is finished.

November 19, 2005 4:14 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Actually, I have campaignedfabout one thing, I was shocked by the 90 day law being rushed through without proper discussion , and I was deeply angered that newspapers and politicians insisted that they spoke in my name, in the name of the victims, when they had not asked me, when they had not asked the victims, and in any case, interning people without charge is too important to be passed because of 'victims say they want it'
( especially when it seems they don't!) .

But I did make it clear in that piece that I did not speak for ALL victims ( anymore than Tony Blair or the Sun or Charles Clarke spoke for all victims) and that it was my PERSONAL OPINION. I spoke ONLY for myself.

And I think if you are reading my clearly personal blog, it should be pretty clear that it is where you will find my personal opinions - I've repeatedly made that clear. I've repeatedly stressed that KCU is an non-political group run by survivors for survivors and that we don't all have the same opinions , the same brain, because we were all on the same train. It is there to give help and support, emailing each other 'well done mate!' when you get back on the tube, having drinks in a bar, talking about life. When I did interviews about KCU I brought no politics into it at all.

As to my past - it's well known that I was against the war. I've said I had PTSD before and have said why in previous posts. If any journo picks up on that, well, I guess I'll cope, I've coped with worse. I am proud of what I have come through and it is part of me. If by sharing what happened I can help other people, then good. I want to be the one telling the story however, not because I have anything to hide but because it is my story, and I can am best qualified to tell it. And I can protect myself that way, as a survivor - I can ensure what is said is the truth. And I'm a writer - why would I want someone to write for me? They weren't there. I was.

So, pfffft.

November 19, 2005 4:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're all getting a bit carried away defending this man. I'd say HE is the manipulative, cynical one.But unfortunately he's not been very clever doing it.

You're all missing a point:the DAily Mail had the story first because the bloke had APPROACHED THEM HIMSELF.He said he'd been wrongly convicted of rape 20 years ago and also that he'd had his conviction quashed on appeal. And something about using his time in prison wisely.

But then the next day in the Sun he said he'd made it up, because he was scared it would come out sooner or later. And he added that he'd forgotten about it, remembering only when arrested for BURGLARY 3 years ago(!). So, what about YOUR victims? Do you imagine they've forgotten too?

If you got to the tabloids and lie to them about who you are and what you've done, you can't then start complaining when they take you to task for it. Lottiep: could you agree that actually he was built himself up for the fall?

Why would someone lie to a national newspaper like that? I mean checking out court records must be fairly easy?

Maybe it had something to do with his cd release? Or the book deals he's got (perhaps they're now lost)?

He suffered a terrible injury, that's clear. He has my sympathy for that, and I wish him well. And he's been very big in not hating the bombers. You know I really respected him for that. But if you try and take the tabloids for a ride, you're going to get seriously punished by them when they find out that you've been lying to them. Especially if you're only aim is trying to sell your cd or some books.

I really did think highly of this bloke. I think now actualy that I find him very disappointing.

I've heard its said that societies get the hero's they deserve. Well, perhaps we deserve better.

Rachel, thanks for your interesting and provocative writing. Keep it up.

Best

Mike B

November 19, 2005 5:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mike B is at least half right. If he lies about soemthing like that what else is he going to lie about. Theres nothing heroic about lying.

November 20, 2005 11:23 am  
Anonymous Joe said...

Dear Rachel,

What wonderful courage, sense of community, valor, you and all others have shown. You have my humble and utmost support. It would be wonderful to see the Sun sued bankrupt. An end of the Sun would be no great loss, furthermore those working at the Sun will hopefully find Jobs in a rather more informative media.

The Sun has been harming our society long enough. And as a citizen, with justice in mind, I believe an example should be made of such disrespectful acts.

I send out my love to you and all other heartful people. You carry the flame of solidarity, justice, peace.

November 20, 2005 9:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Mike B, and anonymous, but what is the truth. How do you know that you hold the truth? If we are to be fair, then the benefit of the doubt should be given first. Secondly, a lie is only as big as those it affects, if it hurts someone seriously then of course it is rather sad and the truth should be made clear if it helps. If we are sure to know the truth, the bad thing is when we always believe to hold the truth.

November 20, 2005 9:34 pm  
Anonymous LeRoy said...

"Part of the same city, travelling on the same train.
Seven Million Londoners. One London. "

Two girls. 16 years old. Forty-five times raped. Six men assaulted them. For 2 and an half hours. Sadly. Part of the same city.

I wonder what would you have on the menu when a monster comes to dinner with you?

"What bloody good can it possibly do to write about this sort of thing?"

Firstly it shows that even a rag as low as the Sun thinks this society should never forget that rape is a bloody horrible crime. Secondly it says that gang rape is only ever done to women by monsters. Never forget.

November 20, 2005 10:33 pm  
Blogger Ally said...

But the fact that he is a convicted rapist does NOT mean that the pain and trauma he has gone through because of 7/7 is in any way deserved, or should be ignored. Which is what certain sections of the media seem to be saying here. They are two separate issues.

For me, that's the point.

November 20, 2005 10:48 pm  
Anonymous Mike B said...

The Sun article:

----------------

Rape secret of 7/7 victim

Rape lie ... Garri Holness

By MIKE SULLIVAN,
SIMON HUGHES
and VIRGINIA WHEELER

A VICTIM hailed for his bravery after losing a leg in the 7/7 bombings is a gang rapist who has cynically lied about his shameful past, The Sun can reveal.

Garri Holness, 38 — leader of a campaign for compensation over the London terror outrages — took part in a horrific attack on two teenage girls.

When confronted earlier this week about his conviction 20 years ago, he insisted he was later cleared on appeal. That was a LIE.

Yesterday The Sun challenged Holness — and he confessed the conviction was NEVER quashed as reported in the Daily Mail.

He admitted misleading the paper, saying: “I knew all this was going to come out and I was scared and confused. I told the Daily Mail and they believed me.

“I felt under pressure and wanted to nip it in the bud straight away — make it go away. I realise that I made a mistake.”

Holness, who met PM Tony Blair and Tory leader Michael Howard at a memorial service for the bomb victims, stands to collect £50,000 for the loss of his left leg. Victims of multiple rape get £13,500.

Musician Holness was one of a gang of six thugs who pounced on two 16-year-old girls as they walked home from a concert.

The blonde and brunette victims, both privately educated, were bundled into a dank garage at council flats in Brixton, South London.

They were stripped and raped a savage 45 times by the brutes. During their 1½-hour ordeal, a knife was held to the throat of one girl.

Holness — 18 at the time and going under the name of Gary “Star” Linton — was one of four monsters convicted of raping both victims.

He was jailed for seven years. The attack sparked public outcry — with MPs demanding longer sentences for Holness and his fellow rapists.

Yesterday Holness claimed he tried to stop the rapes — a lie he gave during his trial.

He said: “Of course I feel for the girls who were attacked all those years ago. I would have loved to sit them down and see how they are doing.

“I feel so badly for what those girls went through — and what I have gone through. How much more can a person take?”

He claimed to have assumed his conviction had been quashed when he was freed from jail after only three years.

But he said he was shocked to discover it was still on his record when he was arrested for burglary three years ago.

Holness was on the Tube train blown up between Russell Square and King’s Cross.

He said: “I never asked to be in the public eye by sitting 2ft away from one of the suicide bombers. And I’m not a bad person. I have a good heart.”

------------------

Thought it might be worth putting it on the page, so we know what's being discussed.

The only issue I can see is that he lied, though there is some speculation about how much criminal injuries he might get.

Nowhere does it say he deserved his injuries, or that the injuries should be ignored.

Mike B

November 21, 2005 11:20 am  
Blogger Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Terrible how the media can cast light on someone and then throw darkness. Such a powerful and unchecked form of communication.

~Deb

November 21, 2005 2:51 pm  
Blogger Ally said...

Mike, you are right - it doesn't actually say that. But, the tone of the article and the fact that it compares the amount of money he will get with the amount a victim of gang rape gets in compensation, to me does imply that they feel he should not be compensated - ie, that his injuries should not be compensated. I worded myself badly in my previous comment.

I'd say that there's a good chance that I'd have lied in his position if Sun journalists came after me. Not saying he was right to do so, I don't think he was. But I can see why someone would, in panic.

That's partly because the tabloids DO demonise people. Leroy uses the word 'monsters' to describe rapists. They're not monsters. They're people who rape. It serves no purpose to push people who commit horrible crimes outside humanity - they are simply people who have done horrible things.

Rachel, I apologise taking up your comments section with this - I agree completely with your post.

November 21, 2005 9:44 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Don't apologise Ally! I love people commenting, and if it turns into a debate, so much the better. I don't delete comments unless they are spam, (or in Will's case, because he left me a message asking me to get in touch via his email, which I have done, and I took the email detail down for his security reasons.)

The Sun DID describe Garri as 'one of four monsters'. I was making the point that he is not a monster, nor a saint, he is a human, he did a terrible thing and was punished for it, and that is the rape justice thing over as far as I am concerned - and then he was blown up, and that is a terrible thing, and it is not helpful to bring up the fact that he is to get CICA money for his loss of limb and conflate that with the money you get as a rape victim,

because they are different things.

( Actually, his criminal conviction may mean he gets less money now, because that is how CICA works. Which raises all sorts of questions about 'innocent victims vs, I dunno, the 'other kind'. As CICA seems to see things that way. When is a victim not a victim? )

I agree that Garri's behaviour and his dealings with the media were not very clever, or very rational, but I don't know how needy or rational my behaviour would be if I had just had my leg blown off.

November 21, 2005 10:34 pm  
Anonymous Garibaldi said...

Rachel, you have, and I suspect that you always will have, my deepest admiration. But on this issue I cannot agree with you.

Mr Holness, or Linton, as is his real name, has not been rehabilitated by serving his time for his part in a particular atrocity, for he has since commited further, and my understanding is, violent crimes, and most recently at that.

People forget that monies offered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, are from the tax payer. As Holness spent three years in gaol, I wonder how much public money has gone into his rehabilitation? Doesn't it currently stand at £50k per annum? If that is the case, then Holness still owes society, financially, for his apparant rehabilitation. Equally how much was spent on police and court time.Hence the CICA is using its powers of penalty wisely in refusing to pay him the whole amount of compensation. Indeed one could argue further that perhaps it is he who should pay into the Criminal Injuries Compensation fund, as should every criminal who benefits from the rehabilitation shelter known as prison.

Indeed, one Lyn Costello from Mothers against Crime, I believe it is called, states that had he served the sentance his crime deserved, he may not have been on the tube that day but elsewhere.

Harsh as this may seem to you, and pragmatic as it appears to me, one thing cannot be levelled at him and that is of one missing an opportunity. This was a business opportunity for him. He claims he never sought his two minutes of fame. this is another lie. He grabbed at it with both hands, ad when he saw it potentially slipping away, lied again, and again.

I do however pity his misfortune that day. I do not begrudge him a single penny he was entitled to from the charitable red cross fund, but I do wonder whether those who contributed to the charity do?

The one sadness that has concerned me about the compensation issue is how some of the victims feel that what happened to them, was far more serious than other victims of crime and thus meritious of more money. I'm sure that every victim of child abuse, rape, murder or whatever violent act chose to maintain a dignified silence in the main.

That Holness should endeavour to portray himself as a champion for the victims of 7/7, rather than the self obsessed entrepreneur that he truely is,is a dreadfully sorry tale enclosed in a tragedy.

Holness is guilty of being a human culpable of inhuman acts. I do however wish him no further harm nor profits, and I feel for his lack of concern for his victims who may still not have recovered from their ordeal or who are forced to be reminded of it by one human's greed.They too, have suffered enough.

Please forgive my rant, I too, like Holness, am a man with a good heart, and from there my thoughts for all victims of crime remain as intense as they have ever been. I wish you speed on your roadto recovery.

November 22, 2005 12:40 am  
Blogger LottieP said...

Mike B,

You put an awful lot of faith in the veracity of a report in The Sun.

L

November 23, 2005 2:03 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Okay, well, *drum roll* my big piece on the bombs and on what it is like to be the victim of a horrific rape is out this weekend in the Sunday Times News Review.

Because as well as being blown up, I was raped repeatedly, tortured and left for dead in July 2002.

Which kind of puts me in an interesting place to comment on all this.


It is a 5000 word think-piece, and it is a mediatation on evil and light and darkness, as well as being my story, and I mention Garri, so if you want to know what I think ( and what I look like) you can borrow or buy a copy.


*advertorial ends

November 24, 2005 6:45 pm  

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