Anorak News | On Being a Victim

On Being a Victim

by | 25th, September 2006

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 receive £55,0000 for the loss of his leg? But they themselves had campaigned for the victims to receive more compensation. The Sun pointed out that many people had raised money for this victim, and that gang-rape victims receive £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 perceived 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.

Posted: 25th, September 2006 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink