Sandra Dick: The day I fought off a sex predator on boat

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My dress was red and printed with big white daisies, sleeveless and sat just above my chubby eight-year-old knees. It was one of my favourites.

I was wearing it the day me and the little gang of kids I’d met – thrown together on a boat sailing back to Britain from what had been home in Australia – decided to play what had turned into our regular little game.

Back then boats didn’t come with endless entertainment, kids’ clubs and all-day cinema. To relieve the boredom of seven weeks at sea on a Greek-owned boat, we amused ourselves as kids do, going up and down in the elevators.

They raced off in one, I jumped, 
giggling, into another. The doors shut. Just me and one of the ship’s crew, a lanky, spotty bloke with greasy black hair, smelly breath and enough grasp of English to understand that when a frightened little girl pushes his creeping hand away as it paws the hem of her red dress with the daisy print and chokes out something like “No”, she’d like to be left alone.

There’s a slow motion memory of the lift doors opening slightly, some confused passengers peering in before they closed again and us grappling as the lift descended to the bowels of the ship.

At eight, you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, so I yanked his tie and when it sounded like it might have hurt him, I yanked harder.

I got out and ran off, certain that if I told mum and dad all hell would break loose on that boat bobbing along in the middle of the Pacific. So I didn’t say a thing. Not a word. For years.

I don’t think what happened left me particularly scarred, but that I recall it so vividly 40 years on proves it was a significant moment in my young life. What I do know, is that by keeping quiet maybe the next little girl didn’t get a chance to pull his tie, press the “doors open” button and run like hell from the spotty bloke with the stinking breath and the wet mouth that slobbered over her face.

Last week television presenter 
Stuart Hall’s “nice guy” mask was ripped off to reveal a disgusting sexual opportunist. His victims kept quiet because pointing the finger is a scary thing to do, easier to say nothing and try to forget it.

But you don’t forget. You get older and you look at your own kids and think “wait, how could anyone DO that?” You get angry. And you want to put it right.

The women who have come forward now to tell of what happened 20, 30, 40 years ago do so with all the anguish of the abused layered with the nagging thought that had they spoken up earlier perhaps someone else would have been spared.

Bringing their abusers to justice after so long isn’t only about healing personal wounds, it’s a way of them fixing it for everyone else that 
followed.