Tricia’s story: “he needed to leave me alone”

One afternoon in March 2011, I was waiting at a bus stop on Spring Garden Road when I sensed that a person was standing very close to me. I turned around and said “excuse me sir, you’re standing very close to me”. I noticed a couple of other bystanders giving him dirty looks but they said nothing, and everyone else either didn’t notice or ignored his behaviour  He looked nervous and mumbled something so I moved to stand several feet away. He continued to watch me from a distance. I waited until the bus driver was about to pull away before jumping on, hoping that he wouldn’t follow me. He did follow me onto the bus though. On the bus he mirrored my movements when I moved to sit farther away from him and he continued to stare. The bus stopped at the mall and I waited until the bus driver was about to close the doors before jumping up and running off the bus. I ran as fast as I could into the mall and he chased me inside.

I ran to the first counter I saw to ask for help but, although I was obviously distressed, was told by a customer waiting in line to get to the back of the line. I ran to the next counter I saw and asked the two employees to call security because a man had been following me. He was not far behind and was standing in front of me before I could convince these two employees to call security. I questioned firmly whether he had been following me but, he just continued asking me to tell him my name and insisting that he knew me. I told him firmly that I would not tell him my name and that he needed to leave me alone. He began to shout that he knew me and continued his insistence that I divulge my name. He had only been standing about 2 feet away from me but at that point he stepped forward and sort of lunged at me, I jumped back and was not touched as a result. A supervisor approached and asked if there was a problem, I again requested that security be called. When the supervisor picked up the phone and said “Security we have a situation…” the man fled out of the store the same way we had run in.

Security took my statement and attempted to locate the man who had chased me but were unable to locate him. The police arrived and they also took my statement and we returned to the store to review the security camera footage so that I could identify this m an. I was questioned more than once by the police whether this man had touched me at any point. I said that I didn’t believe that he had but that he had lunged toward me. I was told that there was nothing they could do for me unless I could positively ID this man and even if I could they would be unable to detain him or charge him unless he came into contact with my person. I questioned this but was told the only thing they could do is open a file and send it to other officers to see if they were familiar with the man and if they could locate him, speak with him and request that he leave me alone. I was told that an investigation was not an option as there were no charges that could be laid until he had touched me in some way. Unhelpfully, they attempted to reassure me by saying this had likely happened because the man thought I was pretty and noted that stalking is very rare and that I shouldn’t concern myself with that possibility.

I told them I wanted a file started and kept in case this man tried to harm me in the future and they told me they would return to the store the following day to retrieve the security camera footage for my file before the tape was erased by the store. Several weeks later I received a call from the police asking if I still wanted the video for my file because they still hadn’t received it from the store. Exhausted, I first said no but within the hour called back to insist that it be obtained for my file which they did the following day.

I now know that there is more than one section of the criminal code which prohibits this man’s behaviour and so an investigation was indeed possible despite being told I could do nothing until or if this man touched me in some way. As a member of the public I trusted the police to know this and to inform me of my rights.

HRM Police have been notified of my experience and have stated that my complaint is being considered by the appropriate people within their organization.

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