Real-life brutal sexual assault shapes Gemma's debut novel
In her debut novel, Crawley’s Gemma Rogers works through some of the thoughts and feelings she was left with after a brutal, indecent assault 18 years ago.
Stalker has been released by Boldwood Books, a new publishing company founded in January 2019 – www.boldwoodbooks.com/book/stalker/ – and is available in Kindle format from Amazon.
In the book, Gemma turns the assault into a rape, but the feelings are her own.
“The indecent assault happened back in 2001. I was 21 at the time, and it happened in Sutton in South London.
“Basically, I was approached from behind and grabbed off the street and dragged down an alleyway and indecently assaulted at knife point by a man wearing a balaclava.
“It was traumatic at the time and happened very quickly. They never actually caught him. I only saw his eyes. He was very softly spoken.”
Fortunately, Gemma wasn’t physically injured, but the impact was huge: “I suppose I had what you would call PTSD now.
“I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to go out anywhere. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I became quite introverted. I didn’t feel safe which was horrible, being 21 and a young girl wanting to go out with her friends.”
It was eight o’clock on a Sunday morning; she wasn’t wearing anything remotely provocative.
“But I think my attitude helped. I thought thank goodness, it was me, not a 13-year-old girl doing her paper round or an 80-year-old woman that had popped out for a pint of milk. I felt that I was quite resilient. I wasn’t physically changed. But it took me a long time…
“I still don’t go anywhere in the dark which is ironic considering it happened in the daylight. I have got two daughters now.
“They are eight and 11 and they will want to go out by themselves one day, and what can I do about it? I can’t stop them from doing it.
“So yes, it definitely moulded my life at the time. I am still very conscious about where I am going and who I am with. I would not dream of going out in the dark. I don’t wear headphones… not that I was wearing them at the time. But I wouldn’t do anything to make me less aware. And I keep to the main streets…”
And such thoughts have gone into the book.
Eve Harding’s world implodes one Sunday morning when she is violently assaulted and raped walking to a South London train station. As her attacker evades the police and is left to roam the streets to stalk his next victim, Eve is forced to seek out her assailant before he strikes again. With vengeance in mind, Eve is determined to find him in time and deliver justice on her own terms.
“I have always written. Ever since I was young, I have written, and I wanted to write a story about a lot of the emotions that were left behind. I wanted to talk about them and about the whole process. And also I wanted to write a thriller… And I wanted it to be entertaining. But also I found it very cathartic.”
The fact is that Gemma feared for her life on that Sunday morning 18 years ago: “I suppose it was too big to be an alleyway. It was like a bit of wasteland between two office blocks, and when it was over, the last thing he said to me was to walk down there… towards the dead end. I thought that that was it. I thought he was going to finish me off… or that it was going to escalate into a rape. That was the thing that has stayed with me the most. I thought I might die here. I thought that I might not walk away from this…”