Why the Jeremy Forrest case is NOT a love story

[Trigger warnings: sexual abuse, grooming, victim-blaming]

Clearly the Sun must have either a short memory or a lot of gumption. Today they’re trumpeting the headline that Jeremy Forrest wants to wed the teenage girl he abducted, and the girl’s father would be happy to walk her down the aisle. Yesterday they reported that other teenage girls, some as young as 13, had received advances from him. The story focuses particularly on one girl who describes what sounds like some fairly classic grooming behaviour, while another was touched inappropriately and a third was receiving texts and online messages from him.

Really, Sun? From sexual predator to star-crossed love story in the space of 24 hours? Don’t you read your own newspaper?

I’ve read a lot of comments on social media trying to depict the Forrest case as some sort of modern-day Romeo and Juliet, in which the authorities have simply over-reacted. The trouble is, such suggestions are immediately scotched simply by reading the judge’s remarks prior to sentencing. There are almost no mitigating factors and a whole slew of aggravating ones.

Just to prove what absolute rot is being spoken out there, I’ve juxtaposed some excerpts from the sentencing remarks with a selection of quotes that I found through a quick trawl on Twitter. The sentencing remarks are in bold. The tweets are in italics.

“I really don’t understand how Jeremy Forrest is guilty of abduction when she willingly went with him”

“the evidence showed clearly how concerned your fellow members of staff were for your reputation as a teacher. They responded to the reports from students of your behavior and their own observations. Time and time again between Feb and July 2012, they warned and advised you and offered you support. You lied to them as to the nature of your developing relationship and denied sending the messages and photos that pupils had seen.”

“This is so wrong, she consented”

“You even complained that the rumours that were circulating were lies by X. You lied to her mother and complained that X’s silence in relation to those ‘false’ rumours was ruining your career and that she was harassing you. She felt mortified that her daughter was behaving in that way.”

“Wife and him were distant well before this happened. She didn’t and still doesn’t get on with her Mum. Jeremy was her saviour.”

“I am satisfied that you deceived X, too, about the true nature of your relationship with your wife.”

“Prosecution used terms like ‘paedophile’ and ‘grooming’ and the jury bought it.”

“I have seen nothing in the evidence which shows that at any stage you tried to provide proper boundaries between yourself and her, to discourage her, or let other staff deal with the matter appropriately. Indeed all the evidence shows that you encouraged her infatuation and provided opportunities for her to communicate with you and be alone with you.”

“Maybe she exploited his sensitive and caring vulnerability :-)”

“Your research into what might happen to you, if caught, is proof of the deliberate nature of your behavior.”

“I don’t really get how Jeremy Forrest got 5 and a half years, he didn’t exactly abduct her or do anything she didn’t want :S”

“On 20th September you took her to France. I suspect you went for your own purposes. In taking her with you, you subjected her family to appalling distress and concerns for her safety. You made no attempt to think of their welfare or let someone know she was safe.”

“he may have done it the *wrong* way, but he potentially saved her from suicide or some other fate on her own in France”

“You have contested the abduction charge raising a spurious defense, so that she had to give evidence, evidence very different in content from her original account and designed to support it. She had clearly received assistance in relation to what she should say.”

“He said sorry for failing her, and putting her through all the proceedings – that’s what a genuinely caring guy would do :-)”

“Where is that genuine care for her welfare that is the hallmark of a truly loving relationship?”

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5 Comments to “Why the Jeremy Forrest case is NOT a love story”

  1. Excellent analysis of a truly disturbing case.

  2. Isn’t “giving victims a voice” the mantra of the day? So, the victim was given a voice and told she was not “abducted” and loved her guy. Or is it only voices vetted and approved by the NSPCC that newspapers should publish?

    • Should young people be given a voice? Absolutely, yes.

      Should we take at face value the words of a 16 year old girl with mental health issues, who was groomed from the age of 13, and for whom evidence is emerging that she may have been coached in terms of what to say in court (note: a third party in relation to this has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice)? Self-evidently not.

      • Your phrase “Clearly the Sun must have either a short memory or a lot of gumption” suggests that the newspaper should be censored. (I can be misinterpreting your words, of course.)

        And I’m just curious: if the girl at 30 still thinks of this as a tender love affair, you’ll still be dismissive of her opinion?

      • Censored? No. Merely challenged on its assumptions and a counter-view given.

        If she thinks that at 30 I will be pleased that she didn’t suffer any lasting psychological damage. However, that will not mean that his actions were in any way okay. It’s simply not acceptable for teachers to sleep with their pupils, let alone take them to another country without their parents’ permission or knowledge.

        In reality though, Jeremy Forrest will be spending a long time in prison. If (and I appreciate that at this stage this is still an if) it’s proved in court that the girl was coached into changing her testimony, he may well spend even longer than his current sentence. By then she’s likely to have moved on, and he’ll be just a middle-aged ex-offender who has to answer to the sex offenders register.

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