The teen had to plead with the police to take her seriously and yet they thought that she was lying about the stalking and violence.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 24, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger warning: This article has details of domestic abuse and stalking which some readers might find disturbing.
Women's safety isn't taken seriously by authorities, in most countries, until it becomes a tragedy. It's unfortunate how hard we have to try for the authorities to even register that we are being abused, harassed, or worse. However, even then, most of us just end up as statistics in some crime reports.
One teen in the UK had to plead with the police to listen to her and take her problem seriously. But, instead of doing that, the police penalized her for wasting their time. Shana Grice, 19, begged the police in Sussex to take action against a man who had been stalking her. However, the police fined her £90 ($123) for "wasting police time" on one of the occasions she complained, according to Mirror.
Shana was a receptionist from Brighton who complained against her harasser, Michael Lane, five times over a period of six months in 2016. Unfortunately, the police didn't take her seriously at all. She wasn't lucky enough that the stalker would just move on eventually. Michael broke into her home, slit her throat, and tried to burn her body in August 2016, according to the recent Sky Crime documentary Murder in Slow Motion.
She was fined by the Sussex Police in March of that year since the authorities thought she wasted their time by withholding the fact that she and Michael had been in a relationship. She had reported the man for being physically violent against her. He had pulled her hair and grabbed her phone. It is tragic that the police are not ready to take women's complaints about abuse seriously just because they were in a relationship with their abuser.
Later, a judge said that the police had "jumped to conclusions" and "stereotyped" the girl. Her family, who was devastated, said that her death could have been prevented only if the teen's complaints were taken seriously, according to Manchester Evening News. Women shouldn't have to work this hard to be believed by the police when the institution is meant to protect those who can't defend themselves.
Michael was jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years in March 2017. He was 27 at the time. However, he alone is not responsible for her death. Tom Milsom from the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) had said that the Sussex Police didn't understand "the difference between a spat between two individuals and harassing behavior," reports Mirror. He added, "You really need to listen to the victim and I don't think that happened to Shana. She was let down."
Shana and Michael had dated a few months before Shana called the relationship off, but he kept on stalking her by sending her multiple messages, sending flowers on her 19th birthday, even putting a tracker device on her car, and turning up unannounced at her home, which she shared with two friends. The teen must have been frightened for being unable to protect herself against this man with whom she clearly didn't want anything.
In February 2016, the scared teenager called the police and a female call operator gave Michael a warning. He later showed up at her home after an office party around a month later. Shana escaped to her current boyfriend's place, where she was interviewed by police. She didn't mention that Michael and she used to date. Police found out from the harasser later and believed the 19-year-old to be a liar. Trevor Godfrey, the officer who interviewed her, claimed the complaint was "a smokescreen to disguise her affair," according to Manchester Evening News. She was forced to quit her job and the fine reportedly hurt her confidence. She ended up not reporting his other efforts at stalking.
Just six weeks after the first time he broke into her home, he barged in again before walking into her bedroom and murdering her. He had been angered that she was in a new relationship. It shouldn't be this hard for women to leave an abusive partner behind. In that regard, there is much that our society needs to do to equip men to handle rejection.
The judge criticized the police saying, "Tragically, when she sought help from the police, she received none. Michael Lane felt that if he continued with his obsessive stalking behavior it was most unlikely that the police would do anything to stop him."
Disclaimer: If you or someone you know needs assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.TheHotline.org.
Cover image source: Sussex Police