'I have never been so afraid but asking for help is a strength': Shropshire sex attack victim speaks out

A woman who was the victim of a sexual assault by a man she had known for more than 20 years has spoken out in the hope of encouraging other victims to come forward.

Jenny McHale was attacked in Whitchurch last summer by a fellow business owner
Jenny McHale was attacked in Whitchurch last summer by a fellow business owner

Jenny McHale took the decision to voluntarily waive her own entitlement to lifetime anonymity to speak about the effects of the crime on her, and to encourage any other victims of such assaults to report their attackers.

Mrs McHale, 44, runs a flower shop in Whitchurch and for more than two decades she had a friendly business relationship with Ram Sindhar, who ran a chip shop next door.

That changed on July 17 last year when Sindhar, 46, engaged her in a dispute about some flowers.

They walked into an enclosed area in the town centre where he blocked the gate and put his arms around Jenny despite her pleading with him to let her go. She was able to escape and returned to her shop to recover.

Mrs McHale said: “I felt sick and my legs were like jelly. I couldn’t scream, shout or run. I’ve never in my life been so afraid – I honestly thought I was going to die. My senses heightened because all I can remember now is the blue sky, birds singing and the wind on my face, and that time stood still.

“Once I got back to my shop I was in shock and started to cry, I messaged a friend who is a police officer – she was off-duty and she told me I should ring 101 straight away. My mind was still trying to comprehend what had just happened but I dialled 101, giving them the account of what happened and immediately they wanted me at the station where I spent the next four hours.

“I had to then carry on going to work, and to see this man most days walking near. I would break down in fear and panic, and even drove the wrong way down a one-way street.

“Police had recommended I speak to a counsellor and gave me a number which I called straight away.

Jenny McHale outside Gallery Flowers in Whitchurch

“It was the best thing I did as I was showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and reliving that day over and over again. I would burst out crying at any time, scared to be anywhere alone. I was issued with an alarm to carry which helped, and I took my dog everywhere with me.

“The police have been amazing, checking up on me most days and being around when I closed up at night. There is always a police presence in town but they were so mindful of checking I was okay.

“I had good days and bad days, and usually when I was alone I would start to think about things. I couldn’t speak to anyone in case the case was jeopardised and bottling these emotions up was just awful.”

Mrs McHale said it was a “huge relief” when the Crown Prosecution Service decided that his actions warranted a charge and that it could go forward to court. Ram pleaded guilty to a sexual assault.

Sindhar, of Joyce Way in Whitchurch, was sentenced at Telford Magistrates Court in February. He was fined £923 and told to pay £1,000 in compensation for the victim, plus a victim surcharge and the prosecution costs. He was also given a three-year restraining order against Mrs McHale and ordered not to enter her shop.

Mrs McHale said she felt the sentence was “not enough” but she was relieved that the process had been completed.

She posted about her experiences on social media afterwards, and received hundreds of responses from other women around Whitchurch and further afield.

“Facebook went absolutely crazy with hundreds and hundreds of messages of support and love, and people genuinely shocked that this had happened in their own town, and that it had happened to me.

“I’m quite strong in my mind, and always believe in what’s right and doing the right thing. I was totally thrown off my own inner balance and needed to do something – reading through the messages, myself and my husband broke down in tears and hugged it out.

“I have had so many messages from women and girls that had been assaulted during their lives and have never spoken out about their ordeals, and wanted to reassure me that they knew how I felt and were sorry for me – and that they were too scared to speak out themselves and that I represented all the ones that couldn’t.

“I felt every single one of their pains. People must speak out, must tell someone, get help – asking for help is not a weakness, it’s strength.

“Otherwise these people carry on doing it to others and it’s so, so wrong. The support from women and men has been amazing.”

She referred to the killing of Sarah Everard in London and the resulting gatherings of women in the capital, saying it showed the strength of feeling amongst women, adding: “The message is: woman are fed up with feeling harassed and intimidated by men, and there is a need for something to be done if it’s reported, to be taken seriously.”

  • The Survivors Trust is a national umbrella agency that offers support to women. Learn more and access free support at thesurvivorstrust.org.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News