Part I of this thread covered 30-year-old Jeremy Forrest’s elopement with 15-year-old Megan Stammers in September 2012 and his subsequent conviction for child abduction.
At its core the relationship between Forrest and Stammers can be considered as a profound resonance based on mutually compatible vulnerabilities. Both Forrest and Stammers were quick to label that resonance ‘love’. Whether the label fits is a moot point. There is an echo of Romeo and Juliet in their tragic dynamic, but it has been lost in the legal system’s inexorable drive to separate victim from victimiser.
Along with Forrest’s crucifixion, a less obvious but more insidious counter-process has taken place: the beatification of Megan Stammers. For if Forrest is guilty of abduction and illicit sexual activity then ipso facto Stammers was connived into leaving Britain and coerced into unsought copulations. This is an idealised Megan Stammers; as she was expected to be, not as she actually was. We may call this non-existent Megan ‘X’, as she was referred to throughout the trial for legal reasons when even the most cursory googling of Forrest’s name revealed her identity.
The real Megan Stammers dyed her hair before embarking for France. She included “run away forever” in her ‘bucket list’ of ambitions. She apologised to Forrest as he was led from the dock. Forrest, for his part, told her “I love you” and signalled that he was OK. If only. These are two damaged people in a mutually destructive embrace. The trial has only added to that damage—for victimiser and victim alike. But then, Megan Stammers’ wellbeing was never considered in the crucifixion of Jeremy Forrest.
Megan Stammers’ wellbeing was never considered in the crucifixion of Jeremy Forrest
“His actions caused distress and anxiety among parents, family members and a school community,” said Detective Inspector Mark Ling of the Sussex police. The elephant in the room of this statement is that there is no mention of his actions causing distress and anxiety to Megan Stammers herself.
In fact, it was the law’s abrupt termination of her elopement with Forrest which apparently had this effect. After her enforced return from France, Stammers’ relationship with her mother broke down entirely. “Somebody has got to my child… I feel like the daughter I knew has died…” her mother said after the trial, seeming to imply that everything was fine until that fateful trip to LA. Even Stammers’ own mother sees only ‘X’, the idealised Megan, not the real one.
For Stammers’ one-time description of herself on Twitter—a “self-loathing… loner”—suggests that her highly public escapade with Forrest, with its denouement (only a French word will suffice) at the Lewes crown court, was merely long-simmering discontent coming to the boil. It seems clear that, however misplaced, Stammers’ feelings for Forrest are genuine. No surprise then that the treatment meted out to Forrest has heaped emotional damage onto a young woman already ill-equipped to handle it.
What should have been done? It doesn’t matter. It’s too late.
The failings have already occurred and they are systemic. Forrest’s conviction merely serves to draw a line beneath an unsavoury yet briefly titillating incident. Enquiries will be—no, already are being!—held. Safeguarding procedures will be reassessed and tightened, etc. etc. No one asks what can be done to stop the assembly line of emotionally vulnerable Megans and Jeremys. Only by recognising the mutual helplessness of Stammers and Forrest can we begin to understand how such incidents arise and perhaps keep other vulnerable, supposedly mature males from following in Jeremy Forrest’s footsteps up the hill to Calvary.