Her ears strain for the sound of John Hinton. Her former fiancee raped, beat and abused Lorraine for three years. The High Court sentenced him to a decade behind bars, but his brutal legacy remains.
Lorraine pushes up from the plush armchair. She reaches for her crutches, awkwardly because her left arm is useless inside a plastic brace. Her feet curl backwards, dragging, as she struggles toward the open window, toward a freedom she can not enjoy.
"He damaged all my muscles from the continual abuse. In a couple
of years time, I may be able to walk a bit more. He also ripped all my
tendons by bending my thumb back."
She has survived even the court case, which made her feel "raped hundreds of times".
Now it is time to heal, to play with her new Rottweiler puppy Xena, to be happy.
Lorraine can't understand why she's not.
Lorraine met John in early 1995, a chance flirtation at the Rivers nightclub in Benson. "I was out dancing and hit him on the head with my bag," she recalls. "He wasn't anything special to look at, but what personality! You just had to laugh with him."
She mentioned working in a local chip shop, but didn't say where. That's why his phone call was such a surprise.
"John tracked me down. He'd phoned every chip shop in Oxfordshire to find me. I suppose that should have worried me, but he was so nice then. I'd never had any one do things for me like that the gardening, shopping, looking after the kids."
The abuse began slowly. "He became possessive after a few months. We used to laugh when he wasn't about, say his mood swings were like female PMT.
"It was just silly little things, like being precious about the tea kettle or a packet of Jaffa Cakes. Then I wasn't allowed to cross the road without holding his hand."
His behaviour grew more callous and cruel. A Didcot boy died while carolling and the neighbourhood children gathered at the Harling's house, grieving. "He told them they had plenty more friends and shouldn't fuss."
Silly little things became more serious. Lorraine's face was cut and she was raped. She confronted John and he promised to stop.
"Lorraine," he wrote. "I hereby state that from this day 15-07-96 till the day I die that the rapes and mental torture will stop, and all I want is to get better. And that one day we will get married. But this all has to be sorted out. I will stand by you Lorraine in anything you decide. This is all I promise you and will sign in front of witness."
Lies, all lies. John pulled the heads off the family's pet birds, tried to run over her son and daughter. He raped Lorraine, beat her. When she chucked him out, he came round, banging on those windows and shouting so the family couldn't sleep. She cowered inside the house, a prisoner.
"I tried to overdose. It was the coward's way out but I was hurting so bad. I used to think it's better to be dead than in pain."
The children are what matters now. "This has given my daughter strength. No one will ever do this to her. It's too late for me, but not for them."
Lorraine sits next to a cabinet of eerie china dolls, some fish circling dully in a tank. Her awards for being a 'Glamorous Granny' are tucked out of sight.
At least her eyes rest on an open window now, but she can't stop wondering. "Does the fear go? I'm meant to be happy, but there's nothing to be happy about."
"It's too late for me,"
she says. "I just want
my children to be safe.
No one will ever do
this to them."
can you trust?"
"No one," she answers. "Nobody at all."
Lorraine moved to Didcot when she was 18 to live near her husband's family. After the amiable divorce, she stayed because the town was home. She stayed even when begged to leave, for her own safety.
"The first thing they tell you when you're assaulted, beaten or raped is to get out, to go to a refuge. But this is my home, my children's home. We haven't done anything wrong. We shouldn't have to move."
Her loyalty went unrewarded. The town turned a blind eye. "Everybody just kept away. They didn't want to get involved. The rape crisis line was only on at certain times. If it hadn't been for the Samaritans..." her voice trails off.
Hinton continued to work. Although his employers had received his admission of "rape and mental torture", he became a doorman at the nightclub, in a position of power. He used it.
Lorraine says he groped women: "frisking, he called it, but it was more. He would touch up girls going into the pub."
She begged the Council to reject his application, but the words were lost among red tape and deaf ears. "How can they issue a licenses to people with rape charges against them?"
Recollections of court bring further tears. Once again, she was alone with the pain. "If you speak to the wrong person, the whole case can be dropped.
"The kids, my doctor were all witnesses. I had nobody.
"You're meant to remember dates, every detail," she shudders. "If the words don't come out of your mouth, then he's not found guilty. Witnesses are not enough. They want photographs and proof."
John Hinton is eligible for parole in five years. Lorraine has little hope it has all been destroyed by a man's violence, a town's disdain.
"I'm worried about his release. I have no faith the community will support me.
"Who can you trust?" Lorraine asks. "No one," she answers. "Nobody at all."
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