A WOMAN who says she was harassed while using the late-night ferry service to Gosport says women are being discouraged from speaking out against abuse, after being labelled as a drama queen by a ferry driver.
Charlene Lomas, 31, from Gosport, was travelling back from Portsmouth with a friend on Saturday, October 6, when she says they were harassed by three men.
Despite asking for them to leave the pair alone, Miss Lomas says that the men persistently got too close to them, making them feel very uncomfortable.
But when she asked the ferry team for help, she was told that she should ‘be flattered’ by the attention – and was subsequently called a drama queen by the skipper when she posted about the incident on Facebook.
Charlene said: ‘They were getting over our shoulders and being far too intimate – we asked them to leave us alone and they got quite aggressive.
‘We explained to the ferry operator what was happening and he told us we should be flattered.
‘Then when the ferry arrived in Gosport, they leaned over us again; my friend pushed one of them away and that’s all the ferry driver saw, so he believes we were responsible for the incident.’
The late-night ferry is not run by the main Gosport Ferry company.
Screenshots sent to The News show that after leaving a comment on the ferry service’s Facebook page, Charlene was called a ‘drama queen’ and accused of trying to give the ferry service a bad name by the skipper, Edward Tiller.
She said: ‘It just feels like that happened to us is being brushed aside.
‘It makes you feel as though women can’t speak up because people won’t believe us or take what we say seriously.
‘As a woman you come to expect drunk men to behave a certain way – but when you ask for help and are refused it, that is genuinely terrifying.
‘To be called a liar when something like this happens really feels awful.
‘I certainly won’t be using the ferry service again – I don’t feel safe to do so.’
Dave Faithfull, one of the owners of the Late Night Ferry, says that the service treats incidents like this very seriously.
He said: ‘I wasn’t there on the night, but from what I’ve heard the harassment happened on the pontoon, rather than on the ferry.
‘We can’t make arrests or tell people they can’t get on board unless we see something ourselves – which I am told we didn’t.
‘I certainly don’t agree with what was said to Miss Lomas, and I have spoken to the staff member in question about it.
‘It’s a shame though – we can provide a brilliant service for months and nobody says anything, then after one incident you’re painted as the bad guys.’
The skipper from the night, Edward Tiller, added: ‘I’m not allowed to leave the wheel until the boat comes against the pontoon.
‘I saw somebody stumble out the corner of my eye as the boat rolled, then heard a lot of shouting – he was definitely drunk and it’s not uncommon for someone to fall over on a Saturday night.
‘As we were coming into Gosport I asked what was going on; I hadn’t seen any of what happened. The next day I saw a bunch of abuse aimed at us on Facebook; I suppose I think it’s something being made of nothing.
‘If people are being harassed on the ferry, they can come and sit by me as they’re going across. Nothing has ever happened on board the late night ferry.
‘We do take these things seriously and people are protected on the boat.’
The incident was reported to Hampshire Police, with officers currently investigating the incident.
A spokeswoman said: ‘We are looking into a report of assault without injury that is alleged to have occurred at 12.30am on October 7, 2018, on the ferry between Gosport and Portsmouth.
‘The report was made by a woman in her 30s.
‘The investigation is in the early stages and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.’