A YOUNG woman has been left too scared to use public transport after being preyed upon by a man who followed her from a Bendigo bus stop and assaulted her while onboard the vehicle, a court was told on Wednesday.
The 18-year-old victim was waiting for the bus in April last year when 25-year-old Santino Chol, who lives at White Hills, approached and began talking to her.
She tried to leave by boarding the bus and she asked him not to follow her. The court was told Chol got on the bus and sat next to her and pressed his body against her and put his arm around her. She was too scared to protest but recoiled from him.
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The court was told he asked if she would be his girlfriend and she refused. It was alleged that he kissed her hand, cheek, shoulder and neck and began cupping and nuzzling her breasts while she indicated she wanted him to stop. He also followed her off the bus when she alighted at La Trobe University and she reported him to police who arrested him soon afterwards.
The court was told Chol, who moved to Australia from Sudan as a child, was unemployed and was also facing a vandalism charge stemming from a separate event at the Botanic Gardens at White Hills.
The Bendigo Magistrates Court was told on Wednesday when police arrested Chol, he told them he was in the area visiting either an uncle or a friend.
He admitted to police he had been inappropriately close to the woman on the bus and that "I should have given her space". He told police he had "hugged her" even though she had said "no". The court was told Chol also used an alias and had a criminal history for assaulting an emergency services worker.
A victim impact statement read to the court on behalf of the 18-year-old woman said she had suffered nightmares after the event, had become wary of strangers and was too afraid to go out with her friends. "This has impacted me in lots of ways," she stated. " I don't feel safe with strangers or out in public."
The woman needed medication for her nightmares and would sleep for long periods of time.
She had become concerned about people touching her - even innocent interactions from loved ones. She was too afraid to take the bus and a psychiatrist had suggested she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Chol's defence lawyer said his client had a problem with alcohol, was eager to get work but had been unsuccessful.
Magistrate Trieu Huynh said Chol would need to be assessed for his suitability for a community corrections order. He adjourned the case for sentencing on June 17.
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