4 years ago today I was walking to my partners house near Clapham. I had just finished a phone call to tell him I was near, when I was suddenly attacked by a stranger.
This man violently dragged me along the pavement and sexually assaulted me. Two people, who heard my screams, intervened and rescued me. My attacker was sentenced for sexual assault and kidnap with the intent to commit a sexual offence. It was discovered via CCTV that this man had been following multiple women.
When the attack was initially reported in the news, one of the recurring headlines was ‘well dressed man attacks screaming woman’. These news stories have been circulating again, in what many websites refer to as a ‘topic trend’.
It still hurts me deeply that those were the words selected by the media to describe the attacker. Both the attacker and I had been wearing suit trousers, a shirt and a jacket. To refer to me as a ‘screaming woman’ minimises what I underwent, and to call this attacker a ‘well dressed man’ minimises the violence that he chose to enact upon a total stranger.
Although this was a terrible and incomprehensible event in my life, I am thankful for many things:
I am thankful and know how lucky I am that nothing worse happened.
I am thankful for the two strangers who bravely intervened. The man who protected me and then went directly to a police station to give crucial testimony. The woman who covered and held me to stop the shaking.
Somehow I managed to record a short voice note on my phone, my terror is clearly audible and the voice of my attacker seems calm. This voice note was crucial evidence.
I was supported throughout the process by a wonderful police team who located my attacker within the month. The women at the Haven, who made me feel safe.
I am also forever thankful for the countless loving and supportive people in my life who never made me feel like a helpless victim and shared in my recovery.