THE victim of a violent sex attack has bravely spoken out about her ordeal, saying it left her too scared to go in her own back garden after dark.
Stephanie Hewson, from North Tyneside, was battered during a terrifying sexual assault in Whitley Bay almost three years ago.
Northumbria Police have released CCTV footage of a suspect who they need to trace.
It shows him stumbling as he walks along, apparently fiddling with the zip on his jeans.
Ms Hewson, then 23, had been on a night out with friends when she was battered and kicked, suffering a black eyes and a broken nose.
She was sexually assaulted in a back alley off Beach Avenue, Whitley Bay, at around 2.30am on August 2, 2009.
The ordeal has changed her life. “I don’t even go in my back garden if it’s dark,” she said.
“When I came out of hospital I was in a blur. I had gashes all over my back, the tops of my shoulders and my head, face and jaw were swollen.
“I had black eyes and scrapes all over my body, and I had damage to the backs of both of my eyes from being kicked so many times.
“My nose was broken and my mouth ripped apart from inside to out.
“Since the attack my life has completely changed.
“I don’t go out on nights out any more and very rarely go out at all, only to restaurants if at all.
“I’m scared to get out of my car to go into work and I don’t go out at all if it’s dark – not even to the supermarket.
“I think back to when I was 18 and me and my friends used to walk home late at night.
“When this happened I only walked four car lengths and then this happened to me – it’s not worth it.
“Everyone needs to be on guard, especially when they’ve had a drink.
“I’d urge young women to make sure you are with people and get a taxi and have plans to get home safely. Everyone needs to make sure they are safe.”
Officers found Ms Hewson in a distressed state with serious facial injuries.
Before the attack she had been out in Newcastle and travelled by taxi to Whitley Bay, planning to meet up with pals.
She was seen outside a bar talking to friends and walked to the top of South Parade with a pal before she carried on towards Park Avenue alone.
She was approached by a man who dragged her into the rear lane of Beach Avenue and sexually assaulted her.
The suspect is white, in his mid to late 20s, with short hair, receding at the temples, and wore a blue short-sleeved T-shirt with the word Mackenzie in yellow, dark jeans and white trainers.
Detective Inspector Paul Race, from Northumbria Police Rape Investigation Team, said: “This was a particularly nasty assault on a young woman which left her with a number of serious physical injuries and emotional distress.
“We carried out extensive inquiries at the time but unfortunately were unable to charge anyone with the assault.
“This crime has never been closed and we regularly carry out reviews of unsolved crimes to see whether any further progress can be made.
“If we receive new information we will investigate it and act on it.
“I have to praise Stephanie and her family for their courage shown since the incident and their support and help to officers investigating the attack. I want to appeal to anyone who recognises the man in the images or thinks they know who it could be to contact us with any information they might have.
“I also need to reassure the residents of Whitley Bay – and the wider public – that incidents of this nature are thankfully very unusual.”
Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to contact the Northumbria Police rape team on 101 ext 69191 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Since the attack my life has completely changed. I don’t go out on nights out any more and very rarely go out at all