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Violent sexual assault victim praised for writing open letter as attacker is sentenced

Brave: Ione Wells
Brave: Ione Wells

A student who wrote a powerful open letter to the teenager who violently and sexually assaulted her has been praised for her strength in speaking up for victims, as her attacker was handed a two-year detention and training order.

Ione Wells, 20, from Camden, north London, waived her right to anonymity to launch a campaign stressing that victims should never be blamed for sex attacks, using the slogan Not Guilty.

Today, her attacker appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court, sitting as a youth court, and was handed a 24-month youth detention order by district judge Gillian Alison, who said he will spend around half of that in a young offenders' institution and the rest under supervision.

Miss Wells, an Oxford University student, was walking home from Chalk Farm Tube station after a night out last month when the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, came up behind her, clamped his hands over her mouth and pushed her to the ground.

He smashed her head on the pavement before grabbing at her chest with such force that he tore her bra in half.

The court heard that the attack was only stopped when Miss Wells' screams were heard by neighbours who then confronted the attacker.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said: "I can't close my eyes without hearing my attacker's footsteps behind me.

"He knows the area where my neighbours and I live and I am anxious that he will come back to get me.

"I feel insecure about myself. I can't look at my own body without thinking how my attacker hit me so hard that I bled.

"My body feels tainted and violated by a stranger who thought he had the right to violate my body. I panic about how long this will last."

She added that a lot of her anxiety comes from thinking about what could have happened if the attack had not been stopped, including whether she would have been raped or fatally injured.

Miss Wells has launched a campaign stressing that assault is "not a product of walking home late or wearing certain clothes, or being independent or walking alone" and urging for the "solidarity of community".

She said she has already had hundreds of responses from men and women who have shared their own stories of sexual assault.

In her open letter to her attacker, she said: "This letter is not really for you at all, but for all the victims of attempted or perpetrated serious sexual assault and every member of their communities.

"We will continue to come together, like an army, when any member of our community is threatened, and this is a fight you will not win.

"There are no boundaries to community, there are only exceptions, and you are one of them."

Mark Castle, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, praised Miss Wells' campaign.

"Miss Wells has shown tremendous strength speaking up for victims of sexual crimes since her own horrific experience through her #notguilty campaign - a victim of crime should never be made to feel guilty for what's happened to them," he said.

"Victims tell us that they want to have their voice heard in the criminal justice system because they often feel sidelined or ignored during what can be a very difficult and sensitive process.

"A victim impact statement is one way victims can have their say in court and can help victims move on with their lives."

The 17-year-old has also been ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for five years.