A bridesmaid has been left traumatised after being sexually assaulted just hours after the wedding.
The 32-year-old victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was attacked by Thomas Steele after falling asleep at a friend’s house in 2015.
Steele, 34, was jailed for 15 months at Liverpool Crown Court last month after admitting sexual assault of a female by penetration. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.
The victim has now opened up about how she grappled with feelings of guilt and shame after the attack, wrongly blaming herself for what happened to her. She even ended up avoiding the friend whose wedding it was because she didn’t want the incident to taint her special day.
‘I had been at a wedding in the daytime and was a bridesmaid,’ she said. ‘When it got to the early hours of the morning my friend said, “why don’t you come stay at my house and we will get a takeaway?”‘
She ended up falling asleep in her bridesmaid dress, but woke up in the morning to find that she was being sexually assaulted. Her friend was sleeping next to her.
She said: ‘I could feel someone touching me down below and immediately moved away. That’s when I saw him, lying at the bottom of the bed.
‘I pushed him away and shoved him off me, and he just lay there pretending to be asleep. I went downstairs and was just really confused, [thinking] “why did he feel like he could do that to me?” I was disgusted.’
After the attack, she was in shock and didn’t know what to do.
‘I rang 101 for some information and told them what had happened to me, and they said it was really serious and I needed to ring the police,’ she said.
The woman, who had got married herself a few months before the attack, said she had to be examined internally, and that her bridesmaid dress was taken away as evidence.
‘I felt like I had done something wrong to my husband,’ she said. ‘I had to sit there all day and I wasn’t allowed to wash because I needed to go to hospital to be examined.
‘I was so upset. All I wanted to do was wash him off me. But at this stage I didn’t know if he had done anything else to me in the night. Luckily nothing else came back.’
The attack put ‘a lot of pressure’ on her relationship with her husband. Even though he ‘fully supported’ her, he ‘felt guilty because he wasn’t there to protect me’.
She also second-guessed herself and whether going to court was the right thing, thinking about the impact it would have on her attacker’s family and children. But before a trial could take place, Steele pleaded guilty.
‘I had a victim impact statement ready to read out in court because I wanted him to listen to what he had done to me,’ she said. ‘But he admitted his guitl and blamed it on being drunk – which is no excuse.
‘I wanted to speak out because after speaking to other women, I can’t believe the amount of people that this has happened to.
‘It is really common and we have got to speak out and begin educating people on consent and that this behaviour is not okay.’
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