**UPDATE: The assailant has been arrested, charged and now sentenced to a two-year detention order, reports the Press Association. The man, who will not be named as he is just 17, will spend half of this in a young offenders' institution. **
Oxford University student Ione Wells, 20, was allegedly sexually assaulted while walking down the street near her home in Camden, London. After becoming victim to the one sort of crime where the victim has their behaviour questioned (what were you wearing? Did you make eye contact first and lead them on?) she wanted to speak out, so waived her right to anonymity (all alleged victims of sexual assaults get to remain anonymous) to write an open letter to her attacker.
One of the main questions she asks of the attacker is: ‘Did you ever think of the people in your life?’
Because, well, you’ve got to wonder about someone who follows a girl off of a tube, waits until she’s alone, puts their hand over her mouth, pushes her to the ground, tears her bra in half while grabbing her breast, and kicks her when she screams for help.
Ione notes: ‘You didn’t once reach for my belongings because you wanted my body.’
She then pointed out in the letter written for Cherwell, Oxford University’s student paper, that she’s not just anyone walking through the night, she’s a human, with context: ‘I don’t know anything about you. But I do know this: you did not just attack me that night.’
‘I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am a girlfriend, I am a pupil, I am a cousin, I am a niece, I am a neighbour. I am the employee who server everyone down that road coffee in the café under the railway. All the people who form those relations to me makeup my community and you assaulted every single one of them. You violated the truth…that there are infinitely more good people in the world than bad.’
‘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.’
She then mentions the 7/7 bombings and how, in their wake, Londoners refused to be scared off of public transport, despite it being the target of four bombs.
So, despite being assaulted after getting off the tube, Ione’s still using it: ‘My community will not feel we are unsafe walking back home after dark. We will get on the last train home and we will walk up our streets alone, because we will not submit to the idea that we are putting ourselves in danger in doing so.’
Ione added, defiantly: ‘We will continue to come together, like an army, when any member of our community is threatened. This is a fight you will not win…’
‘There are no boundaries to community: there are only exceptions, and you are one of them.’
Cherwell has started a campaign with this piece, called #NotGuilty, reports The Times. It’s to emphasise ‘that assault is never a product of a victim, their choices, their clothing, or neighbourhoods. It also stresses the importance of the solidarity of community in tackling assault and hopes to encourage others to speak out about their own experiences.’
Because you know what stopped Ione’s attacker? The neighbours and family members who rushed out of their homes to chase him off. The effect of the bystander is big, it just needs to be realised.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.