When Sasha, 43, from Cleethorpes went home from the pub, her life changed forever....

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You never think it’s going to happen to you. I was in a pub I knew, 10 minutes from my home where my boyfriend was waiting for me.

I’d lived in the area for over a decade. Had walked that route back to mine countless times. But my decision to walk home alone that night in February 2015 changed my life forever…

My boyfriend Tom and I had been out drinking since 4pm. He’d already headed home by the time I’d finished.

And perhaps I didn’t realise how drunk I was until I stepped out into the cold night air at around 11.30pm. Shivering, I was keen to get home as soon as possible.

Everything that happened next was a blur…

One minute I was on my way back, feeling the effects of one too many drinks.

The next, I was in an alleyway. And I wasn’t alone.

A strange man was behind me, holding my arms down.

Dazed, I looked around and saw a second man.

He was pale, with thin glasses and beady eyes, and as he approached, he yanked down his trousers.

Frozen, I suddenly realised what was about to happen.

No, no, no!

My instinct was to fight, but I stood no chance as the second man forced himself on me.

I was terrified and helpless. Please just hurry up, I thought.

When it was over, I lay on the cold ground for a few seconds as the pair made their escape.

Eventually, I dragged myself up and stumbled to my house.

Bursting into the bedroom, I threw on the lights.

‘What’s wrong?’ Tom asked.

‘I’ve been raped,’ I said, breaking down.

Saying those words, it didn’t feel real.

Even when officers arrived at my house and I told them what I remembered, I didn’t want to accept that it’d happened to me.

But the painful bruises that dotted my body and the memory of the weight of that man on me told me that it was.

The officers told me not to shower, as it’d wash away any traces of DNA.

‘They’ll catch them,’ Tom reassured me, wrapping an arm around my shoulders after the police had left.

The next day, I had a physical examination, then finally I could go home and wash all traces of that monster off me.

But as the months passed, we heard nothing from the police about any suspects.

It was as if whoever those men were, they’d appeared from nowhere – and now they’d vanished.

I became panicked and paranoid, constantly looking over my shoulder and expecting to see the men behind me.

I didn’t feel safe anywhere. When I walked my dogs, I found myself thinking of ways

I could defend myself if someone attacked me. I’ve got my keys in my pocket, I can use them if he grabs me, I thought, spotting a friendly dog-walker who smiled as he passed me.

Shaking myself, I realised what I’d been thinking… But I wasn’t a violent person.

Worried, I went to the GP, who diagnosed me with post traumatic stress disorder.

With counselling, and support from Tom, I started to feel more like myself again.

And then, eight months later in October 2015, there was finally some news.

‘We’ve made an arrest,’ an officer told me.

The man arrested was Cristian-Adrian Lascu. He denied raping me, but his DNA was a match.

Police asked if I wanted to press charges.

It was what I’d been waiting for – but I wasn’t sure if I could face a court case.

‘What if they’re really harsh on me when I’m giving evidence?’ I worried to Tom.

I’d only just got back on the road to recovery. But then, if I wasn’t brave, the man could be free to attack someone else. I had to try.

In April this year, I went to Hull Crown Court, where Cristian-Adrian Lascu, 43, denied rape.

His accomplice had never been caught.

From behind a screen, I gave my evidence to the jury.

Being cross-examined by Lascu’s defence was brutal.

His story was that I’d consented to sex with him, beckoning him down an alley.

He said I’d got angry with him when he’d taken back his invite to a party, and I’d gone to the police in revenge.

‘Did you make up the fact you had been raped?’ his lawyer asked me in court.

‘No!’ I replied.

Lascu’s lies were adding insult to injury. As if that man hadn’t done enough damage. My only hope was that the jury could see through it all. And they did.

After a four-day trial, Cristian-Adrian Lascu was found guilty of rape.

Thank heavens. I almost cried in relief when I heard that, at a later hearing, he’d been jailed for 13 years, plus given a five-year extended licence period and put on the sex offenders register for life.

Police say the other man with Lascu is believed to have fled the country. But they also say they believe he and Lascu could have committed other sex assaults.

The thought that there are other girls out there, feeling how I feel, makes me sick. What happened had a huge effect on me. I’ll always be a different girl because of it.

But I’m proud of myself for standing up in court and getting the justice I deserve.

You never think it’s going to happen to you. But it did happen to me. Now I’m working hard to be a survivor and not a victim.IW