'I pity my rapist' - Victim's powerful message after savage city centre attack

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Her voice did not falter, her head was held high and after months of turmoil, hurt and anger, she was finally able to tell her savage rapist just how she felt since that fateful day.

The 20-year-old university student, who was savagely raped and attacked as she made her way home after a night out in Leeds city centre, bravely stood up in court to face her attacker Samuel Fortes.

The rape victim has bravely spoken of her ordeal. Picture posed by a model.

The rape victim has bravely spoken of her ordeal. Picture posed by a model.

The court had previously heard horrific details of the brutal attack, which occurred in the early hours of June 23, under the flyover footbridge adjacent to Grace Street in Leeds city centre.

During the 15 minute attack, Fortes, of Ironside Road, Sheffield, dragged and carried the victim from the footbridge to under the flyover. He then physically assaulted and raped her, leaving her with serious facial injuries and extensive swelling to her face and body.

Addressing the evil 27-year-old, the woman said: "I have experienced what I hope to be the lowest point, mentally in my life. There were days, at the beginning of my recovery period, where I could not leave my bed and that is simply because I did not see the point in doing so. I laid in the same position for days, questioning what I could have done differently. Questioning why I was the victim and questioning if the pain I caused my family was worth walking back to my accommodation."

The woman explained how she feared falling asleep because every-time she closed her eyes she could see Fortes' face glaring back into hers when she asked him to stop.

Samuel Fortes has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of eight years.

Samuel Fortes has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of eight years.

"I often thought about the feeling that overcame me as I was under the bridge, a feeling of death, a feeling that words will never justify," she said.

She spoke of having to be put on sleeping tablets and how she had to sleep in her mum's bed because of the horrific nightmares she had.

She also described how her life has completely changed and how she stays in on an evening and suffered panic attacks.

Heart-breakingly, she also describes the effect her attack had on her family.

She said: "My dad described the situation to my younger brother as 'it is like you have been growing and protecting a flower for 19 years, and all of a sudden somebody just comes and stomps on it'. This is a phrase I will never forget. I don't want people to see me as damaged or hurt."

She continued: "I feel little and dehumanised when I think back to the incident. For a long time after I could not walk around in public on my own without the fear of being attacked or sexually assaulted. I lost my trust in strangers and began to think the worse of everybody.

"I felt isolated from the world. For the first month of my recovery I was taking Pre-Exposure prophylaxis to prevent the development of AIDs."

The woman explained how she had started suffering with PTSD following the attack and also described the stress on her relationship.

"How can I explain how I feel to my partner if I can't explain it to myself?" she said.

She explains how the blood bags under her eyes have left a permanent dark circle on her skin which are a "constant reminder".

Despite all the heartache, the woman puts on a smile as she prepares to look ahead to the future with her family.

She said: "This incident has ruined a lot of things for myself and my loved ones, but as my mum said, 'it is only a blip'. I am a 20-year-old woman who has a lot to look forward to in life and I will not allow a stranger to ruin that for me. It has made me aware of the support I have available, which is overwhelming. I would like to thank my family, my friends, the police, the ladies at SARC, and anybody who has had any involvement in his case. I wish you all the best, I pity you Fortes."

Fortes was today sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of eight years.