I fought off a rapist... withmykeys!
Tanya Clish, 33, was face-to-face with danger and suddenly knew just what she had to do…
ike most people, my morning commute could be a chore. My job as a support worker meant 7am starts and because I didn’t drive, my partner Tom* would take me with our little girl, Jessica*, strapped in her car seat in the back.
But one chilly morning in November 2015, I woke up at 5.30am and Tom was still fast asleep. Creeping into three-year-old Jessica’s room I smiled as I saw her sleeping deeply too. It wouldn’t be fair to wake them just to give me a lift to work. It would only take me 30 minutes to walk from our home in Tyne and Wear.
So, after kissing Tom – gently so as not to wake him – I tiptoed downstairs. I pulled on my boots, made sure I had my house keys, purse and phone in my handbag, and then headed out the front door.
I was only a few minutes down the street when I noticed a tall, thin man walking on the other side of the road. Dressed in a navy jumper, black trousers and heavy works boots, I assumed he was a labourer on the way to his job. But then he crossed the road and began walking behind me.
Suddenly alarm bells went off in my head. There was no one else in the dark street and I could sense he was gaining pace behind me.
Panicked, I began to walk quicker, but he was doing the same, getting closer and closer. I turned briefly to check exactly where he was but suddenly he lunged. Grabbing hold of me, he threw me back against a brick wall, clamping his hand hard over my mouth.
I was writhing, struggling, but he locked his other arm round my waist so I couldn’t move and I saw his dark eyes bearing down on me. ‘All I want is a kiss, shush, just give me a kiss,’ he whispered, leaning close into me.
I could feel his hot breath on my neck and thought I was going to be sick. I tried again to push him off but he was too strong. ‘Look at this,’ he said, nodding towards his crotch. I felt my blood run cold, knowing now exactly what he was planning to do to me.
As he began to unzip his trousers and ease them down, I felt my mind racing. I had to do something. I couldn’t – wouldn’t – let him rape me. Grasping wildly, I managed to reach into my handbag still hooked over my shoulder. My phone was in there, could I manage to dial for help? Only then my fingers clasped round something cold and sharp – my house keys! Suddenly I knew what I had to do.
‘He began to unzip his trousers’
Determined to fight
Pulling them out and using all my strength, I shoved the sharp edge of one of the keys hard into my attacker’s neck. ‘Aargh,’ he shouted and he stumbled back, his trousers round his ankles. This was my chance.
Pulling free, I began charging down the street as fast as I could. Grabbing my mobile, I rang home. ‘Tom,’ I gasped. ‘Help, I’ve been attacked.’
The man had headed off the other way but I was too scared to stop running in case he suddenly changed his mind and came after me. Turning into another street,
I quickly told Tom the name of it. ‘I’m coming,’ he said, and within minutes I saw our car heading down the road towards me, little Jessica strapped in the back. ‘I’m here, you’re safe,’ Tom said, jumping out and pulling me into his arms.
He’d even managed to call the police and seconds later, sirens and flashing lights filled the street. An officer came over and asked me to describe the attacker. ‘He was tall and skinny and wearing a navy jumper,’ I said, with a shudder. The officer went back to his car to put out an alert but then came the news that a 20-year-old man fitting the description I’d given had been arrested and charged with assault.
The officer explained that patrol units had already been out searching for the man after another woman had been assaulted earlier that morning. I gasped, horrified. I’d actually been his second victim. What would have happened to me if I hadn’t managed to fight him off? I didn’t know if I’d injured him with my keys but I couldn’t worry about that. I was safe, and he’d finally been caught.
Back home, the officers took a statement, and my keys and clothes were put in a sealed bag for evidence. I was too shaken to go to work so I stayed home, desperate to be with Jessica. She had no idea what had happened but I kept thinking how close I’d come to being seriously hurt.
It was those dark thoughts that tormented me for weeks after. I became
‘I managed to reach into my handbag’
frightened every time I went out. I found myself continually looking over my shoulder, terrified that someone was lurking in shadows, waiting for me. Finally, this January, police rang to say Joshua Okugbeni, 21, had pleaded guilty to common assault on his first victim and intent to commit a sexual offence in relation to me. Thankfully, my attack had been caught on CCTV so I hadn’t needed to go to court and give evidence.
Praised for bravery
Okugbeni was sentenced to five years and four months in jail and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life. Details in our local newspaper revealed that he was actually a respected member of the community, both a churchgoer and charity worker who had been studying pharmacy at university. I couldn’t understand what had driven him to commit such a crime. The report also revealed the judge had praised my bravery, saying, ‘I’ve got to express the court’s admiration for the second victim’s presence of mind in fighting back against her attacker, taking out her keys and stabbing him in the neck.’ Reading that, I felt so proud of myself. I’d fought back, stopped a rapist and in doing so made sure no other woman would become his victim. Thinking of that helped me understand how to move on emotionally. In a matter of 15 minutes Joshua Okugbeni had assaulted two women and destroyed his life. I owed it to myself and my family to make sure his sick actions didn’t destroy mine, too.
RAPI ST Joshua Okugbeni attacked two women
THE KEYS Tanya defended herself with these