In April this year student Ione Wells published a powerful open letter to the teenager who sexually assaulted her as she walked home in Camden, north London. Waiving her right to anonymity, Ms Wells, 20, who is studying at the University of Oxford, described the impact of the attack, directly addressing her assailant in the letter.
“You violated the truth that I will never cease to fight for… that there are infinitely more good people in the world than bad,” she wrote. Ms Wells was widely hailed for her courage and defiance but despite the outpouring of public support, she refuses to be defined by the attack.
Instead, she has tried to help other people who have survived sexual assault and has been steadily building up her reputation as a campaigner, lobbying policymakers to introduce compulsory – and comprehensive – sex and consent education for young people.
Following the publication of her letter, Ms Wells launched #NotGuilty, a campaign that aims to tackle the culture of blaming the victims of sex attacks.
The #NotGuilty website acts as a platform for survivors to stand in solidarity and features anonymous accounts by people of all genders, ages, nationalities and backgrounds. “It was amazing to see how much people have to say. They really need a space to write about it,” Ms Wells said.
While her own attacker reflects on his actions – the 17-year-old, who cannot be named, was sentenced to two years’ youth detention in May – Ms Wells is continuing her studies and hosts workshops in schools and colleges to talk to young people about consent.
“Teens often begin to have views about sex and relationships before the age of consent, when they are 13, 14 or 15. An introduction to consent is important from that age,” she said.
Campaigning and public speaking have given Ms Wells confidence, she said, adding: “However much victims may feel a sense of self-blame, or be blamed by others, my message is that there is no one to blame for abuse apart from the perpetrator.”Reuse content