In her new autobiography, Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother, Brookside and The Royle Family actress Sue Johnston has revealed the horror of being attacked by a would be rapist.
As viewers of Brookside may recall, as Sheila Grant, Sue played the part of a rape victim in the ‘80s, but the storyline mirrored Sue’s own real life trauma…
Sue recalls for the Daily Mirror, “It was November 7, 1970. I was 27. I’ll always remember the date.
“I got off at my Tube stop and took the path I usually took – along a lane and under the bridge.
“I heard a noise behind me and turned around. A young man was leaning against the fence…
“I realised he was masturbating. I stopped, shocked by what I was witnessing, then I began to run.
“I heard him thundering along behind me and I was panic-stricken. I knew he was going to try to attack me. I threw down my bag, thinking he might take it and leave me alone.
“But he lunged for me, grabbing my throat. He punched me in the side as his fingers squeezed into my neck.
“Everything went into slow motion. ‘I’m going to die now,’ I thought. “I heard screaming, it seemed to be coming from far away but then I realised it was me.
“I was screaming for my life. I suddenly began to fight back with every bit of strength in me. I was kicking and clawing at him.
“At that moment the fact that he might be about to rape me hadn’t crossed my mind: I was simply fighting for survival.
“He stopped and hovered over me, staring straight at me, spitting bile.
“I’m not sure if he heard something that disturbed him or was deterred by the fight I’d put up, but he ran off. I picked my bag up and ran.
“He’d punched me everywhere but I didn’t feel any pain. I was too terrified he might be waiting around the corner.
“My good friend Kathy lived nearby so I ran to her house and hammered on the door. ‘I’ve been attacked,’ I said and burst into tears.
“Kathy took me upstairs and put me in the bath. I scrubbed myself clean and changed into some of her clothes, which of course I shouldn’t have done as the police wanted to examine me when they arrived – Kathy’s husband had called them.
“They drove me around to see if I could spot the man, but I couldn’t.
“They asked me to describe him, but even though I could see him in my mind I found it impossible. I went home terrified.
“After this I totally lost the plot. I couldn’t go into work. I began suffering from severe migraines and was prescribed Valium.
“I was still fearful of being attacked and had to walk down the middle of the road when I went out, obsessed with being visible to other people should I be attacked again.
“One day, I was walking through Waterloo Station when someone ran up behind me. They were running for a train but I crouched on the floor and went into hysterics.
“I was an absolute mess. I began to close down entirely.
“I was in desperate need of some help but didn’t know how to ask for it. I didn’t tell my parents what had happened as I didn’t want to worry them.
“I moved into a flat with friends in Maida Vale and eventually I was able to start putting what had happened behind me.
“I look back at the attack and the subsequent trauma, and feel it was one of my darkest times.
“But I came out of it, and things changed and improved when I was able to help myself again.”
Sue’s book, Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother, is published by Ebury on September 1, priced £18.99. It’s also available as an e-book and as an audio download.