A young woman who courageously fought off a would-be rapist and left the sex predator bloodied and bruised has given an emotional interview about her horrific ordeal.
Sheffield University student Lucy Kucharik was on her way home from a late shift at work in the city centre in November last year when she sensed she was being followed. She crossed the street three times to avoid the man she suspected was pursuing her and held her phone and keys in her hand. Those keys were soon to become one of her survival tools.
CCTV footage later showed that she had been stalked for a mile by a would-be rapist, Johnathon Holmes.
Holmes was drunk – but determined. He had been hiding in shadowy corners, waiting and watching lone women as they passed by. Once he had set his sights on Kucharik, he trailed her from a distance before launching his assault. The burly 35-year-old threw Kucharik, then 20, into roadside bushes and wrestled her onto her back before climbing on top of her, telling her "you are going to enjoy this."
What he didn’t expect was for a “terrified but angry” Kucharik, now 21, to fight back. As Holmes rushed at her, she punched him in the stomach. Undeterred, he used his weight to try and “smother” his victim into submission, but when he groped her and forced his tongue into Kucharik’s mouth, she bit down hard.
Sensing her attacker was backing down, Kucharik further defended herself by using her keys to give Holmes the cuts and bruises that were still visible in his mugshot. When he finally gave up and ran off, Kucharik shouted after him "You won't do that to a woman again."
Watch attack victim Lucy Kucharik speak about fighting off her attacker:
Kucharik, who has waived her right to anonymity, spoke to ITV News at an event aimed at supporting crime victims.
"He was a massive guy. He was just using his weight and sort of smothering me,” she recalls. "I had to fight back to survive."
Her voice breaks with emotion as she recalls how, despite her single-minded insistence on fighting back, she felt wholly powerless after the attack: “I just cried so long before I could say anything.”
When it finally hit what had happened to me – it was horrible.
A month later, with Holmes caught and charged with sexual assault, Kucharik decided she wanted to read her victim impact statement out in court – even if it meant facing her attacker.
“I knew that even if I got choked up or started crying in court it would make the person that had done this to me realise that I am actually a person – and a person with feelings,” she says.
I wanted him to see what he’s done to me and how he’s made me feel.
She told the court that if Holmes had succeeded in raping her, her “life would have been over - he might as well have killed me right there.”
Holmes, who admitted the attack at Sheffield Crown Court, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
As well as being outstandingly brave and courageous, Kucharik was also hugely fortunate to have been able to fight off her attacker – not everyone can. If you need support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or for those in the Republic of Ireland, the number is 116 123. The number for the Rape Crisis helpline is 0808 802 9999 (12pm-2.30pm & 7pm-9.30pm).