IT WAS a terrifying and horrific rape attack that still haunts her – but she was determined not to let it ruin her life.

A week last Friday, rapist Robert Gordon was sentenced to nine years in prison – and now his victim has spoken about the ordeal she has gone through over the years since she was targeted by him on July 9, 1981.

She said: “I would not want anybody else to have to go through what I went through. I have spent the last 31 years coming to terms with what happened to me on that day.”

Although she is relieved that Gordon is finally behind bars, she said that no prison sentence could provide real justice for what she has had to endure, adding: “My whole life was stolen from me.”

After the attack, she struggled to cope with life and found it difficult to even leave her house.

She said: “At first there is the attack, and then there are the months after that you can’t bear to be near people – you can’t go on a bus and you can’t drive in a car “I would say it took me about six months before I began getting my life back. I was determined that I was not going to let this man wreck any more of my life.

“I had to try to ground myself, to try to put the pieces back together because that’s what you have to do. I went through a stage when I feared he might come and find me. It was an emotional time.”

She reluctantly moved away from Basingstoke a few years after the attack, explaining: “Initially, I hadn’t wanted to feel as though I was being forced out of the home I loved, but gradually it was apparent that I did need to move away. I needed a change of scenery.”

After being contacted by the police in 2010, and learning that her attacker may have been caught, she said she had mixed feelings and began to be plagued once more by nightmares that had first haunted her after the sex attack. She said: “The nightmares returned...they come back with a vengeance when I least expect it.

“The prospect of going to court filled me with dread – the thought of having to see his face terrified me.

“I have tried for 30 years to erase the memories I have of him, so to attend court and see his face is not something I wanted to do. The thought of having to relive the entire ordeal in an open court in front of strangers was a very daunting prospect.”

But, giving evidence from behind a screen, the brave woman found the courage to testify against Gordon. At the end of the case, she was praised by the judge, Mr Justice Hamblen, who said “It was clear that having to relive this was a distressing experience. It was an ordeal which she handled with great dignity and fortitude.”

Although relieved when she heard the guilty verdict, she said: “I don’t think anybody would feel that true justice has been done, given what I have gone through. No sentence can get back what I’ve lost.”

But she said her anger has subsided over the years, adding: “Thirty years on, I don’t feel as angry as I used to about what happened.

“It has certainly made me a stronger person having to deal with this, and I am extremely grateful to have survived.”