A MOTHER of three who fought off a sex attacker in Bridgwater has bravely told the Mercury about her ordeal to encourage others to come forward.
Karen Pentelow, 37, faced her tormentor Krzysztof Matusewicz while giving evidence at Taunton Crown Court on February 24.
Matusewicz, 37, had denied sexually assaulting her, but later changed his plea to guilty.
Karen, who has chosen to waive her right to anonymity, told the Mercury: “It was terrifying seeing him again in court. I was full of nerves and I was worried that if people didn’t believe me, he would walk free.
“But I’m glad I chose to prosecute because I don’t want him to be able to harm anyone else. It could have been worse the next time.”
Karen’s ordeal began when she was walking home from her former workplace at Angel Place in Bridgwater at around 5.30pm on November 30, 2012, and was stopped by Matusewicz, who she said asked her for a cigarette.
She said: “I gave him a cigarette because I thought he’d leave me alone. But he grabbed me and began pulling me across Brewery Field, toward the Docks area. It was a huge physical struggle.
“There was barely anyone around and the few people who did see us just kept walking, not wanting to get involved.”
Karen said she became even more distressed when Matusewicz told her he ‘wanted a woman’, and she believed he was trying to get her to his flat.
“He even told me his name,” she said. “When I realised we must have got near his flat I decided I needed to make one last attempt to run. I broke free and hid from him.”
Karen said she was in shock from the attack and actually continued with her routine, taking the children to rugby. It wasn’t until she spoke to another adult that the horror of the incident sank in and she went to the police the same evening.
“I was worried they wouldn’t believe me, but the police have been brilliant and supportive throughout,” she said. “The judge was also fantastic.”
She added: “I actually saw him in town while he was on bail on a couple of occasions. I had a panic attack.”
Karen had taken the same route home for three years and it was a while before she felt confident enough to go out alone.
She said: “I’ve always been an outgoing, happy-go-lucky person. But this experience has changed me.
“It affected my marriage and has had a huge impact on my family and friends. But I have been surrounded with support and I’m better now than I have been.
“It is hard to convince a victim of sexual assault to come forward, but I would say they should at least tell someone, not keep it all inside, because it’s not something you can forget.”
Karen said although she had therapy, she was unaware of any local support.
Polish Matusewicz was sentenced to 12 months in prison, placed on the sex offenders’ register for ten years and was given a restraining order preventing him from contacting his victim.
Taunton Crown Court confirmed that in sentencing Matusewicz, the judge commented that although he had a legal right to be in the UK, his “presence is not welcome” and that the Home Office should consider if it has the power to deport him.
* If you have been affected by sexual abuse, contact the Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) on 01823-324944.