05/07/2012 12:48 BST | Updated 05/07/2012 13:19 BST

Stephanie Hewson, Sex Attack Victim, Bravely Tells Of Horrific Assault (PICTURES)

The victim of a violent sex attack has bravely spoken out about her ordeal which left her too scared to go in her back garden in the dark.

Stephanie Hewson, from North Tyneside, was battered during a terrifying assault in Whitley Bay almost three years ago.

Northumbria Police have released CCTV footage of a suspect who they need to trace. It shows him stumbling as he walks along, apparently fiddling with the zip on his jeans.

Ms Hewson, then 23, had been on a night out with friends when she was battered and kicked, suffering a black eye and a broken nose.

stephanie hewson

Battered: Stephanie Hewson says she's now too scared to go out at night

She was sexually assaulted in a back alley off Beach Avenue, Whitley Bay, at around 2.30am on 2 August 2009.

The ordeal has changed her life, and she said: "I don't even go in my back garden if it's dark."

She added: "When I came out of hospital I was in a blur. I had gashes all over my back, the tops of my shoulders and my head, face and jaw were swollen.

"I had black eyes and scrapes all over my body and I had damage to the backs of both of my eyes from being kicked so many times.

"My nose was broken and my mouth ripped apart from inside to out.

"Since the attack my life has completely changed.

stephanie hewson

Do you know this man? Ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

stephanie hewson

Stephanie Hewson was sexually assaulted in a back alley off Beach Avenue, Whitley Bay

"I don't go out on nights out anymore and very rarely go out at all, only to restaurants if at all.

"I'm scared to get out of my car to go into work and I don't go out at all if it's dark - not even to the supermarket if it's dark outside.

"I think back to when I was 18 and me and my friends used to walk home late at night and when this happened I only walked four car lengths and this happened to me - it's not worth it.

"Everyone needs to be on guard, especially when they've had a drink. I'd urge young women to make sure you are with people and get a taxi and have plans to get home safely.

"Everyone needs to make sure they are safe."

Officers found her in a distressed state with serious facial injuries.

Before the attack she had been out in Newcastle and travelled by taxi to Whitley Bay, planning to meet up with pals.

She was seen outside a bar talking to friends and walked to the top of South Parade with a pal before she carried on towards Park Avenue alone.

She was approached by a man who dragged her into the rear lane of Beach Avenue and sexually assaulted her.

The suspect is white, in his mid to late 20s, with short hair, receding at the temples, and wore a blue short sleeved T-shirt with the word Mackenzie in yellow, dark jeans and white trainers.

Detective Inspector Paul Race, from Northumbria Police Rape Investigation Team, said: "This was a particularly nasty assault on a young woman that left her with a number of serious physical injuries and emotionally distressed.

"We carried out extensive enquiries at the time but unfortunately were unable to charge anyone with the assault.

"This crime has never been closed and we regularly carry out reviews of unsolved crimes to see whether any further progress can be made.

"If we receive new information we will investigate it and act on it.

"I have to praise Stephanie and her family for their courage shown since the incident happened and their support and help to officers investigating the attack.

"I want to appeal to anyone who recognises the man in the images or thinks they know who it could be to contact us with any information that they might have.

"I also need to reassure the residents of Whitley Bay - and the wider public - that incidents of this nature are thankfully very unusual."

Anyone with any information into the incident is asked to contact the Northumbria Police rape team on 101 ext 69191 or by ringing the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.