Last year hundreds of women were attacked and raped on holiday and experts
believe this summer it will get worse…
Enjoying another warm, balmy evening, Joanne Kennard finished her cocktail in
the busy bar. The 28 year old was tanned, relaxed and loving her
much-anticipated break in the sun.
It was the early hours of the morning and she decided to pop over to see her
cousin Paige who was staying in an apartment a couple of streets away.
Kissing her boyfriend Simon goodbye, Joanne promised to return soon before
squeezing her way through the packed bar out onto the street.
She was no stranger to the resort of Amarilla in south Tenerife. Her grandma
had lived there for eight years, Simon worked in the town for a car-hire
company, and this was her 16th visit. It felt like home – but with added
But just 20 minutes after leaving the busy street behind her, she was brutally
attacked and left for dead.
As she fought for her life, Joanne became one of the hundreds of UK women who
are attacked, raped – and even killed – on holiday each year.
Like many British victims, Joanne had let her guard down. She would never have
walked the streets alone at 4am back home, but on holiday she thought she’d
In fact, she was subjected to a violent sexual attack, which left her so badly
beaten even her family didn’t recognise her.
Figures show that last year, 234 British women were sexually assaulted or
raped abroad. Worryingly, experts believe this is just a fraction of the
actual number of attacks – the majority of these crimes go unreported.
Foreign police forces believe this is because British women are worried they
will be blamed because they’ve been drinking – and are embarrassed to face a
barrage of medical exams. For others, it’s the simple fact they are in a
foreign country and just don’t know where to go for help. So they keep
Within half an hour of being attacked, Joanne’s cousin found her with her
underwear round her thighs, lying in a pool of blood – she’d only recognised
her battered body because of the gold flip-flops she was wearing.
Joanne was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where medics hooked her up
to a ventilator, before she had emergency surgery.
The attack left her with multiple injuries – her left cheek was split from the
inside, her forehead was cut open, both eyes were black and swollen, and her
body was covered in grazes. But Joanne, a hairdresser, from Radlett,
Hertfordshire, was one of the lucky ones. She hadn’t been raped. And she’d
survived the assault.
The day after the attack, Joanne gave police a detailed description of her
alleged attacker. They arrested a man, who has been charged with attempted
rape and actual bodily harm. He is due to stand trial in Tenerife early next
Six months on, Joanne’s injuries have healed – although the sight in her left
eye is still blurred. But she still suffers flashbacks and panic attacks.
Part of the problem is that Joanne remembers the night in question in vivid
“The man jumped at me from the darkness and I tried to scream for help, but he
punched me harder and harder.
“My mouth was filling up with blood and all I could see in my mind was an
image of my seven-year-old daughter Lacey,” she says quietly. “I just kept
thinking: ‘This can’t be the last day I ever see my daughter.” I thought
he’d only stop once he’d killed me, so I decided to go limp and play dead.”
Joanne is positive she’s only alive today because her attacker thought he had
In recent years, the holiday rape hot spots, according to the British Foreign
Office, have been Spain, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.
Although the crimes happen abroad, statistics show the perpetrators are mainly
boozed-up British men.
The combination of sunshine and cheap alcohol seems to be explosive – and for
the victims, potentially lethal.
“We are seldom more relaxed, less on guard or, in many cases, more drunk, than
when we are abroad on holiday,” says Jo Walker of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
“Nothing will turn you into a potential victim more quickly or effectively
than alcohol. Add to that the fact that we rarely understand the culture,
know the dangerous areas of our holiday destination or even how to tell a
reputable taxi from a rogue one, and it’s easy to see why holidays can end
The message when travelling abroad is to keep yourself safe. Yvonne Traynor,
chief executive of the Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre, says once
they arrive on foreign soil, many UK women throw caution to the wind.
“Women are failing to take the personal safety precautions they practise at
home,” she says. “There are rapists in every country, so we must always be
cautious and not lose our inhibitions. Rapists are opportunists and, no
matter what nationality they are, where an opportunity arises they will take
Linda Celik, 39, from Dundee, was attacked by a bogus taxi driver in Turkey in
1999, while on holiday with her boyfriend.
Her attacker was later sentenced to 14 years in prison for abduction and rape,
but Linda’s life has been left in tatters: her confidence was so badly
shaken she lost her job as a social work care officer.
Joanne – who has since split from Simon and blames the stress of the attack
for forcing them apart – intends to go back to Tenerife to see her alleged
attacker in court. “I picked him out in a line-up and it was like looking at
a lion though thickened glass at the zoo. I thought: ‘I’ve got you now.’ And
I want to be there to see justice done, to face him and show he didn’t win.
“It took so long for me to feel normal. Unbelievably, I don’t feel
psychologically damaged by what happened. Yes, I shed the odd tear, but
that’s out of anger.
“In hindsight, I admit I was naive to go wandering around a foreign town alone
at that time of the morning. There were so many people nearby I thought I
was safe. It goes to show bad things can happen so quickly. I’m proof of
that, and I know I’m so lucky to still be here.”
HOLIDAYS THAT ENDED IN TRAGEDY
Maddison, 22, from Murton, Co Durham, was stabbed and raped in May last year
after she returned home from her bar job in Magaluf. A crazed knifeman
attacked her on the steps leading up to her apartment, inflicting stab
wounds to her chest and neck and puncturing her lung. Cheryl spent two weeks
in hospital before returning home. “He was so violent I never thought I’d
get out alive,” she says. Her attacker has not been found.
Jackson, 22, was raped in the Greek resort of Faliraki last summer. She had
been celebrating her 21st birthday, drinking vodka, sambuca and cocktails,
when she got separated from her friends. She decided to walk to her
apartment alone. A friendly looking Greek man offered her a lift and
foolishly she accepted. He drove her to a quiet slip road then raped her.
She managed to escape and two British girls helped her to the police
station. No one has been charged.
2004, Christina Foster, 19, left her Perthshire home for a working holiday
in Corfu. But on her second night, she was raped by a barman. He locked her
in a bar and attacked her as she used her mobile to call for help. She fled,
but he chased her, took her to a remote beach and forced her into the sea,
where he held her head under the water. She managed to break free and hid in
a house where she was found bruised and bleeding. A 32-year-old man was
tried and acquitted in Greece.
STAY SAFE THIS SUMMER
DO travel in pairs.
keep an eye on your drinks.
DO know your alcohol limits.
make a note of landmarks near your accommodation. If you get lost you’re
more likely to be able to tell where you are.
DO keep your
mobile phone with you.
DO meet up with that cute guy – the
next day when you’re both sober.
DO be aware of local
customs and what is and isn’t acceptable.
your friends where you’re going and who with.
your friends to meet a bloke you’ve just met – no matter how
nice/friendly/handsome he seems.
DON’T accept drinks
you haven’t seen poured out fresh.
off on your own – however safe you think the area is.
get into a cab alone.
DON’T go back to a stranger’s
DON’T go into an empty bar/club on your
DON’T be too embarrassed to report a sexual
Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website, Fco.gov.uk,
or call 020 7008 1500, for information on what to do if you are sexually
Visit Rcne.com to find a
list of rape crisis centres across Europe.
GEMMA CALVERT. PHOTOGRAPHY: SYRIOL JONES, SWNS.COM, INS, GETTY,
TYNEPHOTOS.COM, MIKE SCHOFIELD, PAUL REID/ANGUS PICTURES. HAIR &
MAKE-UP: CAROLINE PIASECKI. JOANNE HAS NOT BEEN PAID FOR HER STORY