Detectives have praised the courage of a sex abuse survivor after she bravely spoke out about her ordeal more than two decades after she fell prey to a predatory rapist.

The woman spent more than 20 years living with the impact of Michael Woods’ abuse before she was able to speak to police about her torment.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the victim’s abuse started when she was a teenager and fell into the perverted hands of the-then 18-year-old when she was living in the Darlington area.

Woods was convicted of three counts of rape against the woman following a trial when she had to give evidence about the sexual abuse she suffered.

Read next: 'Naive' drug dealer was caught red-handed surrounded by customers

“He will no longer define me, and I will find peace and solace in being able to move on” – those are the courageous words from the woman as her rapist was jailed for 26 years.

The Northern Echo: Michael WoodsMichael Woods (Image: Durham Constabulary)

The 41-year-old will serve at least 21 years in prison and was also handed an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order and put on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely due to his dangerousness.

Devastating impact

Judge Jonathan Carroll slammed Woods for the contempt he showed to his victim during the hearing when he placed his feet on the table and smirked while his offending was outlined to him.

Addressing the contents of the victim’s impact statement, he added: “It is a profound explanation of the long-term harm of controlling abusive relationships where sex is used as another weapon of control and humiliation.”

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Sergeant Richard Blamires, of Durham Constabulary, said: “This has been an incredibly long and complex investigation which has shown the devastating effects suffered by survivors of abuse.

Read more:

​Get all the latest crime and court updates, for less than the price of a coffee, with a Premium Plus digital subscription to The Northern Echo. Click here

“I’d like to thank the woman in this case for not only having the bravery to come forward and tell us what she had experienced at the hands of Woods, but also for having the resilience to continue to work with us throughout the court process, which I know can be very difficult and distressing in itself.

“By speaking out, she has shown immense courage and mental fortitude. I hope this conviction and sentence will not only give her a degree of closure, but also send a strong message to anyone else suffering abuse that you will be heard, and we will work hard to get you the justice you deserve.

“If you or someone you know is suffering at the hands of an abuser, then please speak to us – call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

“You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.”