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Student reveals she was sexually assaulted by university teacher while walking home

A student has revealed how she was harassed and sexually assaulted by a teacher from her university as she walked home late at night.

Whitney Dowler, 22, was studying at the University of South Wales when Kary Thanapalan, 49, relentlessly pursued her through the streets of Treforest, Pontypridd, before sexually assaulting her.

Thanapalan, associate professor of aviation and mechanical engineering at Whitney’s university, fled after her boyfriend showed up and chased him away.

In May 2021, Thanapalan was jailed for two years for the nauseating attack.

Whitney, an intern librarian, waived her right to anonymity and told Femail, “After following the cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, I feel lucky to be alive.

“What happened to those women could have easily happened to me that night.

“That Wayne Couzens was a cop and Kary college teacher really caught on.

“These rulers are meant to keep us safe. It’s terrifying.’

Whitney Dowler, 22, (pictured), from Bargoed, Wales, was in her senior year at the University of South Wales when senior lecturer Kary Thanapalan, 49, harassed and sexually assaulted her

Whitney Dowler, 22, (pictured), from Bargoed, Wales, was in her senior year at the University of South Wales when senior lecturer Kary Thanapalan, 49, harassed and sexually assaulted her

In September 2020, Whitney, from Bargoed, Wales, returned to university for her final year of IT studies.

Two months later, she met a friend at a local pub.

She says, “My boyfriend and I had a few drinks and caught up on college life.

‘Around ten o’clock in the evening I talked about it overnight and hugged him good-bye.

“It was pitch dark when I went out.

“I only lived two miles away and couldn’t afford a taxi, so I started walking.”

20 minutes later, as Whitney approached a pizza parlor, she saw Thanapalan standing against a wall.

Kary Thanapalan, 49, (pictured) of Egypt Street, Treforest, kissed Whitney on the face and fondled her chest during his drunken assault

Kary Thanapalan, 49, (pictured) of Egypt Street, Treforest, kissed Whitney on the face and fondled her chest during his drunken assault

Kary Thanapalan, 49, (pictured) of Egypt Street, Treforest, kissed Whitney on the face and fondled her chest during his drunken assault

Whitney says: ‘The man was in dark clothes and he muttered ‘Hey babe’.

“I knew he was drunk. “I avoided eye contact and rushed past him.

“But he yelled ‘Baby’ and started following me.

“In a panic, I told myself to just keep ignoring him and he would go away soon.

“But he didn’t. He shouted ‘Come here baby!’ and wouldn’t stop bothering me.

“I started running and the man caught up with me and grabbed my arm.

“He begged for a kiss and I tried to push him away.

“He managed to plant a kiss on my face and felt my chest.

“Terrified, I pushed him off me before running in another direction.”

Whitney (pictured) tells of Thanapalan chasing her through the streets, saying she 'broke his heart' while trying to escape

Whitney (pictured) tells of Thanapalan chasing her through the streets, saying she 'broke his heart' while trying to escape

Whitney (pictured) tells of Thanapalan chasing her through the streets, saying she ‘broke his heart’ while trying to escape

But Thanapalan didn’t give up and chased Whitney through the streets.

Whitney says, “He kept saying I broke his heart and I was going home with him.

“I was sobbing and told him ‘no’ over and over. I begged him to leave me alone.

“At one point we came to a busy street and a car pulled up next to me.

“It was a male driver who asked if I was okay.

Crying, I told him I was being followed.

“The driver offered me a ride home, but I realized he was a stranger too.

‘I didn’t know if he was a threat too, I couldn’t trust anyone. So I said no.’

Whitney (pictured), who thought she would be raped or killed, said Thanapalan didn't run until he saw her boyfriend running towards them

Whitney (pictured), who thought she would be raped or killed, said Thanapalan didn't run until he saw her boyfriend running towards them

Whitney (pictured), who thought she would be raped or killed, said Thanapalan didn’t run until he saw her boyfriend running towards them

Thanapalan continued to stalk Whitney for the next 20 minutes.

As she approached the Treforest train station, she managed to text a friend who lived nearby.

Whitney says, “When I got to the station parking lot, the man grabbed me again and felt my chest.

“Suddenly I saw my friend in the distance and I screamed for help.

“He ran to us and yelled at the man to get rid of me.

Fortunately, he let go of me and fled.

“I thought I was going to be raped or killed.”

That night Whitney reported what had happened to the police.

Three days later, Thanapalan was arrested after police tracked him through CCTV.

They also linked his DNA to saliva on Whitney’s cheek and clothing.

The following week, a representative from Whitney’s university called her.

Whitney (pictured) revealed she has a panic attack when someone walks near her on the street now and said she doesn't know if she will ever feel safe again

Whitney (pictured) revealed she has a panic attack when someone walks near her on the street now and said she doesn't know if she will ever feel safe again

Whitney (pictured) revealed she has a panic attack when someone walks near her on the street now and said she doesn’t know if she will ever feel safe again

She says: ‘The person was from student support.

“They said they were very sorry for what had happened and offered me help.

“I was confused about how they knew what had happened.

“Then they revealed that Kary was an associate professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering at my university for many years.

“I felt sick and couldn’t believe it.”

In May 2021, Kary Thanapalan, 49, of Egypt Street, Treforest, pleaded guilty to assault on Whitney at Cardiff Crown Court.

He was jailed for two years.

Whitney says, “Men like Kary are the reason women are so afraid of walking home alone, especially at night.

“Now if someone walks next to me in the street, I’ll have a panic attack.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe again.

“Kary targeted me that night and I don’t know what would have happened if my friend hadn’t shown up and chased him away.”

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