The daughter’s story
Every fortnight, my brother and I went to our dad’s place (my mum and dad split up several years ago, so it was pretty normal to go to his). It was lovely seeing him and his new wife and her son. We went places and did new and fun things. Then it all changed. He sexually abused me.
I was 12 at the time. I just thought my body was giving off a scent that made people want me and that it was all part of puberty. I was so wrong.
It carried on for two years, and I was silent about it. I felt like I was being used, like some sort of object. I began to become depressed. I started to self-harm and gained weight to make myself look ugly so he wouldn’t carry on. But he did. While he abused me, I would try to remember funny things I had watched or try to watch videos to take my mind off of it.
I felt upset all the time and would spend most of it in my room on my own. I also became really scared to go out of the house by myself and wouldn’t even go to the shop, which is only a few minutes’ walk from our house. I worried that Dad might be outside waiting for me or that something might happen to Mum and my brother if I wasn’t at home. I was anxious about school, my future, my looks. My self-esteem was so low.
At school, I became even quieter and distanced myself from friends because I didn’t want them to know what had happened to me and I didn’t think they would understand even if they did know. Even now, only a couple of my friends know. Because of that I isolated myself – it is only recently that I have started talking to people more and friendships at school have improved.
I talked to ChildLine first, I asked them if what he was doing was wrong and they said yes. It was worrying for me as I didn’t know what was going to happen to my family and me. I then decided to tell one of my closest friends as they had noticed the cuts on my arm. They told a teacher, who spoke to me and called my mum to come to the school. Mum was crying when she had heard what was happening to me; she hugged me and told me I was such a brave girl.
Carrying on with my life with my head held high is like giving the finger to my dad
The police and social services became involved and everyone was so kind and, more importantly, believed me. The specialist police officers were so supportive.
I was allocated a support worker from a local sexual abuse charity. In November, I began to feel really “down” and my support worker got me a counsellor from a charity for children. I felt so low at this point that I didn’t want to live any more because I thought that life would be easier for Mum and that I was worthless. I think the realisation of what had happened to me had started to sink in. My mum went to the GP and I was seen by Camhs [child and adolescent mental health services]. That was when I was prescribed medication and I’ve been gradually getting better.
The last year has been extremely turbulent – an emotional rollercoaster. I am glad I was finally able to tell someone about the abuse, but feel guilty for what I feel I have put my mum through. She changed her job so she no longer worked with families in need as she couldn’t be objective any more. This meant less pay, which, along with no child maintenance, has made things difficult financially for the family.
My relationship with my brother was terrible in those two years. I despised him so much because he didn’t know what I was going through. I wished that it wasn’t me and that my dad had abused him instead, which turns out is a normal feeling to have in that situation. Things with him are slowly improving.
I started to act sexually online. I wanted boys to love my body. I sent pictures and sexted to some boys. I am told by my counsellor that it’s pretty normal to do this after being sexually abused as you are used to someone loving your body.
I feel really shocked that Dad could do what he did. He ruined my childhood and tarnished all the good memories I had with him. All I can think of now are the bad things he did to me. I have changed my surname because I don’t want to have any links with him.
The thought of going to court made me very nervous, but I was pleased the CPS had agreed to prosecute. At the last moment he pleaded guilty and was convicted of several counts of sexual abuse and sentenced to 12 years with a minimum of six to be served in prison. When I heard the news I was over the moon – I could go outside and be free! I never want to see him again. But the atmosphere in the house is strange. While Mum and I are happy that he was convicted, we are mindful that my brother is very upset.
My mum has been very supportive with all this, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. She has put up with my problems well, and I am so proud of her.
I’m now going into year 11, and hoping to go into media studies, as I would like to become a behind-the-scenes person doing things like sound editing, camera works and directing videos. I don’t want my past affecting my future. Carrying on with my life with my head held high is like giving the finger to my dad.
To young people going through what happened to me, please tell someone if you haven’t. It doesn’t matter whether you are a girl or boy, eight or 18, tell someone. It really does help and there are people out there who will listen to you and help you through it. You can get through this! Try to find local services that can help. Talk to friends, teachers, parents, ChildLine – anyone that makes you feel safe and you can trust.
I am not a victim of sexual abuse. I am a survivor. This is my story.
The mother’s story
How did I feel when told my daughter had been abused for more than two years by her dad, my ex? I think I may have laughed as it was so shocking, and momentarily I thought I was being filmed for some kind of reality programme. Then I felt physically sick.
But I was also thinking, what if she’s lying? Why would she lie? What will happen to her?
My son is confused as to how someone whom he loved could have harmed his sister
The guilt I felt at doubting her was awful and could have destroyed the solid relationship we had and which, thankfully, we still have. I took the risk of being thought a bad mum and voiced my disbelief to my Victim Support worker. The relief of not being judged and the realisation that it wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, but that I couldn’t believe it of him was immense. When he finally pleaded guilty, just before we were due to go to trial, it was like being told all over again, but this time there was no doubt and it felt even more devastating.
I felt so alone, unable to be open with friends and family, not because I didn’t want to talk about it, but doing so would have identified my daughter, which I couldn’t do. There was also a part of me that worried that if the local community found out, they might tar me with the same brush and this would impact on my work. I went through a stage when I worried it was my fault – had I been bossy and a ballbreaker when we had been together? Was it his way of getting back at me?
Our sex life had been “normal”, without a hint of role play. Now I can’t imagine ever being physical with someone. Any feelings of desire are quickly extinguished because of the thoughts of him abusing my daughter. Sometimes I have dreams where he is my caring partner and I wake full of shame, and in others he is the man he truly is and I wake full of rage.
Strangely, even now I don’t hate him. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I will never forgive him, I never want to see him and if I was told he was dead it wouldn’t worry me. But I am not wasting any more time on him.
I felt foolish and guilty for not recognising that something was wrong, but to be honest even on reflection only one event sticks out and at the time I put it down to the terrible threats teenagers have to deal with in today’s technological age. What really galls me is that I phoned her dad (it was their weekend to visit) to stop her from exposing herself over Skype to some “boy” she had met online. I still feel anger that I trusted him to protect our daughter from this online predator and yet he was the one abusing her.
The impact of his actions on this family are immense. My daughter has depression and anxiety, is on prescribed medication and receiving counselling. My son is confused as to how someone he loved could have harmed his sister (he is unaware it was sexual but knows his dad hurt her). I’m on medication for depression, receiving counselling and unable to watch programmes or listen to music once shared with their dad. I feel our family past has been tainted and I am finding it difficult to remember experiences in a positive light; I would rather not remember them at all.
I wanted and needed to hold and comfort her, but was scared to touch her – would it bring back bad memories, would she feel threatened? In the end, I explained my worries to her and got a big hug in response. I’m worried her experience will impact on her future relationships. I have become aware of how quickly she develops physical relationships with boyfriends.
It is worrying that, despite knowing the NSPCC’s anti-abuse underwear rule, the “Stay safe on the internet” spiel, the “Don’t post any naked photos of yourself” talk and our strong, close relationship, she was still abused and unable to tell me. And I have child-protection knowledge and run protective behaviour sessions – how did I miss the signs?
My advice to mothers who find themselves in a similar position is to talk to someone. Be honest about your feelings, including the unpleasant “I must be a wicked person” thoughts. Keeping them inside will eat you up. These feelings are OK and normal. Be strong. We may not know each other, but I know you will survive because I did.