Sexual abuse victim Antoinette Fox waived her anonymity to speak out about the crimes committed against her by her stepfather, 20 years after she was abused. Her bravery in coming forward led to the abuser being sentenced to 13 years for various sex crimes.
At the age of six I began playing the recorder, joining a music group run by a man called Brian Davey.
Brian quickly became a big part of my life showing me attention and making me feel special. He also turned his charms onto my mother and they became involved in a relationship. By now he wasn’t just my music teacher but was also part of my private life. This is where my nightmare began six months after meeting Brian, and with him now taking on the role of a stepfather figure, he began sexually abusing me.
At the time I reached out to my biological father for help but nothing happened and the abuse continued. I now know that my father did tell people about the abuse and tried to get help but it was the 1980s and nobody believed that an honourable member of the community would do such horrendous things to a little girl. My abuse was swept under the carpet and allowed to continue, I was helpless.
As Brian’s relationship with my mother became more serious he spent more time with me which meant the opportunities to abuse me increased, whether that was in my home or during private music lessons. By the time I was 11 he moved in with us and the abuse was usually daily.
In 1987, at the age of 14, I began to hear local girls talking about Brian and it was obvious there were other young girls being abused. Attention quickly turned to me and people rightly made the assumption that as his stepdaughter I was also being abused. At this point someone was clearly listening and reported their concerns to the police and social services.
I was sat in a Physics lesson at school when someone came for me and took me to the Matron’s office where a police officer and social worker were waiting. They asked me about the abuse and my first reaction was to deny everything. Thankfully they didn’t believe me but what happened next would put my family through utter turmoil.
Brian was removed from our home and started living in a caravan in the next village. My family were supported by social services and we received family therapy. But no criminal convictions were brought against my stepfather, despite other girls reporting abuse, and he was instead given treatment at the Portman Sex Offenders Clinic.
For me the therapy just made me more anxious I was physically incapable of finding the words to describe what had happened to me. Where would I begin – the mess, the touching, how I felt after, the places it had happened – I could never imagine having to say those things out loud.
Once Brian’s treatment was over, he moved back into the family home and we lived as a supposedly normal family. By now I had reached puberty and the abuse stopped but the emotional scars and confusion remained with me and life became very difficult.
Sharing a home with the man who had sexually abused me for years left me feeling desperately confused. It completely distorted our family dynamic and I was desperate to keep us all together, even my stepfather who despite everything he had done to me I still loved. I remember seeing tabloid headlines calling paedophiles ‘evil’. My experiences were far more confused than this. Yes, what he did to me was evil, but he was also strangely a father figure and the father of my two younger siblings.
So my life carried on, I supressed all of the pain and concentrated on my studies.
At 18 I finally snapped and after years of confusion I attempted to kill myself. But even after this desperate cry for help I just picked myself up, ignored the hurt inside and carried on with life, heading on a gap year to travel the Middle East and never returning to live at the family home.
It wasn’t until university that I realised my experiences were impacting on my life and ability to form friendships and relationships and I sought help from my GP. I was given a series of six counselling sessions, followed by the last place for NHS psychotherapy. This meant I was finally on a journey to get help and support. And although I still wasn’t able to talk about what had physically happened to me, except once on my very last session, I came away from the sessions with important life skills which meant I finally felt like a young woman.
Life was good I graduated, started a family, and had a job I loved in a school. Things were going great until 2001 when my mother, siblings and stepfather decided to relocate to Cambridge where I had moved to start my new life. Brian even began working in several of the local schools.
I sat at school one day and thought ‘enough is enough’, so I picked up the phone and anonymously reported him to social services. They later contacted me as his stepdaughter and I confirmed he had abused me. However despite this no criminal action was taken and he continued to teach in schools. By this point I was defeated and felt there really was nothing more I could do.
That was until 2004 when a number of women who had been pupils and victims of Brian’s began talking on Friends Reunited, concerned by the fact he was still teaching. A short time later I received a call from my mother to tell me some women had come forward and Brian was being investigated.
Despite the many knockbacks over the years I was still keen to see justice and the next day called police and this was when I met DC Shane Fasey from Cambridgeshire police’s Child Protection Department. For the first time I felt comfortable to share my experiences and told him everything that had happened to me. He had a job to do and I trusted him. He didn’t give me his sympathy, instead methodically took down every detail of what I was telling him.
But after this process it wasn’t relief that consumed me. I was left feeling anxious and guilty. Those secrets I had kept for 20 years to protect my family were now out, I was going to pull my family apart and it was highly likely that Brian would be going to prison.
Eight months later Brian appeared in court and pleaded guilty to nine counts of gross indecency with a child, 15 counts of indecent assault on a female under 16, two counts of inciting a child to commit acts of gross indecency and one count of attempted rape of a female under 16. He was sentenced to 13 years.
Six of his victims went to court to see him sentenced, a number of them cheering as the sentence was handed out. I remained silent; although I felt relieved, it was tinged with sadness. He was my stepfather and this had destroyed my family dynamics.
However for me it is still a happy ending. Life is good, I have my own family, a successful career and have trained as a psychotherapist. If I had stayed quiet it would be a different story and I really don’t think I would still be here.
Paedophilia is often presented in a very damaging way by the tabloids as if it is all very black and white. People in my situation realise that the world is grey, it’s complicated and confusing which I suspect is why so many people take the option of silence. If your father, a man you love and trust, is sexually abusing you why would you report it and risk having him taken away and your family destroyed?
To have love for someone who abuses you, who should protect you from such pain, is so complicated to live with. Nobody will judge you for feeling ambivalent and grey about things.
Please just talk. There are people out there who will listen and help, but you have to take that first step to talk to someone, anyone.
Life isn’t black and white, it’s grey, complicated, confusing and messy. But to untangle mess takes time, courage and a few words to start with.