We were just a normal family, me, my two sisters and our parents. Our childhood had always been relaxed and happy. That was until the summer of 2010.
I was 10-years-old when my parents signed me up to a sports play scheme for the six week summer break. Like most working parents, mine struggled with summer childcare, so the scheme was a godsend. It was popular and well-established. John, the man who ran it, was experienced and liked working with children.
John was a clever, devious man. He waited, and bided his time. Earned his place in my affections, and my trust, until I felt comfortable telling him anything. John understood me, gave me special one-to-one coaching away from the rest of the group. He was ‘cool’ and different, not like all the other grown-ups.
I was right. John was different. He was a predatory paedophile, and the individual coaching sessions soon became an opportunity for him to abuse me in the worst imaginable ways. Every week day for the next four weeks, I was repeatedly raped, and forced to perform vile sex acts on John.
John took photographs of the abuse and threatened to send the images to my friends if I ever told them what was happening. He told me that there was no point in telling a grown-up because they wouldn’t believe me – and anyway, this is what big men do to show they love each other.
I didn’t want to make John angry. So I didn’t tell anyone.
My parents tried to get to the bottom of my unhappiness but I insisted noting was wrong. I had tried to tell another play scheme leader but was dismissed as a troublemaker.
John had been right all along – grown-ups wouldn’t believe me, they just didn’t listen.
So I kept it all in, and my parents assumed it was the start of the tricky teenage years.
Summer ended. The new school year started. My abuse was over.
But the nightmare was only just beginning. As the years passed, my behavior continued to spiral out of control. I was nicknamed psycho. I was hell-bent on destroying myself and everything around me. I drank and took drugs and took no care of my personal hygiene.
Our once happy family was no more.
It was my new maths teacher that I finally confided in. She recognised the signs – self-inflicted social isolation, self-harming behaviour, low self-esteem, aggression.
After years of holding this dirty, shameful secret in, years of hating myself, it was a relief to blurt it all out.
I told her about John. The depraved things I was forced to do, things that made me feel so dirty, and worthless.
Other victims came forward after I gave evidence and John was arrested and locked away for a long, long time.