Category Archives: Sexual assault

I was so frightened he would hurt my family or worse still my sister that I let the abuse carry on for four years.

I was the envy of all the girls at school. I had a boyfriend who met me at the school gates in a flash car. I got presents of perfume and clothes. I was also the first to go ‘all the way’.

I was 14 and Chris was 30. He told me I drove him crazy and he loved me. He said if I loved him too then I would sleep with him. It wasn’t long before he was picking me up from my house and taking me back to his flat. We’d just hang out, listen to music, smoke and have sex.

I was happy, or at least I thought I was, until he started inviting his friends over too and letting them touch me and have sex with me. I didn’t know what to do.

Before long Chris was picking me up in the morning and driving me to flats all over the place, introducing me to men as old as 65. Some of them were on drugs and they hurt me. I tried not to struggle or cry as that only seemed to excite them more.

I knew it was wrong. I did try to make it stop. When I told Chris I didn’t want to he hit me. I even ended up in A&E once. He was clever, he never left my side and I didn’t get chance to tell the hospital staff. He didn’t always use his fists to hurt me. He threatened to send my parents the videos he’d recorded of me in action and said he’d introduce his friends to my little sister too.

I was trapped but I couldn’t let him hurt my parents or worse still my sister, so I let the abuse carry on for four years.

It was on my 18th birthday that something inside me broke and I packed a bag with some clothes, make-up and the stuffed rabbit my dad gave me when I was a baby and made my way to London. I didn’t tell Chris or my parents.

I slept rough for three nights before being picked up by a homeless charity and taken into a shelter where I opened up and told my story.

I’m still scared of what Chris could do to me and my family to the point that I haven’t been able to return home. I keep in touch by telephone when I can.

Chris didn’t just destroy my life. My parents are devastated. They had no idea that this kind of thing went on in the UK, let alone under their noses.

Jess

#stopmakingexcuses #youdeservebetter

For help and support click here.
Real life story from NWG Network.

 

Rape victim Honey-Mae Lyons shares her inner thoughts to encourage others to come forward

I initially underestimated how much this experience has traumatised me. For a long time I was in denial about the seriousness of what these men did to me and I especially hated being labelled a victim. It was only when the trial was over that I was able to accept that none of this had been my fault and that I had been taken advantage of, and no matter how weak and powerless I may feel – I am a victim of sexual assault and rape.

In terms of my personal life, what these men did to me has had such an impact that I cannot find any words to justify how horrific the last eight months have been. I, essentially, self-destructed myself and totally destroyed personal relationships with friends and my boyfriend and other men I tried to learn to trust and be with. To say I now have trust issues would not even begin to describe how hesitant I now am to open up and trust anyone.

Since the first day that I realised I had been sexually assaulted I have been convinced it was my fault and I feel embarrassed when telling people the full story. I expect them to wave a disapproving finger at me and assume that it was my fault because I had been drunk. But now I know that no matter how drunk someone is, no matter what state they are in, you and your friend do not take them home and take advantage of them.

The most heart-breaking moment of the last eight months was when I told my nine year old sister what had happened to me, because she is now convinced that something similar will happen to her and no woman, no girl, no matter how old they are, deserves to have that fear. This breaks my heart because I never had any fears of this kind that not one, but two men would do something like this, yet my sister will carry those fears for the rest of her life.

Although knowing that this is a fear shared among many women, and now myself, I know that I did the right thing by reporting what happened to me as soon as possible and ensuring that these men will (I pray) not do anything like this to anyone else.

People often say that reporting sexual assault is the ‘right thing’ to do, however there is no right or wrong in these situations and we cannot force victims of something like this to do anything. But I want anyone who is a victim of sexual assault or rape, or anyone who may unfortunately become one, to know, that whilst it may feel like you have to relive it and the odds are stacked against you, reporting it and receiving any form of closure or justice does help an unimaginable amount. Knowing that these men are receiving justice has helped me slowly start to let go of the past and begin to move on with my life. I do not wish anything like this on anyone, but I want everyone to know that the support I received from the police and the closure that I now have has been so important in helping me let go and I urge anyone else to do the same.

I hate these men, and I still hate myself for what happened, but from this closure I can now say I can find it somewhere at the bottom of my heart, to forgive them, and more importantly, can forgive myself.

Honey-Mae Lyons

It’s not uncommon for young people to feel guilty, blame themselves or think they’ll get in to trouble. We can all do our bit to help them by knowing what signs to look out for.

I’m a detective in the child sexual exploitation team (CSE) for Cambridgeshire Constabulary and I know from experience that children and young people find it very difficult to ask for help.

It is not easy for parents, carers, friends or professionals to have these personal conversations with children and so I have highlighted some of the signs which may identify when a child is being exploited.

Many victims of CSE don’t realise that they are victims. They need time to come to terms with what has happened to them and to realise that what they were made to do was wrong. It can be so easy for young people to get themselves into situations which put them at risk of being sexually exploited, and it can take years to escape.

Young people can feel guilty, blame themselves or think they will get in trouble if they speak up and talk to someone. They also fear being hurt by their abusers at the same time as still having a strong tie and commitment to them.

When a young person tells someone what has happened to them, they become very emotional. I have witnessed a young girl self-harm while telling me about her abuse. It can take many visits over days, weeks and sometimes months for the young person to talk about their ordeals.

All our young people are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, it is not just the homeless or the neglected children, although children do make easier targets. There are many reasons that can make our children vulnerable to being exploited such as peer pressure, bereavement, being a young carer, using alcohol or other substances, lack of structure to their lives, low self-esteem or unsupervised use of the internet.

Sharing images over the internet is a form of exploitation and one that many will not recognise as being exploitative. Once an image has been sent the owner has lost control of it and it can be sent anywhere in the world.

There are many indicators that someone is being exploited such as having lots of new items which are beyond their financial means, being secretive with their phone and computer, coming home and going out late at night, staying out overnight without permission, using alcohol or other substances and changes in appearance. This can also just be the normal behaviour of a teenager and our challenge is to work out which it is.

CSE is about a young person being given something, anything from affection to money, clothes, food, phones, alcohol and drugs. Initially these gifts are ‘free’. This makes the young person who receives them valued, this opens them up to becoming sexually active with the person who gave the gifts.

Exploitation is generally broken down into three categories:

Inappropriate relationship – one perpetrator who has inappropriate power of control over a young person. Boyfriend model and peer exploitation – perpetrator befriends/grooms child into a relationship then forces/coercers them to have sex with friends/associates.

Organised/networked sexual exploitation or trafficking – child passed through networks where they are forced or coerced into sexual activity with multiple men.

If you have young children or work with them then take an interest in what they are doing. Young people who are being exploited will need support and help.

They won’t necessarily say what is happening but they will say or do things that will give cause for concern. Their behavior may change, they may also shoplift or commit some other crime, become subdued or start to use alcohol or other substances. This could be their way of getting some attention so they can be given the opportunity to talk to someone.

If you are concerned talk to the police, social care, your GP or school.

#stopmakingexcuses #youdeservebetter

For help and support click here.

John was a clever, devious man. I was mistaken for a troublemaker.

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.

James

#stopmakingexcuses #youdeservebetter

For help and support click here.
Real life story from NWG Network.

 

Drawn into a web of sexual exploitation filled with gifts, blackmail and promises of love.

I was just 13. I was a teenage girl. You know what girls can be like at that age, all hormonal and bitchy. It wasn’t long before I started feeling ostracised by my so called friends.

Although they never physically bullied or harmed me, they were forever subjecting me to nasty catcalls and personal remarks.

My parents just put it down to ‘kids being kids’. I felt left out and sad so I turned to online chat rooms.

Chatting online was fun, I met lots of people, all of them accepting me for me.

I met this one girl, Sian. She was in her twenties. She was cool and understanding, not like the other girls at school.

I could talk to her about how I was feeling and she understood, apparently it had happened to her too.

Sian told me not to worry about those jealous girls because there were plenty of people who would think I was beautiful. I was craving acceptance and her words made me feel truly special. Little did I know that to Sian, I was just a business acquisition.

After a few weeks of chatting, Sian asked if I’d like to go to a party and meet her friends. She even treated me to a new dress.

I met lots of people at the party, well lots of men. They were all smiling at me and giving me compliments.

Sian encouraged me to drink and it wasn’t long before I was totally out of it. The men started performing sexual acts on me. I wasn’t able to stop them so I had no choice but to wait until it was over.

Sian reassured me they were only doing it because I was beautiful and if I continued I would receive more dresses and other nice things.

I spent more time with Sian and less time at home and school. I knew deep down that what was happening was wrong, but I didn’t want Sian to think I was ungrateful or a bad friend so I continued to meet the men and be sexually abused.

My parents had noticed a change in me. Said I’d become distant and withdrawn. They were right to think that. I’d been drawn deeper and deeper into a web of sexual exploitation by promises of love, friendship, gifts and blackmail.

When mum noticed a bruise on my arm she assumed it was down to the bullies at school but I lied and told her it happened in hockey practice.

It wasn’t until the school called home to ask why I hadn’t been attending that they really started to question what was happening to me. Finding contraceptive pills in my PE bag when they knew I didn’t have a boyfriend was the last straw and I was taken into school to discuss my absence.

I broke down in front of the school counsellor and relived the harrowing experiences I’d encountered.

Police were informed immediately, but Sian was never caught. It turned out her identity was fraudulent and she’d used an internet café with no CCTV so she couldn’t be traced.

Looking back I can see that things weren’t normal. I should’ve stopped making excuses for them. I deserved better. I know that now.

Megan

#stopmakingexcuses #youdeservebetter

For help and support click here.
Real life story from NWG Network.

 

A victim’s story – historical abuse

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.

Antoinette’s story

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.

Sexual abuse victim  Antoinette Fox

Sexual abuse victim Antoinette Fox

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.

 

Blog post – A victim’s story

Some victims worry they won’t be believed because they were drinking or taking drugs, or don’t remember what happened.

It is important that victims understand that the police will want to focus on the sexual offence that has been committed against them and bring the perpetrators to justice so they can’t commit this crime again.

Here a rape victim who recently had her perpetrator found guilty, and awaiting sentencing, couldn’t remember what happened to her. However thanks to her reporting the incident to the police, and forensic evidence being found, the force were able to charge the man with rape.

Here she tells us what happened:

I was in Cambridge, living with a host family and taking English classes at school, in order to improve my English.

One night I went out with some friends from my course, one of them was having his birthday and to celebrate he wanted us to rent a limousine to go to London and go to a club there.

On the way I drank too much alcohol. When we arrived in London I was so drunk I didn’t realise we were in London. This is when my memory starts to get blurry.

I know someone put me in a cab but I don’t remember who. I don’t even remember saying to the taxi driver where I was going. I remember I changed seats and was sat next to the driver at some point, yet I don’t know how I got there. I remember discussing with the driver about how I was going to pay him.

In my bag, some money I had in an envelope had disappeared, my phone was not there either. I was very stressed and kept saying to the driver that I did not know how I was going to pay him. On the way home we stopped at a cash machine but my card did not work. I think I forgot the PIN.

At one point we stopped somewhere I did not know where. I was stressed. He said to not stress, and he gave me a cigarette, even though I told him that I had never smoked. Then it gets blurry again.

Then I remember he was above me somehow, touching my breast. I just remember him being on top of me. I remember noticing when I put my shorts back on that my tights were broken. After that he kept apologising and drove me back home saying I did not owe him anything.

In the morning I wanted it to have been a bad dream and checked my bag. This is when I discovered that the money, my phone and my passport were strangely not there. Everything then felt real.

Because I had lost my passport I told my host family about the fact that I had lost everything. I then called one of my best friends and told her in French that I thought I had been raped. The mother in my host family speaks French and over heard me. She came into my room and asked me what happened. I cried and told her. She then called the police.

The whole investigation and trial process was a reminder every day that this happened to me. It was hard sometimes. I tried to forget. The hardest part was that I did not want to tell my parents. They would have been so sad and I didn’t want to make them feel that way. Towards the end I could not keep it a secret from my mum. One month before the trial I told her what happened. She cried and it was so hard to see her suffer.

The incident has affected my relationship with men, in trusting them. However I have met a lovely guy, he came to the trial with me and was the best support. I needed him to understand what I had been through for our relationship to work.

The trial has affected my work and my social life. I have been down all the time. I could not concentrate and I was constantly thinking about the outcome of the trial.

The police have been amazing. The two policewomen that were with me have provided me with the best support. The forensic examination was uncomfortable but it is a very useful process as this is how they found the evidence to prove what happened.

The forensic results showed that the taxi driver had penetrated me and his DNA was found.

While this has affected me I do have the support from my family, my boyfriend, my friends and the university. Without them it would have been much worse. The outcome of the trial has given me more faith for people in my situation to get positive results from these types of cases.

I want to tell victims of rape and sexual assault to report it, do not give up, go to trial, even though it is unpleasant, because if you don’t, you say to society that what happened is ok, and it isn’t.

In other incidents of crime, like stealing or beating someone up, the defence would never assume the victim wanted it. In a rape case because everything is about consent, the victim is accused of wanting it to happen in the trial. It seems to be the only defence possible. However the evidence the police collected proved what happened to me and now my rapist will be punished.