Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Agatha

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Agatha’s mother had mental health difficulties and found it difficult to care for her children. Because of this, Agatha and her siblings were placed in care.

She was sexually abused by the sons and father in her foster family, and physically and emotionally abused by the mother. She finds it hard to believe the family was paid to care for her and her sister: ‘They totally abused their position of trust.’

Agatha had lived with her mother and siblings in an old house with no carpets or curtains and an outside toilet. There was no electricity, the house was lit by candles and all their food was eaten cold and sometimes raw. Agatha remembers being taken shoplifting by her mother, to steal food. 

When she was six years old, Agatha and her sibling were taken to social services by their mother as she felt unable to cope. Agatha’s other siblings had already been placed in care. 

Agatha was sent, with her sister, to foster carers Doreen and Burt who had three sons of their own.

Agatha remembers feeling ‘really scared’ when they first arrived in their foster home. It was totally different to the home they were used to, and she didn’t know how long they would be there. 

From their arrival with the foster family, two of the sons, who were both older than Agatha, began lifting her skirt up and throwing her onto the sofa.

Agatha says she was very frightened of Burt as she had never had an adult male figure in her life, but she eventually plucked up courage to tell him what the boys were doing. Burt’s response was to tell his sons: ’Keep your hands off her, you don’t know what you might catch.’ 

One evening, when Agatha was eight years old, Doreen and Burt went out, leaving the sisters in the care of the two sons. The boys came into Agatha’s bedroom, and after taking turns to lie on top of her, one of them raped her. 

When Doreen and Burt came home, one of the sons told them what the other had done. Agatha remembers hearing the conversation from her bedroom. She heard Doreen question if her son had ‘actually managed’ to rape Agatha and his response was ‘prancing around in white socks, she was asking for it.’

Afterwards Burt came to check on her in bed, but she pretended to be asleep. Nothing was mentioned the following day, but her abuser told all the children at school what he had done, and Agatha was repeatedly asked if she had had sex.

As an adult, Agatha has learned that the head of her primary school was concerned by this and referred the matter to social services, but no one in authority questioned her.

Shortly after the rape, Doreen took Agatha to the hairdresser’s and had all her hair cut off. Agatha remembers crying as this was done and thinking that Doreen was making her look like a boy. She associates this drastic haircut with the sexual abuse and she still finds going the hairdresser’s distressing to this day.

The foster carer’s son continued to abuse her, both grooming and bullying Agatha into sexual activity with him. She remembers being forced to perform oral sex on him when she was 11 and stopping to ask him if he liked her.

Around the same time, she recalls being made to lie face down on tea towel while both of the sons attempted to have anal sex with her. After her the son that raped her passed his driving test, he would have sex with her in his car. The sexual abuse stopped just before Agatha was 14. She thought she might be pregnant and says she had decided if she was, she would have to kill herself. When she realised she wasn’t pregnant, she says she ‘refused to be put in that position again’.

Agatha was also sexually abused by Burt. He would come in the bathroom while she was in the bath, insisting she turned towards him as he wanted to talk to her. He would then run his hands over her body on the pretext of drying her. He also touched her under the bed covers and her night clothes. She says: ‘I thought I would be in trouble with [Doreen] so I pretended to be asleep.’

As well as sexual abuse, she was subject to humiliation and harsh physical punishments. She says she was constantly blamed for the sexual abuse, being told that ‘she was just like her mother’, who Doreen and Burt said was a prostitute.

She received no care or affection and had no opportunity to tell anyone about the abuses she and her sister were suffering. She describes how when the social worker visited, Doreen acted like ‘Mary Poppins’. The social worker took Agatha out on two occasions, but she was too scared to talk about what was happening to her.   

When she left the foster home at the age of 16, Doreen’s parting comment was ‘Get back to the gutter where you came from.’

Her experiences of being fostered have had a lasting impact on Agatha’s life. She reported the sexual abuse to the police, and afterwards she confined herself to her house and began to drink. 

Once, while under the influence of alcohol, Agatha telephoned Doreen and Burt and asked them if they remembered what their sons had done to her. This resulted in Agatha being given a police caution.

She says she cannot believe that she has a police caution, but no one has been charged with abusing her.

Agatha says that for children in care, the starting point should be to assume that there may be issues in placements rather than assume all is okay. She thinks that social workers and others should be open to the fact that things may not be as they appear.

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