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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

As a young child, Almudena had to care for her mother who had physical and mental health problems.

She was sexually abused by two men. Social workers were involved with the family, but she never saw them on her own and did not feel able to tell them what was happening to her.

Almudena and her mother are of East African heritage. Her mother is a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) and is often in pain. She also suffers from depression and Almudena acted as her carer from a young age. 

When Almudena was seven years old, a neighbour and family friend, Akram, began sexually abusing her. This went on every week for about two years, until she and her mother moved home. 

When Almudena was about 10, she was taken to her family’s home country. She was introduced to a cousin, Kashif, and told that her family wanted her to marry him. 

One day she was in bed feeling very unwell. Kashif got in with her and began rubbing himself against her, then attempted to rape her. Almudena thinks a relative saw what happened but did nothing to stop it.    

Back home in the UK, Almudena was unhappy and unable to concentrate at school. When she was in her early teens, she attempted to take her own life. 

Almudena says that she saw a lot of different social workers, but she never felt she could disclose the sexual abuse to them because her mum was always in the room when they were talking to her.

Her experiences as a child and teenager have left Almudena feeling desperately sad and vulnerable. She has little sense of self-worth and feels that men use her and lie to get what they want. She finds it impossible to trust anyone. She has two close friends but she is unable to tell them what happened to her.

She occasionally sees her father and brothers but would never tell anyone in her family about the abuse – partly because she thinks they would blame her, but also because her brother ‘might do something’ to the perpetrators.

But still, Almudena feels guilty she did not tell anyone about the abuse and she worries that Akram and Kashif might have abused other children. She also worries about her mother, although her mental health has improved. 

She would like all children to have someone available at school for them to talk to, and she says that social workers should have the time and space to build relationships with children.

Almudena has begun counselling and has told her counsellor about the abuse.

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