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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Andrea was born overseas and brought up in a large family. She says she was spoiled with presents and wanted for nothing.

When she was five years old, her parents moved to the UK, leaving her and her siblings in the care of a grandparent. She was so upset at being separated from her parents that after a time she was sent to join them in the UK.

At first, she did not recognise her father and her mother encouraged him to buy his daughter lots of presents to regain her affection.

By the time she was about six or seven, Andrea’s father's attention turned into ‘more than just doing things like going to the cinema’, and he began touching her inappropriately and then abusing her. When Andrea told her mother about the abuse, her mother confronted her father, but he claimed that Andrea was ‘spoilt and being dramatic’.

Andrea describes how her father continued to buy her things and to ‘mould her’. He arranged for her to have music lessons but took over the teaching himself.

He trained her to ‘look after him and to do everything the way he liked it’. He said she was the only one who knew how to look after him, and she hated this.

Some years after she had arrived in the UK, Andrea's siblings came from abroad to live with the family. She had been hoping for them to come as she felt this might protect her from her father’s abuse. However, they were jealous of her receiving so much attention from their father.

The rift was compounded by Andrea not being able to communicate with them, as her father had not let her maintain her mother tongue, insisting she speak only English.

Her father began house-hunting for a larger home and he would take Andrea on these visits and sexually abuse her. If she tried to resist her father would make the whole family miserable and tell her that she was to blame. He also threatened to abuse her friends and her siblings. She felt that she had no choice but to suffer the abuse to protect them.

Andrea became pregnant by her father and he took her to the local hospital for an abortion, without her mother’s knowledge. A medical practitioner commented that it was strange seeing a father as it was normally mothers who accompanied their daughters.

Andrea’s father claimed that she was promiscuous, and the medical team seemed to accept this. She feels that they should have understood that culturally it would have been highly unusual for a father to be present for such a procedure, and that this should have raised alarm bells.

After the abortion, Andrea’s father’s obsession with her continued. He would sometimes keep her off school to take her for lunch and buy her presents. He sent her frequently to the GP for the morning after pill.

Andrea is sure that the GP knew that her father was abusing her, but he never said anything, and he too sexually abused her. She read later that this doctor was struck off for abusing another child.

On one occasion, Andrea went to a party and when she got home late her father yelled at her and she retaliated by hitting him. Her mother interjected, saying ‘Remember she is your daughter, not your wife’. Andrea says the next day he was extra nice to her, but she describes how he continued to try and control her, tutoring her, making her memorise large quantities of information.

She says that he moulded and trained her like ‘Frankenstein’s little monster’. At school she was beaten up for being a model student. When she tried to fit in with her peers, her teacher wrote a report saying she was not trying hard enough. She says ‘I got it on all fronts’.

When she was a teenager, Andrea’s father decided to take one of her siblings and move back to their home country. Andrea fought very hard to stop this, but he sold their house and all their possessions and left.

Before leaving he gave Andrea a leaflet on an intrauterine device (IUD, or coil) and told her that after the abortion he had arranged for this to be fitted without her knowledge.

Andrea went to college and, despite everything, did well. She was having terrible period pains and saw a different GP who told her the IUD was embedded in her womb and that she needed an operation. She could not face this.

At this point she moved back to her home country. The terrible period pains continued until she was 22 or 23 years old, when she had the operation to remove the IUD.

While she was at university, her father sent her a card inscribed ‘To the apple of my eye’.

Once she went to visit him and he expected her to let him abuse her, but by then she says ‘I was stronger than that and he couldn’t blackmail me’.

Andrea says she only managed to form a relationship with her siblings when she was in her 40s. She has never told them about her father’s abuse.

She was angry for a long time about the sexual abuse and feels she was used as ‘a sacrificial lamb’ to protect her family. She says there was no way her mother did not know about the abuse but culturally it would have been very difficult for her to do anything about it.

Andrea now works with and supports victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in her home country and in the UK. She says she has come to forgive her father and when he died felt able to organise and participate in his funeral.

She says there should be more training for professionals to increase their awareness and understanding of cultural differences and norms. She also would like to see the use of cultural mediators to liaise with members of ethnic minority cultures within institutions.

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