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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, Anita was regularly taken to visit her grandparents. On these visits, a family member would take her off to a different room and sexually abuse her. 

She had a medical condition which meant that she was frequently in hospital. During one consultation she told the doctor that she ‘hurting down below’. Instead of reporting this, the doctor advised Anita’s mother to ‘blow on’ the parts that were sore. Anita’s mother thought that Anita was being ‘all dramatic’ and she continued to be taken to her grandparents’ home, where her family member would be.

Anita was so distressed by the abuse that she attempted suicide by taking an overdose. She was taken to the local hospital again but was never asked why she had taken the overdose. She was referred to a child psychologist and remembers very explicitly telling the child psychologist about the abuse and being very angry that the child psychologist blamed her grandparents for this happening at their home.

The abuse continued until Anita was a young teenager. At this point she learned that her mother planned to leave her with her grandparents, and the family member, for the weekend. Anita knew that she could not bear for that to happen, so she told her sibling about the abuse. Her sibling told her mother and it was agreed that the family member would not be at her grandparents’ home that weekend. 

Anita’s mother sought advice regarding the abuse and was told how difficult it was to secure a prosecution for child sexual abuse, so not to contact the police, but to keep Anita away from that particular family member.  

Although the abuse had stopped, it had caused severe difficulties for Anita within the family, and she was placed in foster care for a short period.

Anita remains angry that a child could take an overdose and be admitted to hospital yet not be asked why they had taken an overdose – she feels the failure to take action meant that the abuse continued for another five years.

As a young adult, she began to experience flashbacks of being raped when she was younger. She had been offered counselling but did not find it helped and turned to illegal drugs to block out the horrific memories of the abuse.

A few years ago, Anita attended a family event where she saw her abuser. Seeing him and the way he was acting angered her. She challenged her mother about why her abuse as a child had never been reported to the police. Her mother replied there was nothing to stop her reporting it herself.

Anita saw her GP the following day and told him about the abuse. He reported it to the police. Anita says the police were ‘absolutely fantastic’ and really supported her.

During the following investigation, Anita learned that her family member had abused other family members and that her medical records were ‘littered’ with evidence of her being sexually abused. The earliest record dated back to when she was very young.

Anita’s family member was charged with several offences. He pleaded not guilty and Anita and other family members had to give evidence. The court process was traumatic, but she found the courage to testify about what her family member had done to her. Her family member was convicted and received a custodial sentence.

Following the court case, Anita no longer has contact with part of her family. However, she feels that the outcome has helped her emotionally. Since her family member has been in prison, she has felt some sense of closure, but she still struggles with how much her family covered up the abuse and how badly she was let down by professionals. 

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