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Experiences Shared

Ariel

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

As a 12-year-old child, Ariel was sexually abused by several older men.

Her local community blamed and shamed her, and she believed she was a willing participant who deserved their contempt.

Ariel says that as a 12-year-old child she ‘had a lot of issues’ and she sought the attention of older men. She was drawn into a group of 17–18-year-old males. ‘I desperately wanted to be part of their gang’ she says.

She was sexually abused and raped by some of them, but says that at the time ‘I saw them as boyfriends, not predators’.

Ariel remembers that one of the young men’s mothers labelled her ‘jailbait’ and told them to keep away from her. ‘I believed this was who I was … I had a warped perception of what relationships should be like’ she says.

Around this time, Ariel met a married man called Waylan, who was in his mid-20s. He gave her a lot of attention and compliments, which she had never had before. 

They began meeting, and he insisted this had to be a secret because he was married. Ariel says ‘I completely believed I was a willing participant’. On one occasion he became violent and threatening. He claimed later that he had been ‘joking’ but Ariel was terrified.

After this incident, he demanded to see her more often, and became increasingly possessive and controlling. Ariel didn’t see how she could get away from him as she didn’t think she had anyone to turn to. 

Waylan regularly sexually abused her, and tried to rape her, but stopped because it hurt her too much.

When Ariel was 15, Waylan’s wife discovered what her husband had been doing and told the police. Social services became involved but decided not to do anything because Ariel was a few months from her 16th birthday.

Waylan said he wanted to leave his wife and children and be with Ariel. She felt trapped by him but went along with it. ‘I believed that his happiness and what he wanted was more important than my happiness and what I wanted’, she says.  

Their ‘relationship’, which became public knowledge in the local community, continued for another two years. Waylan was extremely jealous and Ariel had to see him every night. She became isolated from her friends and says she loved going to school, as it was the only time she had away from him. 

Ariel began to feel she would never get away from Waylan. ‘It was like a pillow had been put over my head and I couldn’t breathe’ she says. She felt very depressed and asked her doctor for medication.

Eventually Ariel had the strength to stop seeing Waylan. However, she was never able to have a positive relationship after that. She says ‘I couldn’t bear the thought of my life being like that again … I feel he took away my chance to have a family and to be a mum’.

She felt suicidal for a long time and continued to suffer with feelings of guilt, shame and low self-worth. She says ‘I blamed myself for years for what happened ... I had corrupted older men and was responsible for a marriage break-up; I deserved the hate from the community’. 

It was not until she was in her 30s that Ariel realised how wrong she was, and that she had been abused.

She now can’t understand how so many adults knew what was going on and did nothing to help her. This includes her parents, social services and the police. She says teachers at school also knew but only one member of the administrative staff tried to talk to her about it.

Ariel would like to see more education for young people about coercive behaviour and emotional abuse, and awareness-raising in communities about child sexual abuse.

She has since had some counselling that she says has been ‘excellent’. She says ‘I am incredibly grateful for my life today and how things worked out’.

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