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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Beverley was born into a large religious family. She went to church every week and she attended the church school.

One day a new priest arrived, and Beverley says her mother ‘took him under her wing’. Edwin would visit their home frequently and have dinner with the family.

But when Beverley was in early adolescence, Edwin started getting ‘very familiar’ with her.

His behaviour began with playing and tickling to more inappropriate touching but at that stage, Beverley says she didn’t realise what was happening.

She also attended a church youth group and Edwin would drive her home afterwards. He began to stop on the way in quiet spots, saying that the car needed ‘cooling down’, and would start touching Beverley in a sexual way.

She kept telling him to stop but he persisted, saying ‘This is what I have to do’. She says Edwin never actually raped her, but he did physically hurt her, and she would feel suffocated.

After these incidents, he would drive Beverley back home and take her indoors to her parents as if nothing had happened.

Beverley adds that there were also occasions when he touched her while visiting the family, and sometimes he would masturbate where she could see him.

Beverley says she knew it was not right, but she had no one to confide in. She felt her mother would not believe her and that somehow the abuse was her own fault.

The abuse continued until she was in her early teens, when Edwin was transferred to another region.

Beverley says that she ‘got on with’ her life. She trained for a job, met her husband, set up a successful business and had children.

But after the birth of one of her children, she experienced postnatal depression. She became very ill and stopped eating and was in and out of hospital for a long time.

At this stage Beverley had still not told anyone about the abuse she suffered as a child.

She describes how she felt so ashamed, and worried for other girls could not cope with her feelings. Eventually, she says, she realised that if she wanted to get better, she needed to tell someone about her experience. 

Unfortunately, she did not have a positive experience when she spoke to several professionals. She found that they did not take her seriously or respect her privacy – they mentioned the abuse in front of her family. 

Beverley decided to make a complaint to the police about Edwin. She says the police seemed very helpful and said that they would ‘have him behind bars before long’. 

The investigation lasted some time until she was told the police were not going to pursue the case because they had received ‘instructions from above’ that there was not enough evidence.

They added that it was Beverley’s word against Edwin’s, and the church was one of the hardest institutions to fight in court. She describes how devastated she was by this news. She felt Edwin ‘had got away with it … he had won’.

She later met with senior church officials who offered to pay for her to undergo further therapy. She says the therapist she saw was ‘fantastic’ and is still helping Beverley today. 

The church also awarded Beverley a financial settlement, although most of the money went towards her legal fees.

Beverley has suffered from psychological problems for many years and made several attempts to take her life. She believes this was the result of the abuse, but that Edwin has got away with his behaviour.

She would like to see changes to the system so that people who have suffered non-recent abuse are treated as if it happened yesterday.

She does not want victims and survivors to be afraid of coming forward or worry about what society will think of them.

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