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Experiences Shared

Cadi

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Cadi suffered sexual abuse by family members, her husband and strangers.

She says ‘I was left feeling it’s down to me … it keeps happening’.

Cadi’s parents separated when she was young. She and her siblings lived with their mother, but would regularly stay overnight with their father.

She describes a violent and sexualised atmosphere in her father’s house. He was physically and emotionally abusive, and he made Cadi and her siblings watch pornography.

He also told Cadi in graphic detail about visits he made to brothels.

Cadi thinks she was about six years old when her father began sexually abusing her. The abuse started with tickling, then touching her chest and bottom. Sometimes he took Cadi to sleep in his bed and would be naked next to her.

When she reached puberty, he raped her. She says she ‘used to freeze and let him do things’ as she knew that resisting would make him violent. ‘I couldn’t win … he was either beating me or sexually assaulting me.’ She remembers one occasion when she pretended to be asleep while her father raped her.

Cadi adds that her father would threaten that if she told her mother about the abuse, he would kill himself. She believed him, and did not tell anyone. 

During her childhood and teenage years, Cadi suffered more sexual abuse, including rape, by another member of her family, a male pupil at her school and a friend of her brother. 

At 11, Cadi was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Her GP was concerned and made a referral to social services. 

Cadi says her mother’s response was to say that the GP was racist. She refused to accept Cadi had been abused. Her mother ‘coached’ her on how to answer the social worker’s questions.

When the social worker visited, she spoke to Cadi where her mother could hear, and Cadi did not feel able to speak openly. She thinks that if she had been taken somewhere private it might have made a difference.

Cadi’s mother was Muslim. On her 16th birthday Cadi was forced to marry against her will. Neither she nor her mother had met the man before.  

Her husband took her to live in another city. He locked Cadi in the house and only allowed her out to go shopping with her face covered. He raped her violently. While it was happening, Cadi says, ‘I would think of anything I could to distract myself … he didn’t care’.

Cadi says that by this time she knew she was gay. She tried to escape but no one from her community would help. Following a particularly brutal rape, her life spiralled downwards; she couldn’t eat and began self-harming.

For a long time, Cadi’s mother had been completely indifferent to her daughter’s suffering, but after this a divorce was agreed on condition that Cadi’s dowry was returned. Cadi says this made her feel worthless – that she was sold by her mother and bought back for a few hundred pounds.

Another of the impacts of the abuse that Cadi endured is that her education was badly disrupted. ‘Although I can scrub a pan really well’ she says, with irony.

Cadi adds that she still feels ashamed, embarrassed and guilty, and that somehow she is to blame for all the abuse she suffered.        

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