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Experiences Shared

Cara

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

After Cara’s parents separated, she and her sibling were left with their abusive mother.

Later she spent more time with her father, and was sexually abused by one of his relatives.

Cara describes physical and emotional abuse by her mother. 

She says her mum had a series of men staying at the house. She remembers her discomfort when she once came out of her bedroom to meet a half-dressed man who remarked how good looking she was. 

In her early teens, Cara began to spend more time with her dad and his family – she says she thought ‘they were amazing people’. She babysat for the children of her father’s cousin. The children’s father, Nico, did not live with the family but often visited.

Nico was in his 40s; he groomed Cara, showering her with compliments and gifts, and sexually abused her. She says by the time she was in her early teens, she was convinced she was in a consensual sexual relationship. 

One day, Cara went to Nico’s flat with a school friend. He was out, but some of his friends were there. They told her they all ‘shared the girls’ and they threatened her to make her have sex with them. She was raped by one of them, but she can’t remember his name. 

Later, one of Cara’s friends told her mum what had happened, and she says ‘it all came out’ that Nico had been raping her too. Neither of Cara’s parents did anything to defend her. Her father was ‘disgusted’, and to this day has nothing to do with her. Her mother called her ‘a dirty slag’. Cara says she blamed herself for everything.

Cara contracted a sexually transmitted infection. She went to see her GP about this, and asked for the contraceptive pill. She was 14 years old, but she says the doctor did not ask her any questions about what was going on.  

Not long after, Cara told a teacher at school about her ‘relationship’ with Nico. The teacher made it clear this was ‘not right’ and told her it was rape. But Cara asked him not to tell anyone, and he didn’t. She says she felt so embarrassed the teacher knew that she left school with no qualifications.

She left home in her mid teens, moved into a hostel and started a relationship with a man who was a decade older than her. She had a baby with him a few years later.

During her 20s, Cara’s mental health deteriorated. She took drugs and spent time in prison. She says she came to realise that she needed to be ‘clean’ for her child’s sake.

Cara says that when she began seeing items in the media about child sexual abuse, she began to realise that the relationship with Nico was not consensual and that she had been groomed. She called the NSPCC and they explained to her that she had been sexually abused as a child by two men.

She told her GP last year about the abuse she had suffered as a child and an adult. She had some counselling, but it was for a limited period and did not deal with the child sexual abuse. 

Cara says she feels much stronger now. Her criminal record affects her career options, but she is studying for a degree and is determined to do well. 

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