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Experiences Shared

Carolyn

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Carolyn was sexually abused by a ‘family man’ when she was on holiday with her parents in the 1960s.

She feels that attitudes to sexual abuse and victims and survivors have changed in the years since she was abused. She wishes that more action had been taken to stop this man possibly abusing others.  

Carolyn and her family had stayed before in the hotel and had got to know several other families who holidayed there each year. The hotel catered well for families and she says her parents enjoyed the atmosphere of friendliness and familiarity between guests.

During one holiday, when she was 10 or 11 years old, Carolyn remembers noticing a change in one of the fathers of another family, Mr James. On one occasion she accidentally touched his shorts during a game, and she vividly recalls ‘a look of delight on his face’.

Later, Carolyn went upstairs in the hotel to fetch something. Mr James’ room was close to hers and he saw her and pulled her into his bedroom. He tried to touch her through her bathing costume, around her breasts and between her legs, while kissing her. He then stopped and pushed her away, and Carolyn left the room.

When she went back to her family, her mother realised something was wrong. She asked Carolyn if Mr James had done something to her, although she did not ask her daughter for details. Carolyn told her what had happened. Her mother informed the hotel manager, and Mr James was told not to stay there again.

No further action was taken. Carolyn says her parents thought it best not to go to the police, as it might be a ‘difficult experience for her’ and that she would be ‘tarnished in some way'. The family did not return to the hotel and they never spoke of the incident again.

Carolyn says she cannot remember many other things from this time, but she vividly remembers the experience of being abused, describing intricate details, such as the design on her swimming costume.

She says she has always felt ‘extremely cross’ that nothing more was done. She feels simply telling Mr James not to go back to the hotel was an inadequate response to what he did.

She adds that she does not feel the abuse has impacted her life to any important extent. She says she has never felt the ‘shame’ that perhaps her parents did.

However, Carolyn does think more action should have been taken. She worries that Mr James could have abused others, but she recognises that her parents were trying to protect her and her reputation by not making her go to court. She feels disappointment that the abuser will never be punished or prosecuted as it is now far too late and he is probably dead.

Carolyn feels it is important to tell the Truth Project what happened to her. She says that although she doesn’t think her experience may be ‘as bad as others’, what happened to her still needs to be spoken about.

She hopes that today more would be done. She believes that things have changed significantly and there is more recognition that abuse is wrong. She is pleased that the concept of ‘shaming the victim’, which she thinks might have affected her parents’ decision not to report the abuse, has changed over the years.  

 

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