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Experiences Shared

Dawn

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Many years of regular sexual abuse, that began when she was nine years old, have left Dawn with a long-term condition that continues to affect her life.

An attempt to get justice against the perpetrator was not successful and Dawn has an intense wish for him to acknowledge the impact of his actions.

Dawn’s abuser, Charlie, was an older boy who lived nearby. She believes that at first she didn’t understand what was happening to her or that she could have tried to say no. She never knew when the sexual abuse would take place and thought it would never stop. She describes feeling that she didn’t matter and had to be available for Charlie.

As she grew older she worried that she might get pregnant. At the time, Dawn did not consider telling her parents. She was frightened of what they would say and says there was no other adult she could talk to.

Recently, she did tell her mother about the sexual abuse, but says her mother’s response showed more concern for Charlie’s mother, who was still her neighbour, than for Dawn. Dawn says she was ostracised at school, so she was often on her own.

She told us she was well-behaved, studious and a ‘people pleaser’ but behaved differently at home, with incidents of shoplifting, annoying the neighbours and stealing money from her parents.

She feels her parents should have known something was not right because of this. She thinks she would have benefited from having a ‘safe’ adult to talk to, such as a mentor based in school.

When she was a teenager, Charlie sexually assaulted her in an alley then told her he had no further need for her as he had a girlfriend.

Dawn suffered a nervous breakdown. She feels she has been robbed of the life and career she could have had. In later years, Dawn sought counselling for a bereavement and through this her feelings surfaced about the sexual abuse. She is very angry with her abuser and feels that he ought to pay for the way the sexual abuse has affected her.

Dawn gained support and was able to report her sexual abuse to the police. She says the police thought she had a good case, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not proceed with it. She appealed and the case was examined by an independent panel but after six months they upheld the CPS decision.

Dawn says one of the reasons given for not proceeding with a prosecution was the issue of consent. She considers this unfair. The experience has left her feeling that the justice system is weighted against victims and survivors and can be a cruel and unfair process that makes things worse for them.

She describes the process she has been through as traumatic, particularly as Charlie is not being prosecuted. She wants him to hear her story and understand the impact of his sexual abuse, and how it has affected her sense of self-worth, her confidence and behaviour.

Dawn says that a motivating factor in pursuing the prosecution was to help others, but this has been at a cost to her. She feels those involved in the process of investigation and prosecution should take account of the effect that trauma may have on the ability of victims and survivors to remember precise details and dates when providing evidence. She would like to see some form of restorative justice with abusers expressing guilt and responsibility.

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