Quick Exit

Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Dorothy describes how from a very young age she endured fear and humiliation, along with physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

As an adult, she feels she is still suffering an equally painful ordeal because her account has not been taken seriously.

Her mother had mental health issues and treated Dorothy as ‘her scapegoat’, beating her frequently. When she was about four years old, her father sent her to live overseas with her grandmother for a few months. Her uncle lived in the house too, and during this time he began to sexually abuse her.

Dorothy remembers the power her uncle had over her and how frightened she was of him. But life was no easier when she returned home. The regular beatings resumed, and she remembers her mother telling her that she hated her.

A couple of years later, Dorothy’s uncle came to live with her family. Her mother often left her and her younger sister in his care and he began to sexually abuse both the girls, initially pretending it was a game. Sometimes he brought a friend along who joined in the abuse of the girls.

Dorothy says she didn’t really understand what was happening to her and she was too afraid to tell anyone.

She recalls that her father began to pay her ‘attention’, and when her mother went out, he would bring her downstairs to watch television with him. He would give her a cup of tea and she would then wake up in her father’s bed with no memory of what had happened. She says sometimes there was another man present when she woke up, whom she did not know.

Social services became involved with the family when Dorothy was about 11 years old. Around this time, she began to spend more time away from her family home, staying with friends. Groups of youths got to know her; they began to sexually assault her, and she was frequently raped. 

Dorothy asked social services for help, but they told her to go home – she feels they labelled her as promiscuous. Back at home, she was again beaten and shouted at by her mother. 

She describes how she felt she was ‘always last in the pecking order … rubbish … worthless’.

Dorothy was finally placed in care. She remembers spending a birthday in secure accommodation and that, for the first time ever, she received a birthday present.

In her teenage years she was moved to a home for girls in a different town. She says here she felt safe and free from abuse. She made good friends, had her own room and began to enjoy school work. But the manager of the children’s home started to pick on her, twisting her arms and making her cry.

Dorothy describes how shocked and bewildered she was by this because the manager was the first man she had respected. He would insist on seeing Dorothy on her own, telling her that he had to pretend that he was telling her off. Then he would give her cigarettes, claiming the other staff hated her and were trying to get her into trouble.

Still Dorothy trusted him, but as she became more isolated from the other staff, he began to sexually abuse her. 

He told Dorothy he wanted to foster her, and she remembers how special this made her feel. She moved in with him and his wife, and he continued to sexually abuse her for couple of months until Dorothy told one of his wife’s relatives what was happening.

This resulted in her being thrown out of their house and returned to her family home for a short time, until she was made to leave there again.

Over the following years, Dorothy fought for justice. She was terrified that her abuser, the children’s home manager, would find her, and she wrote to her social worker, telling him about the abuse. She also reported it to the police on four separate occasions.

Some time later, the police interviewed the children’s home manager after they found three other girls he had abused. A prosecution was begun, but he was granted bail and absconded. Dorothy says he is believed to be living outside Europe.

Dorothy had approached her GP to access counselling before she disclosed her abuse. During an assessment she was asked if she thought she might have false memory syndrome.

She has since learned that it has been noted on her medical records that she is ‘not sure’ if she has false memory syndrome. In fact, she recalls saying she did not know what it was, and she is angry that in seeking help she has been badly treated and judged.

Dorothy feels frustrated that her medical records were disclosed without her consent and then used against her.  

She feels she has been labelled, belittled and discriminated against, as she was denied therapy and her accounts of abuse are tainted with the view that she may have false memory syndrome. 

She feels that this discrimination is worse than the abuse. She is deeply frustrated that when she was a child, she did not have the words to disclose her abuse; now as an adult she has the words, but she is not taken seriously.

When she refused permission for police to access her medical records, they in turn refused to investigate her complaint of being sexually abused as a child. Dorothy believes that under no circumstances should the police have access to the medical records of a victim and survivor: ‘just because you are abused, doesn’t mean you’re mad’.


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