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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Elizabeth grew up in chaos and extreme poverty. She was physically abused by her father and bullied outside the home.

She believes this made her vulnerable to a catalogue of sexual abuse that continues to cause her distress and damage.

Elizabeth says neither she nor her siblings in their large family received any love, support or empathy from their parents. Her mother had a learning disability and her father, who was a lot older than her mother, was a strict disciplinarian. She says he saw physical abuse as the appropriate way to correct and guide his children. 

She says that no one in her neighbourhood was very well off, but her family were notorious for being the poorest and most chaotic on the street. 

The family were targeted by bullies because of their circumstances, and Elizabeth believes that it also made her vulnerable to sexual abuse by several predators. She was first abused when she was about four years old, by a caretaker at her school. She remembers him sitting her on his lap and touching her ‘down below’. She now realises that he had an erection, although she didn’t understand this at the time.

Elizabeth recalls another incident of sexual abuse by a Sunday school teacher, who pretended he was playing with her then touched her private parts. 

Between the ages of eight and 10, Elizabeth was raped by two different boys in her neighbourhood. When she was 12, she began to babysit for a local family. The father of this family gave her a lot of attention and began raping her regularly. He then suggested to Elizabeth that perhaps she could offer herself to his friends. She refused to do this. 

Elizabeth relates how during these years of repeated sexual abuse, she was extremely confused about what was happening to her. She believes that her family was seen as ‘a problem family’, rather than a family with problems, that she was unimportant and whatever happened to her was inconsequential.

The abuse and exploitation Elizabeth suffered throughout her childhood still impacts on her significantly. She says the most difficult issue for her is that it has affected her ability to provide a loving and secure environment for her children. 

None of the professionals involved with the family picked up on Elizabeth’s deteriorating behaviour, which she thinks should have been an indication that something was very wrong. 

Elizabeth feels that no child should be left in the same circumstances as she was in during her childhood, and that professionals who come into contact with children should receive adequate training to spot changes in their behaviour.

She says that children should be reassured that if they report abuse they will be believed.

Elizabeth says she wanted to share her experience with the Truth Project to help protect children in the future.

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