Quick Exit

Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Emily describes how she endured extreme physical and emotional abuse by her mother, which caused chaos in her life and led to her being sexually abused.

Continually threatened and tortured at home, Emily says she felt scared and unloved. She recalls that when she was about seven years old, she stole £1 from her mother, who threatened to cut off one of her fingers with a large knife.

As she pressed the blade against her daughter’s finger, Emily believed her mother would really do this. She says she learned to ‘freeze and comply’ as a survival instinct.

Emily remembers when she was about nine, that her school noticed she had some bruising, and this was raised with her mother. Although her mother admitted beating her with a wooden spoon, no action was taken.

She could not engage in education and says she was labelled ‘a naughty child’. As a result she was permanently excluded from primary school.

When she was about 12 years old, Emily found the courage to tell a health visitor about the abuse, but her mother found out and flew into a rage. Emily ran, barefoot, from her home, seeking safety at a nearby house.

She was taken into care and over the following four to five years had a succession of foster placements. She says that during this time she developed severe mental health difficulties and began self-harming, resulting in two admissions to an adult psychiatric ward when she was aged 15 and 17 years.

Following the second admission Emily was discharged from care and placed in bed and breakfast accommodation in a city she didn’t know, despite the fact that she was still a child.

She attended a leaving care project and met two female police officers, whom she felt took an interest in her. At the project Emily also made friends with 18-year-old Lilly-May, who had a boyfriend John-Joe. He was 36, Emily learned that he was dealing drugs.

One of the female police officers developed a friendly relationship with Emily, sharing information about her family and her daughter. Emily wanted to please her and told her about John-Joe dealing drugs.

The police officer encouraged her to find out more about John-Joe. Although Emily had never used drugs, she bought some amphetamines from John-Joe and passed this information to the police officer. The officer refunded the money to Emily but told her this wasn’t enough evidence and that Emily should let her know if she found out more. Emily feels that this placed her in a vulnerable position.

Emily now recognises that John-Joe had started to groom her. One evening Lilly-May and John-Joe picked Emily up as she left her part-time job. She did not think there was any risk as her friend was there but later that evening, Lilly-May left after a row with her boyfriend, leaving Emily alone with him.

John-Joe raped Emily that night, and she remembers resorting to the ‘freeze and comply survival instinct’ that had been a feature of her terrified childhood.

Emily reported the rape the following day and John-Joe was arrested and bailed. This left Emily feeling terrified again. John-Joe knew where she lived; she did not dare leave her flat and was too frightened to sleep. She describes how she spent all her days and nights sitting next to the alarm the police had installed, in case John-Joe broke in.

She was alone with no support except for a single follow-up telephone call from the police. Nor was there any further contact from the female police officer, whom she had been trying to help by gaining information about John-Joe.

Emily describes a desperate and rapid descent into increasing drug use and psychosis from this point. She blamed herself for the rape, for not shouting out or foreseeing John-Joe’s intentions. As she turned 18, she lost her flat tenancy and learned that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was not pursuing the rape case against John-Joe.

Two years after the rape, Emily learned that John-Joe had been convicted of murdering his young girlfriend. Again, she blamed herself, feeling if he had been convicted of the rape, this murder might not have happened.

Emily describes her life for the following eight years as a cycle of mental health difficulties, drug and alcohol addiction, repeated admissions to psychiatric wards or detox units and homelessness. 

At the age of 25 she seized an opportunity to work abroad and believes this move saved her life, breaking the cycle of drug use and helping her to begin to heal.

She returned to the UK three years later, undertaking an Access to Higher Education course while working to support herself. Emily went on to achieve a first-class honours degree and entered her chosen profession working with children.

She loves her career, but has been shocked to find that the systems that failed her continue to fail other children.

A few years ago she reported the abuse by her mother to the police but was informed that no charges could be brought due to the laws regarding historical physical abuse.

When she learned of the Victims Right to Review scheme, Emily contacted the police and was told that her rapist had been charged but the CPS offered no evidence.

Emily asked CPS to review their decision, but this was declined. She says the letter she received was very curt and lacked empathy and insight into the impact of that decision on the recipient.

Emily remains angry that she has not received any justice for the harm she has suffered in her life. She believes that victim and survivors should not be denied the right to request a review of a decision because a charge had been made.

Emily considers that CPS should take a more sensitive approach in their communications to victim and survivors.

She says there is insufficient access to support and therapy for looked-after children with access criteria in some areas being set far too high.

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