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Experiences Shared

Erin

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Erin was sexully abused by her paternal grandfather over a period of about eight years, in his home and her own.

The sexual abuse began when Erin was a small child. It usually occurred when her grandfather was babysitting or when she was staying at her grandparents’ home.

She remembers her grandfather threatening that she would be ‘taken away’ if she said anything. She believes her grandmother enabled the abuse by sending Erin to bed while keeping her brother downstairs. The abuse stopped when Erin was 11 years old after she told a teacher at school.

After she disclosed the abuse, Erin’s grandfather was put on trial and was sent to prison. Her mother was supportive but her relationship with other family members was damaged as they continued to have contact with her grandfather, making her feel dismissed and disbelieved.

She describes the destructive impact the abuse and its aftermath had on her relationship with her father and much of her extended family. Erin reflects: ‘I believe I was failed by the system. Nothing can repay the damage the abuse has caused. A child is building their basic belief and understanding … if there is no positive foundation at that time … you always have a battle.’

When her grandfather was released from prison he was welcomed back by many of Erin’s relatives and invited to family events. She avoided these gatherings and was criticised for this, and felt excluded and rejected.

Erin did manage to attend her father’s 60th birthday party but left early because she felt uncomfortable. She believed her father blamed her for this, and she felt guilty about not staying longer.

To Erin, it seems that her family have denied or dismissed the impact of the sexual abuse on her. Other family members have taken their children to see her grandfather and she feels the message they are sending is that ‘nothing had happened’.

Her younger brother suffers from mental health problems and Erin worries that her disclosure had a detrimental impact on him.

Since her grandfather returned to live in the local area Erin has had to deal with bumping into him at the supermarket and doctor's office. She opted to change her GP practice to avoid him.

Erin says she has feelings of low self-worth and guilt. She lacks confidence and often chooses abusive partners. She makes regular use of counselling services but says she feels angry with herself for ‘always having to go back to counselling’. However, she is using her experiences to help understand the impact of the years of abuse that she endured.

She would like to see changes made to prevent sexual abuse offenders using the same medical and other services as their victims. She does not want them to be allowed to live near schools either.

Erin concludes that victims and survivors of sexual abuse should have access to consistent, specialist counselling and therapy services from an early stage.

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