Quick Exit

Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Gina was subjected to sexual abuse by a music teacher, and then by a family friend in whom she had confided about the sexual abuse.

Gina says that she was always a quiet child, but she does not know whether this made her appear vulnerable to her abusers, or whether it was the sexual abuse that caused her to retreat.

Her parents hired Miles to come to their home once a week to teach music to Gina and her sibling. The sexual abuse began almost immediately. Gina was primary school age, and she thinks Miles was about the same age as her grandfather. She relates how he would put his hand inside her knickers and penetrate her with his fingers. Gina’s parents were in the house, but she had a strong sense that she was not allowed to talk about what was happening. Miles would give her sweets and she thought this was to stop her from disclosing to anyone what was going on.

Gina describes how the shame she felt about accepting the sweets grew so much that she could not communicate to anyone what she was suffering. But after a while she told a male family friend who was a few years older than her and had been taught by the same teacher. His response was to call her a liar.

She describes Miles as ‘confident’ and thinks it unlikely that she was the first child he sexually abused. She has never discussed this with her sibling and does not know if they were also sexually abused by their music teacher.

When Gina was nine years old, Miles’s wife contacted the family to say that her husband had died suddenly. Gina felt relief that he would not be coming around again and guilt because she was glad he was dead. The confusion and the complex feelings provoked by his death were difficult for her to manage as a young child.

Gina says Miles was not connected to her school and she has no idea if he was registered to teach. When she reached her late teens, she told her parents about the sexual abuse, but her mother never spoke of it again and her father suggested to one of her siblings that she may have been making it up.

Gina started secondary school and says that at first she was happy and thriving there. But not long after starting secondary school, she was raped by the family friend she had previously told about the abuse by Miles. The family friend was 16 or 17 and he continued to rape and abuse Gina until she was in her 20s. She says again, she felt guilty about what was happening to her because she ‘never shouted or screamed’. It did not occur to her that she could go to someone at school and disclose what was happening.

By her second year of secondary school Gina’s academic record was declining; she was acting up and behaving badly. She became more promiscuous, engaging in risky behaviour. As a teenager, she says she felt that there was something wrong with her and that she was ‘broken’. The school spoke to her parents about her behaviour, but she was never asked if anything was troubling her. There was no pastoral care available and Gina says she had no sense that the school would help her.

As one of a number of children, Gina had always felt that her role in the family was the ‘grown-up one’ and the carer for her other siblings. Now she was getting attention from her parents for all the wrong reasons. She says she has been known as the ‘naughty’ child ever since.

The childhood sexual abuse suffered by Gina has impacted significantly on her life. She has struggled to form and maintain trusting relationships. From her teenage years until her 30s, she drank alcohol and took drugs. She has been sober for a long time now and considers that the alcohol and drug abuse were caused by the problems she developed in her younger years.

Gina has told some of her siblings about the later sexual abuse, but not her parents as they are still closely acquainted with her abuser’s family. She has not told the police about the multiple rapes by him because she is frightened about the huge impact her disclosure might have. She has heard stories that make her think it is unlikely there would be a successful prosecution.

Therapy has helped Gina in part to overcome the traumatic sexual abuse she has experienced. But she describes feeling frightened much of the time; she doesn’t like going out on her own and she sees danger everywhere. She looks at her young family and worries that something similar could happen to them.

Looking back, Gina believes that her parents could have helped her more and the school could have done more to discover the background reasons for her behaviour. She believes that the problem of child sexual abuse is extremely complex and considers that sexism has some role to play, because girls are taught to be compliant.

She feels very upset by reports in the media about women being questioned when they report sexual abuse and the implication that they must be gaining from it. She sincerely hopes that children today would feel able to report sexual abuse and not internalise it the way she did.

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