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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Giulia grew up in a household that was dominated and intimidated by a violent, controlling and alcoholic father. 

He subjected her to extreme abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence. When she was in her 20s she found the courage to report him and as a result, he was sent to prison.

Giulia grew up in the 1960s and 70s. She had two brothers and one of her many painful childhood memories is that her mother preferred them to her. 

Giulia doesn’t think her mother knew that she was being sexually abused by her father, but she was aware that he gave his daughter a lot of attention. Giulia believes this was the reason for the favouritism her mother showed to her brothers. 

She recalls very clearly that the first time her father sexually abused her she was four years old. It began with touching and over time, escalated to rape. By the time she was a teenager, he was raping her several times a week. 

Giulia says that from when she was about seven years old, her father’s abuse became more violent. She remembers crying when he abused her, and the more she cried, ‘the more I got battered’. She was often bruised but if anyone asked about it, she used to say she had banged herself. 

The sexual abuse usually occurred when her mother was in bed or at work. With obvious distress, she describes several extremely traumatic physical and sexual acts carried out by her father. She believes her mother became aware her husband was violent towards her daughter, but she was too afraid of him to stop it. Giulia explains that he exerted complete power and control over the family.

She describes herself as a ‘horrible’ child, because at school she used to fight with the other children, behave aggressively with the teachers and throw things around the classroom. She can remember biting her hands and smashing them against heavy objects when she was eight. No one ever asked her about her behaviour.

At secondary school, she says, her behaviour deteriorated even more. She frequently fought with her peers and teachers, but still no one questioned this or asked about the bruising on her body.

She remembers that when she was a young teenager, her father went to a sexual health clinic and then told her to get the same treatment that he had been prescribed.    

A couple of years after this, Giulia took an overdose. Her father put his fingers down her throat to make her sick. Afterwards he promised her that he wouldn’t touch her again and she remembers feeling so happy at this, she felt she was ‘walking on air’. But he did not stop abusing her.

Giulia says she never told anyone about the abuse she was suffering – she thinks she didn’t realise that she was being abused. 

As a young adult, publicity about Childline triggered the realisation in Giulia that she had been abused. She told her mother, who by this time had separated from her father. 

Her mother contacted the police, who Giulia says ‘were fantastic’. 

An investigation and court case followed and her father was convicted. He is now deceased. 

After the court case, Giulia says her mother became very bitter, and commented that Giulia must have ‘enjoyed’ what her father was doing to allow it to go on for so long.

Giulia believes that if she hadn’t disclosed the abuse she would be dead now. It has had a massive impact on her mental health; she has made several attempts at suicide, has self-harmed and suffered with depression. She says she still abuses alcohol but she has good support from her psychiatrist and her crisis team.

One of her coping strategies throughout her life has been to have imaginary friends. 

Giulia feels very strongly that children should be supported to understand what sexual abuse is, and believed when they report it. She thinks it might have helped her if school staff had talked about abuse during her younger years. She would like schools to be alert to changes in behaviour in children. 

She is also very concerned to dispel the myth that children who have been abused are abusers themselves.


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