Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Haley

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Haley grew up in care and at a young age was adopted by a family. Sadly, this did not keep her safe and secure. She was exposed to sexual abuse and blamed by her parents for the way she behaved subsequently.

Haley’s adoptive parents were older people. Her father was unwell and unable to work, and her mother worked long hours, leaving Haley in the care of her older foster sibling.

When she was a young teenager Haley met a man who was working with her sibling. He was friendly and chatty which Haley says was something completely new to her – she enjoyed his attention and the sweets he used to buy her.

One evening at his workplace, he sat her on his lap and started sexually touching her. Afterwards he gave her some sweets. Haley was not aware that this was wrong, and the sexual abuse progressed, although she cannot say how – she says she has blocked it from her mind.

Her abuser began picking her up from school and sexually abusing her in his vehicle. She started ‘bunking off’ school and getting into trouble and was sent to see the school chaplain. Haley says she could not bring herself to talk to him even though she had begun to realise what her abuser was doing was wrong.

She says: ‘At first I never saw myself as a victim.’ Her parents knew the chaplain and Haley was worried that news of her sexual abuse would get back to them. In an attempt to control her behaviour, Haley was sent to join an after-school activity by her parents.

When she was leaving one evening, her abuser was waiting outside in his vehicle. She ignored him, but the following week he convinced her to get in his car, where he sexually abused her again. On the next occasion, she recalls his sexual abuse became more aggressive, but she managed to get away and run home.

She broke down and told a friend, who convinced her to tell the police. Haley went to the police station on her own to report what had happened to her but was told that she needed an adult to witness her statement. She went through the embarrassment and shame of asking her sibling to do this, but they backed out at the last minute.

It was inconceivable to Haley that she could ask her parents and the police did not proceed with an investigation. She still saw her abuser around and sometimes he would park outside the group that she attended.

Haley thinks there must have been talk in the area about what had happened to her because one day her parents asked her: ‘What’s all these lies about you being raped?’ She remembers feeling very hurt by this and thinking: ‘These people are meant to help me!’

Haley says she knows she began to see sex as a way of ‘pleasing people’ and gaining love and affection. She now feels bad about this period of promiscuity but understands the motives she had as a lonely, younger girl.

To try and address what was seen as her bad behaviour, Haley was sent to see a psychiatrist. Her mother attended the sessions with her, so she never felt able to disclose her sexual abuse. However, she says the meetings were helpful in that they brought her feelings out.

When Haley was a young adult, both her father and mother died. She rented a flat and found work but says: ‘A few years later it all got too much for me’, and she collapsed following an overdose. After being taken to hospital she spent several weeks in a psychiatric unit.

Haley told her therapist about her sexual abuse and the therapist asked if she had ever considered reporting it. Some years after her first attempt to report the sexual abuse, Haley entered a police station again.

After an uncomfortable start when she was asked why she had left it so long to report the sexual abuse, she says the police were ‘brilliant’. Her abuser was charged, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a period of probation. During the trial it emerged he had previous convictions for child abuse.

Haley wonders if the offences would have happened if her first report had been taken more seriously. She felt very supported during most of the case, but her therapy stopped part way through, which she found hard to deal with.

Haley says that she would like there to be a better understanding within the police force of the effects of childhood sexual abuse and better therapeutic support for victims and survivors who report their abuse.

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