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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Hanaya says that within her family she had ‘a normal childhood with no issues’.

But she was sexually abused as a child and she wants to protect her parents from the distress of knowing about this. 

Hanaya grew up in a close extended family who practised one of the main religions of India. She was mostly raised by her grandparents because her parents worked, and she is still very close to them.

Hanaya was sexually abused when she was a child, but she chooses not to give any details about the abuse. She says that she attended a faith school where she had a close group of friends and got on well with her teachers. ‘I never struggled with it, school was good.’

When she was in her mid teens, Hanaya told her closest friend at school she had been sexually abused. She says this friend was very supportive, but ‘didn’t really know what to do or say’.

She says this was when she began to really think about and understand what had happened to her, and she told more of her friends about it. Hanaya says she got ‘mixed reactions’, with one who she felt doubted what she said, but most of them were supportive.

When Hanaya got her first proper boyfriend, she says he was ‘super supportive’ but she found intimacy very difficult and would often break down crying. The relationship ended, and she says she understands how difficult it was for him. ‘He was tired of dealing with what I was dealing with’, she says. 

The realisation that she had been sexually abused when she was younger also brought on depression for Hanaya. At the same time, she started experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks. She remembers thinking to herself, ‘I’m trying to remember but then do I really want to remember?’

At this point, she realised she needed help in dealing with the abuse. She says it was definitely out of the question for her to tell her parents, because she wanted to protect them.

Hanaya says sex education was given in her school and at one stage she did disclose to a teacher that she had been sexually abused. She says he was strongly religious and his response was limited to telling her what would happen to the abuser according to their faith. 

But, she says, ‘I wondered why did it have to happen to me at all?’

There was a counsellor at the school, but because of her age, Hanaya knew that if she spoke to them about the abuse, her parents would be told. 

She adds ‘My friends were always there for me – they never really understood it but they encouraged me to get help’. 

Hanaya was still at school and could not pay for counselling, and at first she struggled to find a service for under-18s. She says the referral took a long time, but she has now got an appointment.

As well as trying to cope with the impact of the abuse on herself, Hanaya feels guilty and responsible about how this affects people close to her. She worries that if she has one of her frequent panic attacks when she is out with friends, it spoils their day. 

Hanaya says that the long wait for therapy has been very difficult for her, and thinks there should be more information and provision for under-18s. 

She feels that children should have someone they can talk to in total confidence about abuse, without worrying that their parents will find out about it. She says ‘I would have gone if there’d been a confidential service. I wanted someone to help me deal with the flashbacks, and feeling angry and upset’. 

She says ‘I just needed someone who understood where I was coming from and made me less alone and different’. She adds that she also wishes she had someone to tell her it was understandable to feel guilty, but that she didn’t need to.

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