Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Janine

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Janine describes a childhood of fear, neglect and sexual abuse. Her mother had mental health difficulties and was emotionally unavailable and her father was an alcoholic.

The sexual abuse began when she was five years old and she has no clear memory of life before it.

Her father worked night shifts and slept during the day. One afternoon, he asked Janine to lie next to him and he abused her. From then on, he did this regularly at every opportunity.

Janine says ‘I thought that was how daddies showed love, but I felt invaded. I didn’t feel right and scrubbed myself to get rid of the feeling.’

She began to get headaches which made her vomit and she was sometimes sent home from school. But her father was often at home and this gave him more opportunities to abuse her.

When she was about eight or nine years old her parents bought a dog, which her father would walk at 11 o’clock each night. Although Janine was always in bed at this time, her father would wake her and make her go out with him. Janine says her mother did nothing to stop this and she had to go. Her father would then abuse her in the field while they were out with the dog.

Janine began to run away from home and her mother told people that she was a problem child. Her father became more brazen, abusing his daughter while her mother was in the next room or downstairs. Janine’s headaches became worse and she began to suffer from repeated bladder infections.

She says she can remember blaming herself for what was going on despite not really understanding what was happening to her. When she was taken to see a doctor, she froze when he tried to examine her. Her mother told him Janine was mentally unstable. Janine remembers thinking this must be true.

Around this time, she says her father began threatening to kill her if she spoke about the abuse.

On several occasions, Janine did try to tell some responsible adults what was happening but was not taken seriously. When she asked a teacher for help to make the abuse stop, the teacher told her to stop lying. Another time when she ran from home, she spoke to a police officer, but was told to respect her parents and go home.

By the time she was in secondary school, Janine says she cared very little about herself and what might happen to her. One day, she stole £10 and ran away and got as far as a train station in another city.

A man approached her and hearing she had run away from home, bought her a meal and offered her a job, new clothes and somewhere to stay. Janine says he ‘began to get on her nerves’ so when she saw a police officer she went to speak to him. The police officer told her the man was a pimp, but she did not know what that meant. She told the police officer that her father ‘did stuff’ to her and her mother did not support her, but the police officer sent her home. 

Back home the abuse continued, and Janine told her maths teacher what was happening to her. She describes how desperate she felt, and how she hoped the maths teacher, who seemed kind and motherly, might let her go and live with her. She says she wanted more than anything to live somewhere else and for the abuse to stop.

Instead, the maths teacher contacted her parents and told them what Janine had said. She remembers hiding behind the kitchen door crying as she heard the adults all ‘ganging up’ on her. She says she felt that no one wanted to help her and that she just ‘gave up’. She was 12 years old.

At this point, Janine took an overdose of her mother’s pills. She recalls: ‘I didn’t want to die; I wanted the abuse to stop and my mum to love me.’ Soon after, she realised her mother had known about the abuse for all the years it had been happening.

In her early teens her father raped her while her mother was downstairs. After, her parents went to the pub as though nothing had happened. Her father then began to sexually abuse her in front of her mother. Janine remembers pleading with her mother to tell him to stop, but her mother laughed and told her it was ‘just a bit of fun’.

Janine says she had wanted to join the armed forces, but she left school with no qualifications. She ran away from home again, sleeping rough or on friends’ sofas or floors and having sex with men in exchange for food or drink. After a while, she managed to find work, and began seeing a boyfriend regularly.

At the age of 17 she became pregnant. She says: ‘I gave birth to my daughter and she saved my life. I had been let down by everyone and everything and I was scared … I loved her so much and was so proud of her.’  When her daughter was two years old, Janine went to college to learn to read. She says she did this because she didn’t want her daughter to be ashamed of her, and she wanted to read her bedtime stories.  

At the age of 21, she says the anger she had suppressed started to come out and she began to think of hurting herself. Her doctor referred her for counselling, but she had a very poor experience as the counsellor asked Janine if she felt she had encouraged her father.

A few years later later, Janine sought therapy again, and felt for the first time that someone believed her.

She remains angry about her experiences, saying ‘children don’t make it up, there should have been red flags everywhere for me, but everyone let me down … I went to social services, I told them I wanted to leave home and I wanted help but because I had an attitude, and was considered out of control, no one wanted to help me’.

Today Janine is immensely proud that despite all she went through, she has successfully brought up her daughter, who she says has grown up to be a well-adjusted young woman. Janine runs her own business and volunteers for a charity.

She would like to see more safeguarding training for teachers, a greater focus on children’s wellbeing. She believes that teachers have a responsibility to listen and to act. She thinks there should should be more training that encourages teachers to trust their instincts and to question and look behind the facade and understand behaviours.

When reflecting on sharing her experience with the Truth Project, she said ‘I am doing this for five year old me.’

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