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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

The trauma of being sexually abused as a child by her grandfather became even more devastating when Jill realised that other family members had known and been complicit in covering it up.

Jill relates that she came from a middle-class background, with a businessman father. When her parents divorced very acrimoniously her time was split between them, with most of the holidays spent with her father.

In need of help caring for his daughter, Jill’s father would frequently leave her with his parents. The sexual abuse by her grandfather started when she was very young and persisted for several years.

Jill remembers being confused about what was going on, and scared to tell anyone what was happening, particularly her mother for fear there would be a huge row with her father. She recalls trying to disclose the sexual abuse to her grandmother but says that nothing was done.

Later, Jill went to boarding school and this is when she believes the sexual abuse stopped. She tried never to think about it again but as she grew older, she became more aware of reports in the media about the sexual abuse of children.

Jill says she had an oddly morbid fascination with these stories, but it was a long time before she associated them with what she endured at the hands of her grandfather.

When Jill was a teenager, she tried to tell her mother about the sexual abuse, but her mother rebuffed her. She said she anticipated that Jill was going to tell her something that she didn’t want to hear and told her daughter to speak to her uncle instead. Jill subsequently did tell her uncle.

As she grew older, Jill also told her boyfriend and several friends. Jill’s grandfather became very ill when she was in her 20s and she was tasked by her father with looking after him.

This caused her great pain. She says she wanted to get her grandfather to accept what he had done and to apologise.

She never completely confronted him but one day they had a huge row about the treatment of paedophiles after her grandfather commented how terrible it was the way that sexual offenders were treated.

Jill says she felt so angry with him, but he had mentally ‘checked out’ by this point and never acknowledged what he had done.

At university, she began to suffer from depression and sought help from a counsellor, who advised that she needed specialist support. Her father agreed to fund the support but only for a limited number of sessions, so she did not accept.

After university she suffered again with depression and eating disorders which were exacerbated by the pressures of her new job. When she asked her father again for help with counselling he began to question her, saying: ‘I am only going to ask you this once: were you abused by my father?’

Jill says she was very shocked at this, and even more so when her father told her that Jill’s grandmother had walked in on her husband sexually abusing Jill. Her grandmother had contacted Jill’s father and her grandfather was confronted by the family, but he assured them it had been a one-off and would never happen again.

Her father said he reported the sexual abuse to the family GP who simply advised Jill’s father not to say anything and not to involve social services. Her father could not recall how old Jill was at the time.

Jill says she was already suffering greatly and these revelations ‘rocked her world’. She felt extremely angry with her father for continuing to expose her to her grandfather even after he was aware of the sexual abuse. She says she could not understand how her father did not go and punch her grandfather.

She knows the sexual abuse by her grandfather continued after the family confrontation and recalls that at some stage he started sexually abusing her at night rather than just during the day.

Jill embarked on extensive therapy. She cut contact with her father for a long period of time, during which he sent accusatory and threatening letters. After a while her father got back in touch.

She says her father will not accept he contributed to his daughter’s long-term poor health and happiness – he claims that going to the GP was sufficient action.

Jill is still seeking support from health care services. She credits her husband and other family members for helping her overcome what happened to her.

She is keen that children should be educated about sexual abuse and that the public have an open dialogue about the topic.

She believes that victims of childhood sexual abuse could be triggered when having their own children and that this should be considered by the midwives when speaking to expectant mothers.

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