Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Joanne

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Joanne was first sexually abused by a neighbour as a young child and by others as she grew older. Responses to her suffering by many of the adults in authority she encountered included blame (of her), unkindness, indifference and inappropriate advice.

During her childhood, Joanne was intermittently placed in care. Her mother suffered from mental illness and was an alcoholic. She had a memory of childhood sexual abuse by a neighbour when she was a young child, and now knows that a social services case report described her in the following terms: ‘Joanne was wilful and defiant, sexually precocious … indecently assaulted by a man who was later convicted.’

The report also notes ‘long history of reception into care … different children’s homes’. Joanne says she was devastated to read this – she feels it showed that social services had no understanding whatsoever of her needs as an abused child.

She was permanently taken into care with her siblings after she witnessed a violent incident between her mother and her father. In the children’s home she became sexually involved with an older boy.

It was discovered that she was pregnant, but she had no understanding of what was happening. She was taken into hospital for a termination but says no one asked her whether this was what she wanted. Joanne vividly remembers the trauma of the labour and birth of the dead child.

Joanne was moved to another children’s home. She says the housemother was lovely, but the father was violent. Joanne recalls that a male member of staff groomed her with alcohol and cigarettes and raped her on several occasions. She now knows that she was craving love and felt that any attention was good.

At that time, she met the father of her child, became pregnant and had another termination while still a teenager. Again, she was not consulted about her options, but told she would have to have a termination. She later gave birth to a child, of whom she is very proud.

Joanne says she regularly absconded from school and under-achieved, but did manage to pass enough qualifications to get on a training course.

She left care at the age of 16 and was given no preparation or support. About this time, she started to drink; she became an alcoholic and was addicted to prescription drugs, entering rehab on more than one occasion.

Joanne says it took a long time to get her addictions under control. She has had a succession of failed relationships and has difficulty acknowledging that she has been successful as a mother to her child, who has now given her grandchildren.

She still suffers from the effects of sexual abuse. She says: ‘It is a sentence for life, like pebbles thrown into a pond, the ripples keep on getting bigger.’

She worries constantly about her grandchildren’s wellbeing and knows that this is a consequence of what happened in her own childhood. Her childhood sexual abuse and her longing for affection have resulted in her forming abusive relationships in adult life.

She describes how she turned to religion for a number of years, where she sought counselling but was told she should forgive her childhood abusers and get on with her life. She is bitter about this advice, feeling it showed no understanding of the devastating impact and trauma that the sexual abuse has had on her life.

Joanne believes she was let down by the staff at the care home, and health, police and social workers. She thinks someone should have recognised the signs of sexual abuse and acted to protect and help her.

Although some of the staff and one social worker were kind and caring, no one was effective in preventing her sexual abuse despite it being clearly described in the report by children’s services.

She believes that professionals should be trained to read the signs and act upon them and should protect children. She also wants better preparation to be given to young people leaving care and support for them afterwards.

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