Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Kayleigh

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Kayleigh attended a small, rural primary school. When she was 11 years old, the school children used to take a coach to go swimming once a week.

The headmaster, Mr Appleby, would send the boys into the coach and make Kayleigh and the other girls in her class stay in the classroom. He would close the blinds, lock the door and make the girls take off their clothes and get changed. He would sit on a chair amongst them, watching them and rocking back and forward.

Kayleigh says she instinctively knew that something was wrong, and she was frightened. She hated being watched and she hated Mr Appleby, feeling a profound repulsion towards him.

She saw Mr Appleby reaching out to touch one of the girls while she was naked and crying. She also saw him put his hand up her best friend’s dress.

Kayleigh developed strategies to avoid being close to Mr Appleby. She hated the power and control the headteacher had over the girls and the humiliation that he subjected them to. 

She says ‘It was in 1970s when I was 11, but it is as real to me now at 54 as it was then. I can see him, it’s still living with me.’

Kayleigh told her parents at the time about what was happening with Mr Appleby but they did not seem to take it seriously. When she was older, Kayleigh told her mother again, but she simply shrugged and said ‘Bad things happen, we don’t have to talk about them’.

Kayleigh found out that several years later Mr Appleby was sacked from the school and got different job in the local community. Kayleigh believes it is likely that someone found out what he was doing and reported it.

A few years ago, a counsellor encouraged Kayleigh to report the abuse to the police. Despite her reservations, Kayleigh did so, and asked to speak to a female officer.

A female police officer did attend Kayleigh’s home, but she was accompanied by a male officer, who Kayleigh says silently stared her, making her feel very uncomfortable. After taking her statement, the female officer said ‘We think it was just inappropriate behaviour, that’s what we’ll put it down to.’

Kayleigh was very upset by this, and says ‘I felt that she was undermining and belittling my experience and I felt I wish I hadn’t said anything.’ Kayleigh was told that a CID officer would contact her, but she heard nothing further.

Some time later, at a unrelated event, Kayleigh met a senior police inspector involved in non-recent abuse inquiries and told him about her police report. He expressed concern at the lack of follow up.

The next day Kayleigh received a call from a superintendent, who apologised and explained that Kayleigh’s original statement had been lost. Kayleigh agreed to be re-interviewed but was told that there was no senior female officer available and was asked to attend the interview at her local police station.

The station was almost deserted, and Kayleigh was taken into a dark basement room by a lone male police officer. This made her feel uncomfortable and as if she was being given some sort of punishment.

The superintendent told her that he would contact her later but, once again, she heard nothing. She says it was only because she contacted the Inquiry that the superintendent was prompted to make a follow-up call some time later, saying he had been busy and had forgotten to contact her.

Kayleigh says ‘All of this made me feel like my story was worthless, that I was making a fuss. It just seemed the whole system, the whole process was there to undermine me.’

Some time later, a female officer contacted Kayleigh. She had been tasked with looking at the report and apologised profusely, reassuring Kayleigh they would not repeat the same mistakes.

This officer did update Kayleigh a couple of times by telephone but ultimately told her that they had been told to drop the case by the superintendent. She could not tell Kayleigh why this decision had been taken.

Kayleigh says that she feels re-victimised by these experiences; again, she felt no one was taking her case seriously. She wanted to know if Mr Appleby was still alive, what had happened to him and whether there was any record of his behaviour at the school.

Kayleigh feels that her experiences as a child have impacted negatively on her life and work. The sexual abuse changed her personality and made her wary and suspicious of teachers. She now works with vulnerable people and tries to give them a voice and power following negative experiences.

She was horrified by the way the police treated her and worries that they may be treating other victims and survivors similarly. She is very concerned about the possible effect this would have on others less strong and resilient than she feels herself to be.

Kayleigh believes that all police officers need thorough training in how to deal with victims and survivors of abuse. The training should include emphasising the need to communicate clearly, be honest and to keep in contact regularly with victims and survivors. She adds that training should also focus on the need to act sensitively regarding gender issues and the importance of the physical environment where interviews take place.

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