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Experiences Shared

Keisha

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Keisha was brought up in what seemed to be ‘an idyllic country village’.

When several older men sexually abused her, many people in the close-knit community were aware of it, but no one stepped in to protect her.

Keisha is an only child. When she was nine years old, her family moved to a rural area, but soon after this, her family life declined. Her father, who worked long hours to try and keep his failing business afloat, had a mental breakdown.

When Keisha was 11, he told his wife and daughter he was in a lot of debt, and she was worried that he might leave them. 

She didn’t have established friendships at school because of the move, and she says that when she moved to secondary school she felt even more isolated. She began to struggle with mental health issues and started to self-harm. 

At the age of 13, Keisha got a job at the local pub. The landlord and customers treated her as if she was older. She says ‘I entered into an adult world at a young age’. Her parents didn’t question her working there. She adds that by this time, her relationship with her mum was not good and says ‘she was probably relieved that I was out of the house’. 

Keisha spent an increasing amount of time at the pub. She was often there late at night and by the time she was in her early teens, some customers were buying her drinks. She became the focus of a lot of male attention, particularly from members of a local sports club. 

Several of these men, who were in their 20s, 30s and 40s, sexually abused her, and one of them raped her when she was 15. In the small community where most people knew each other, no one said anything to Keisha about what the men were doing, so she says she thought it was ‘ok’. She adds ‘at that point I was really looking for some emotional connection with people’. 

At the same time, a local artist, called Piers, began grooming Keisha. He told her she was beautiful and wanted her to model for him. She says this ‘seemed very nice, he was friendly with my parents and felt like someone else to escape to’. 

He was aware of what was happening to her in the pub, and she felt he was an adult confidant. The modelling seemed innocent to Keisha at first, but Piers then asked her to pose nude. 

He began touching her, initially on the pretext of moving her into position, but then clearly for his pleasure. He told her ‘I always have sex with my models ... that is just part of it’. When Keisha said no, he said ‘you say that now but you will’.

She remembers feeling it was ‘almost like he kind of owned me, a piece of property he could do what he wanted’. 

The abuse by Piers ended when Keisha met her first real boyfriend. She stopped going to Pier’s house and gradually began to understand that she had been sexually abused.

After she left home, she decided to report Piers to the police. They told her that because he hadn’t raped her ‘it probably wouldn’t go anywhere’.

Some time later, she made another report and this time the police did investigate Piers. Keisha says that the court case was very traumatic for her. People in the village knew about the prosecution but she felt that they blamed her because of what had happened in the pub. Piers was found guily of some charges and placed on the sex offenders register.

Keisha says her mental health declined after this. She developed an eating disorder and had to take time off from her studies. She had frequent flashbacks, abused alcohol, and engaged in risky sexual behaviour. She took an overdose, but did not receive effective support from health services.

She says she has been on a ‘very long journey to get to where I am now’. She has been receiving positive support from a therapist for several years and says this ‘has been my saving grace’.

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