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Experiences Shared

Kimberly

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Kimberly grew up in a very large family, where the children were not given any love or support.

Social services were aware that her parents were abusing alcohol but did not spot that sexual abuse was also occurring in the home.

Kimberly explains that when she was about 10 years old, her father converted an old, rambling property to accommodate the family. Her parents’ bedroom was at one end of the house and hers was at the other. 

Soon after this work was completed, Kimberly’s father came to her bedroom and sexually abused her. He did this on countless occasions until she left home at 17. 

The family environment was very strict, she felt isolated from the rest of her family and boyfriends were not allowed. Dance lessons were the one pleasure Kimberly was allowed, but she adds that her siblings ‘were not as lucky’. They were subject to harsher discipline than she was and she didn’t understand at the time why her father treated her differently. 

She was the oldest child, and her situation was made worse because her mother had so many children, and she was often away in hospital, leaving Kimberly alone with her father.

Once, her mother confronted her husband when she caught him leaving Kimberly’s bedroom. Kimberly says her mother tried to ask her about the incident the next day, but she could not tell her that her father was sexually abusing her.

For a long time she did not tell anyone about the abuse. She did not have any sex education at school, didn’t understand what was happening and wouldn’t have had the words to describe it anyway.

Both parents had drinking problems and their relationship was often violent. Because of this, social services were involved with the family but Kimberly does not think they realised her father was sexually abusing her.

At one stage social services removed two of Kimblerly’s siblings and placed them in care. Around this time, she told her mother about the abuse, but her mother did not seem to know how to respond.

When Kimberly was 17 she moved out of the family home. She subsequently met her husband and moved away from the area.  

Some time after this, her parents separated. Kimberly’s father asked to move in with her, saying he had nowhere else to go. She thought that because she was by then in her mid-20s and had her own house, she would be safe. 

He stayed for some time, until one night he came into her bedroom and sexually abused her. This incident caused Kimberly to have a breakdown.  

She has since had counselling which she found very difficult but now believes has been very helpful to her relationship with her children. She had previously found it hard to bond with her children, but was also very over-protective of them, never wanting to let them out of her sight. She still doesn’t want her children to be around men. 

Kimberly doesn’t remember much about her childhood, nor school. She knows she went to school every day and didn’t have many friends. She thinks if teachers knew then what they do now about recognising the signs of child abuse, someone might have picked up on what was happening to her. 

She blamed her mother for not protecting her, but the counselling enabled her to manage her conflicting emotions and issues with trust, and move forward. 

However, she still suffers with mental health difficulties and has taken medication for many years. 

She tries to put the abuse to the back of her mind, but, she says, ‘It’s always there’. She adds ‘I look back now and think, what a mess’. 

Kimberly concludes by saying she is glad that the Truth Project is shining a light on sexual abuse and hopes it will help others.

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