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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Kirsty experienced violence and deprivation at home with her mother. She says that during her time in care, the kindness of one key worker provided her with some of the happiest memories she has of her childhood. However, she was sexually abused by two workers in children’s homes and this experience inflicted lasting pain and damage on her.

Most of her young life, along with that of her siblings, was spent in and out of a children’s home. Kirsty had a very close relationship with her housemother, who she says was like a mother to her. But an assistant housemother, Mrs Pottering, sexually abused Kirsty during her bath times.

Looking back, Kirsty believes that her abuser took some perverse satisfaction from what she did. She recalls Mrs Pottering saying to her: ‘You’ll thank me for this one day.’ She is not sure how many times the sexual abuse happened, but it began before she was ten years old. 

Kirsty knows she was not the only girl at the home who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Mrs Pottering. Her friend, Jasmine, was also a victim and she would try to protect Kirsty by making herself subject to the sexual abuse.

Once Kirsty told one of her siblings what Mrs Pottering was doing but they refused to believe her. However, when her father came to visit her at the home she told him about the sexual abuse and he spoke to the housemother who Kirsty was close to. Kirsty feels she acted appropriately and removed Mrs Pottering from her post.

As Kirsty grew older, she went back with her mother in the family home. She relates how much she hated this, as her mother would withhold food, beat her up and expect her to look after her siblings. Kirsty says her mother would put on an act when social services visited but the reality was very different.

When she was a teenager, she was returned to the children’s home and was the subject of an attempted sexual assault by a male worker there. She managed to run away, get to a phone box and call the police. He was later dismissed from his employment.

Around the same time, Kirsty became aware of another girl who was being abused by her young male social worker. Kirsty says that the adults knew what was going on and eventually the social worker was charged for taking indecent images of children.

When she left care, Kirsty received little practical support – she was homeless while pregnant. As an adult, she made a request to social services for her childhood files. It was three years before they arrived, and she says they had been extensively edited with large chunks missing. She thinks her former social worker, who she had previously trusted, had deliberately or mistakenly included false information in the files.

Kirsty has suffered both emotionally and physically from her experiences. She has had therapy and has recalled things that she had previously blocked from her memory. She knows that Jasmine also struggled significantly throughout her life and sadly committed suicide.

Kirsty is passionate about protecting children from sexual abuse. She believes that much of the care system needs to change, particularly the support that is given to care leavers.

She has a lot of ideas about how things can improve – she wants to see real and lasting change. She says of her experience in the system: ‘I put it in a box … but I need to say something … even if it’s to protect another child. If I can help change the system in any way, I will.’

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