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Experiences Shared

Leonie

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Leonie was sexually abused by a family member.

Some time later, a sports coach at a centre for the deaf also sexually abused her.  

Leonie is deaf. She was in her early teens when her brother, who was four years older, sexually abused her. He would touch her and make her perform oral sex. This happened when her parents were out at work. 

She has had flashbacks from when she was younger and thinks he may have sexually abused her before, but she is not certain. 

Leonie remembers feeling really uncomfortable but powerless and unable to stop him. Her brother would threaten her not to tell their parents. She says she didn’t have ‘a great relationship’ with her mother, and wasn’t sure her mother would believe her.

At the same time, she worried that if her mother reported it to the police, it would have a bad effect on the family.

When Leonie was in her mid teens, she got involved in an online relationship with a man. Her mum caught her on a video chat with him, but Leonie isn’t sure if she took any action as she wasn’t speaking to her mum at the time.

When Leonie was around 14 years old, she joined a sports club. She says the coach, who was in his mid 20s, was ‘very flirty’ with her. They exchanged phone numbers and started sending each other photos of their body parts. 

Leonie says she wasn’t a confident teenager and found it hard to say no. After an evening event, the coach gave Leonie and some of her friends a lift home, and she says he was ‘very touchy’ towards her in a way that made her feel very uncomfortable. 

The experiences Leonie had have left her feeling very angry and it really knocked her confidence. She was shy and did not want to tell people about what had happened to her for fear of them not believing in her. 

Around this time, a close relative died, and in her grief she began to self-harm. She realised she wanted to talk to someone and opened up to a couple of friends. More recently she told her mum about the abuse. Their relationship is now much better and her mum said she felt terrible for not protecting Leonie.

Leonie believes it is essential for children to be educated about sexual abuse and to have someone to talk to they can trust, who can guide them about how to handle difficult situations. 

She adds that deaf victims and survivors need to have a counsellor who is deaf or can sign fluently and understands about deaf culture, language and traits.

Leonie has had counselling which she says has helped enormously. She did well and was happy at school and has a good job. She is happily married to a supportive man who she says ‘listens to me and doesn’t judge me’.

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