Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Linda

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Linda describes her abuser as the ‘classic groomer; charming and intelligent’. Because she was very unhappy at home, she was particularly vulnerable to his abuse. She says ‘I thought he was my best friend’.

Mr Bradley was a teacher in Linda’s secondary school. He kept animals and she and many other girls in her class would help to look after them.

Linda says it was widely acknowledged that the teacher was ‘a bit pervy’. He would ‘ping bras and look down your top and pass it off as banter’. Mr Bradley was also sadistic and humiliating in his behaviour, putting girls in bins, for example, or hanging them from hooks by their bra straps.

He gave Linda lifts home and most of the abuse took place in his car. She started going to help him with the animals at weekends on her own.

She experienced physical, psychological and sexual abuse for two years, until she was 13 years old, when it stopped. But she says that she kept going to visit Mr Bradley for another four years, so thoroughly was she groomed and institutionalised by him.

She believes other girls were sexually abused by him and they also kept going to see him.

Linda describes the total failure of anyone to intervene despite widespread knowledge of what was going on. When she was 12, Linda’s mother asked her if Mr Bradley was touching her. When she said that he was, her mother simply replied ‘Well tell him to stop’.

Five years later, Linda told her about the abuse again, but still her mother did nothing. When she was in her early 20s, having had counselling, Linda told her mother that she had contacted a solicitor and wanted to bring a case against Mr Bradley. Her mother responded that she would disown Linda if she did this. Linda dropped the case, a decision she regrets to this day.

She is also sure that other parents and teachers knew Mr Bradley was an abuser. One parent commented that they didn’t know how Linda’s mother could let her visit the teacher as ‘everyone knows what he’s like’. And she later found out that a senior member of staff had caught Mr Bradley abusing her sibling, but nothing had been done.

At the time of the abuse, Linda was self-harming, drinking and acting in a way that clearly indicated she was very distressed, but no one intervened. She says ‘It’s not just the secret you carry around, you carry everybody’s dirt … the abuser’s filth, your own family’s shame, the institution’s neglect.’

When Linda was 17, she told a boyfriend that her abuser ‘wasn’t very nice’ to her. Her boyfriend reacted with anger, said she didn’t have to go back, and offered to accompany her to collect her belongings. She feels that up to that point, everyone, including herself, had normalised the abuse.

She says she can remember feeling as a child that she didn’t know what would happen if she did tell someone about the abuse and they actually believed her: ‘Would I be taken away? Would I be moved away from the school? Vilified? Would he hunt me down and kill me?’

She adds that she thought ‘I could kill myself or put up with it’, and said that she made a calculated decision to accept it to save her mother’s shame.

It wasn’t until she had had a year of counselling in her early 20s that she was able to recognise that what she had experienced was abuse and began to speak out about it.

It is only in the last five years that she has begun to feel that her experience of abuse is not what defines her.

Linda strongly advocates that the Inquiry and wider society should talk about child sexual abuse more openly. She finds she feels most anger towards those who collude with abuse.

She began a Facebook group to contact other girls from her class and says that many of them were still colluding with the same minimising messages that keep child sexual abuse behind closed doors: ‘He was just a bit pervy … he wasn’t that bad.’  

She believes that there should be an independent and external counsellor or support worker permanently present in schools and social care settings for children to report to, and improved teacher training to identify the signs of potential abuse.

She would like sex education to include learning about inappropriate touching and behaviour, and children to have access to information about who they can tell and what will happen when they tell someone. This might include police officers going into school to talk about their role as protectors as well as punishers.

Linda also thinks that those who do not act when a child reports abuse should be prosecuted.

She concludes, ‘The sea-change we need will only come about through constantly talking about it, through education and information.’

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