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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Lorna’s father was a serviceman and the family moved frequently around different army bases. 

She felt lonely and isolated as a child, and this made her vulnerable to sexual abuse by a neighbour who was also in the army.

Lorna was born in the late 1950s. Because the family had to keep moving, she attended more than a dozen different primary schools.

The army paid for the children of servicemen to attend boarding school when they were about 11 years old. Lorna’s siblings were quite a bit older than her, and by the time she was five, she was the only child at home. She remembers feeling quite isolated by this. 

When she was about eight years old, a neighbour, Mr A, retrieved and mended one of Lorna’s broken toys that her mother had thrown out. Lorna was told to go round to his house to thank him. 

At this point Mr A started grooming the little girl, playing games with her and tickling her. Over time, Lorna says, this progressed to ‘all sorts of things that were just horrible’, including oral sex and penetration. The abuse continued over a long period of time but she doesn't know exactly how long. Lorna recalls that sometimes another girl who was also a neighbour was in the house too. 

Lorna began to wet the bed, and remembers overhearing her mother saying how strange this was because she hadn’t done this since she was a small child. She wrote poems about how lonely and scared she was, and became a fantasist and told lies at school. She also suffered with severe stomach pains when she felt anxious.

She vividly recalls one day when she was in Mr A’s house, and his wife came home. Lorna says she ‘went mad, saying, “not again, you promised me it wouldn’t happen again”’. Mr A’s wife then turned to Lorna, and told her she wasn’t to tell anybody, otherwise they would think she was ‘dirty’.

Lorna explains that this threat was effective. She was very afraid of her father, who took the view ‘children should be seen and not heard’. She believes that because he was unable to show her affection, she was vulnerable to abuse by a man who seemed to care enough about her to mend her toys.

Lorna’s mother did once ask her if anything had happened with Mr A, after the other girl’s father came to speak to the family about Mr A. Lorna was too scared to talk about the abuse, but she was very relieved when her mother told her she wasn’t to go to Mr A’s house again.  

Soon after this Lorna’s father left the army and the family moved away. 

She is clear that she now understands that the abuse was not her fault, but it has had a profound impact on her adult life. She says that she became promiscuous, often having sex when she didn't really want to.  

Later, she found sex in her marrage difficult. She remembers having an extreme reaction to the smell of alcohol on her husband’s breath. When her child reached the age that she was when the abuse began, Lorna says that memories came back to her and ‘things started to fall into place’. 

At this stage, Lorna became hyper-vigilant with her children when men were present. She felt that her husband was very supportive, but trust was a big issue for her and their marriage did not survive. She has never told her mother about the abuse as she feels she is not ‘strong enough to take it’.

Lorna is convinced that Mr A’s wife knew he was an abuser, and she wonders if the army did too. She has contacted them to see if they can help answer her questions. 

She now has a professional career working with children and she says that her experiences have helped her to support youngsters in difficult situations.

She would like parents and school staff to be better educated and trained to recognise behaviours and subtle signs of abused children. She also thinks that schools should be particularly alert with children who often move schools, and that counselling and support services should be more easily accessible.

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