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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Hospitalised at the age of 11 years because of an assault by her mother, Lucy was taken into care and placed with a foster family. There, she was raped repeatedly by a violent man and his two teenage sons.

Lucy’s attempts to seek justice have not succeeded and she has suffered severe mental health difficulties. Despite this, she has managed to build strong and happy relationships with her family and loved ones.

Mr and Mrs Ambridge, the foster carers, had two teenage sons, David and Stephen, and also fostered several other children, some of them very young.

Mrs Ambridge insisted Lucy call her and her husband ‘mum and dad’, which made Lucy uncomfortable. Lucy remembers that in all the time she lived there she never once heard any babies crying or younger children moving during the night and she thinks it is likely they were drugged to make them sleep.

Soon after she moved in, Mr Ambridge and both his sons began sexually abusing Lucy. The three of them raped and sexually abused her every week for a year, and she was given money each time it happened.

One day David hurt her even more than usual and Mr Ambridge beat him as punishment. He made Lucy watch, asking her how much he should hit David. She was very distressed by this.

When another girl, Brenda, came to the foster home for a short stay, Lucy told her about the sexual abuse, hoping she might report it when she left, but Brenda didn’t believe her. One night, Brenda was upset and withdrawn, and did not talk to Lucy for the rest of her stay.

Lucy had a social worker, Mrs Brown, who regularly took her for hospital appointments for a medical condition. Lucy tried to tell Mrs Brown about the sexual abuse, but says she was unable to find the words, and the social worker did not seem interested.

On the day that Mrs Brown was returning Lucy to her mother, Lucy finally told her what had been happening. She remembers being taken to a clinic and told to undress to her underwear. No examination took place and she was simply returned to her mother’s home.

Her attempt to talk to her mother about the sexual abuse resulted in Lucy being called a liar. Her mother also beat her severely. Lucy went to bed that night and resolved to try and block her experiences out of her mind. For many years she would not allow herself to think about her terrible childhood sexual abuse, until physical and mental health problems caused her to suffer a breakdown.

Feeling suicidal, she went to hospital, where she saw a psychiatrist and began counselling. As she became more able to talk about her past, she reported the sexual abuse to the police. She gave a statement and was reassured by the officer that the case would go to court and she would have the chance to face her one remaining abuser, David.

By that time Mr Ambridge and Stephen had both died. In a voluntary police interview, David denied even knowing Lucy. She persuaded the police to seek other potential victims, and several others came forward who had been fostered by Mr and Mrs Ambridge.

They reported physical but not sexual abuse. Lucy continued to chase the police about her case, which had been passed to another officer who she found to be cold, rude and dismissive. When she expressed concerns about the delays, the officer showed sympathy for David and the impact it would be having on him.

She was eventually told it would not be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. She felt upset that the police had not followed up several leads she had given them, and particularly angry to see in the media that police resources were being put into investigating high-profile allegations of child sexual abuse.

Lucy says she feels she has had a good adult life but there have also been difficulties for her family caused by her health conditions, her struggle to deal with the trauma of recalling the sexual abuse as a child and the response by the police.

She found it particularly difficult to tell her adult children about her past experiences. She describes a feeling of loss of trust and faith. She feels she and others suffering similarly have not been appropriately helped, and that more prompt support and counselling should be available.

Her counselling and group therapy have been helpful, but inflexibility and waiting lists have caused long delays. Despite this, Lucy highlights another positive in her life. She says she has been very well supported by her victim support officer who has helped her make a formal complaint to the police and prepare for her contact with the Inquiry.

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