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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Lynda was fostered, along with her sister, when she was a toddler. After a series of placements, the girls were permanently placed with a couple who had their own child and another young boy who was also fostered.

By this time Lynda was four and her sister a few years older. Lynda remembers there was ‘no love in that house whatsoever’ and describes her foster father, Robert, as ‘not a very nice person’.

The sisters shared a bed together in their new home. Soon after they arrived, Robert began coming into their bedroom at night. He would make Lynda sit at the corner of the bed while he sexually abused her sister. Lynda says this continued over the years and, when she was eight years old, he began to abuse her as well. 

Robert’s wife would visit her family at weekends, taking her child and the fostered boy with her, leaving the sisters in the sole care of Robert. Lynda is convinced that her foster mother ‘must have known what was going on’. She remembers telling her about having sore genitals, but nothing was ever done.

A social worker visited the foster home every six weeks. Lynda’s birth mother – who she remembers as ‘a posh lady’ – also came every six months to take the sisters shopping.

But Lynda says they never considered disclosing what was happening to them. Robert would threaten them and tell them that they would not be believed and that he would end up in prison. Lynda and her sister were never allowed to visit other people’s houses and she says they ‘had no idea about what was normal’.

As her sister got older, Robert stopped sexually abusing her and started beating her. He also regularly beat the young boy who was fostered with the family. When Lynda was 11 she reported bruising on her sister to a teacher, caused by their foster mother hitting her, but the teacher did not investigate.

Lynda says there were other signs that all was not well with the sisters that should have been apparent at school. Her sister developed a speech problem and Lynda remembers ‘making funny noises’, tapping things and pulling out her eyelashes. She began ‘passing out’ a lot at school and was tested for epilepsy. But nobody picked up on these potential signs of trauma, and she still passes out when she experiences pain today.

When Lynda was in her early 20s and expecting her first child, she heard that Robert was planning to adopt a child. She contacted social services and told them what had happened to her and her sister. The adoption did not go ahead but Lynda does not think social services investigated her report further or referred it to the police.

She did hear that at some point, the police had ‘warned’ Robert over an incident with a neighbour’s child.

Many years later Lynda wrote to a senior member of staff at the local authority to disclose her experiences. The reply offered apologies and recommended that she report the abuse to the police. But Robert had recently died, and she thought there would be no point in doing this.

Lynda says her main concern was that institutions responsible for the care of children should ‘learn from their mistakes’.

Several years later, after a non-recent sexual abuse case involving a high-profile individual received publicity, Lynda felt encouraged to write to the government about her experiences. Again, her hope was that lessons could be learned from previous failings.

Lynda also reported the abuse to the police by telephone and was contacted several days later by a detective who she ‘strongly feels’ did not want her to proceed with her report. When the detective asked her why she had not reported the abuse to the police earlier, she felt guilt that she may be responsible for the abuse of Robert’s neighbour’s child.

After this Lynda was contacted by a female police constable, and again felt that the officer did not want her to report the abuse formally. The officer asked what Lynda wanted to achieve by reporting the abuse.

Lynda describes how the experience of reporting left her feeling ‘abused all over again and led to three years of hell’. Her PTSD spiralled, she lost three stone in weight and seriously considered suicide several times.

She says her sister has also been seriously affected by the abuse: she has been sectioned under the mental health act twice and has made serious attempts on her own life.

Today, Lynda says, she feels better. She is working with a ‘good counsellor’, is in a strong marriage and has stopped taking prescribed medication.

She has made a complaint about her treatment by the police to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now the Independent Office for Police Conduct).

Lynda believes that there should be a ministry for the child. She also believes that the police should be more open to criticism in terms of their investigations and the IOPC should look to restructure and take all complaints away from the police.

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