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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

As a baby Maria was removed from her mother’s care after being found alone and neglected. Her father worked away and could not look after Maria so she was placed with her grandparents.

There she was sexually abused by a lodger and two of her uncles. Later, she bravely protected her younger sister from the same fate.

Maria’s grandparents’ house was crowded – her two uncles and two aunts lived there as well as a lodger. The lodger was the first to abuse Maria. She recalls him picking her up, pretending to play with her and becoming ‘excited’.

Her memories follow with her uncle sitting her on his knee and rubbing her back and forward on himself, also pretending he was playing with her. The abuse progressed to masturbation and the uncle forcing Maria to perform oral sex. She remembers that afterwards her grandfather would take her to the local cafe for a special sandwich and tell her she had been ‘a good girl’.

The second uncle also abused Maria, making her sit on his knee. She remembers how she never wanted to as she knew he would rub himself on her and become erect.

Maria was later returned to the care of her mother. By this time she had a baby sister and she immediately became very protective of her. Her mother went out a lot and the second uncle would babysit, continuing to abuse Maria.

On one occasion the uncle approached her younger sister and, in an attempt to protect her, Maria told her uncle that they should go upstairs. He raped Maria.

Maria says she made various attempts to tell her mother what was happening, but was told she was not remembering correctly and to stop lying. Social workers visited the family home, but her mother warned her if she said anything was wrong she would not be allowed to stay there.

She remembers one day she was crying and begging her mother not to send her to her grandparents’ house, but her mother just carried on putting her shopping away.

Maria did tell one of her teachers about the abuse and says he was kind and believed her. He passed it to the headmaster, who told Maria she was a ‘dirty little girl’ who told lies. Maria remembers feeling she was worthless and no one cared about anything that happened to her.

During her time at junior school the uncles continued to babysit for Maria and her little sister. One evening when Maria was preparing tea, her uncle approached her. She threatened him with the knife she was holding. She describes how she was shaking as she told her uncle if he did not stop she would ‘stab him and stab him’. This was the last time he tried to abuse her.

Maria has now obtained her social care records and has discovered that a year before her uncle raped her, there was an investigation and trial into his sexual abuse of her. Maria was deemed too young to be a credible witness, and he denied all charges and was not convicted.

The impact of the abuse has stayed with Maria all her life. She reflects ‘I have no idea who I was meant to be’. She describes how treats such as a spa day and massage with friends can bring back unwanted memories and reduce her to tears.

Certain music triggers anxiety in her and this scares her as she is unsure why. The first few weeks after the birth of her baby were marred with flashbacks of her abuse and the face of her uncle tormenting her.

Maria waited until her child was an adult before she reported the abuse. She says 'I knew I would tell [my daughter] when she was 18. It took all of my childhood and I didn't want it taking any of hers’. Maria is in a loving relationship now, and has a very close bond with her daughter.

She says ‘the police were brilliant’ when she reported the abuse, and the investigation is now with the force where the crimes took place. But she is worried about it going to court and retribution from her family.

She says she hasn’t told many people about the abuse as she does not want that to be ‘the first thing they see’ when they look at her.

Maria adds ‘My life is not without joy, happiness or love, but it all could have been more … if I had been believed early and someone had stepped in and helped me’.

She would like to send a message to children who are being abused that they should tell someone and ‘keep telling because at some point you will be believed’.


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