Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Melissa

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Melissa was born in the early 1970s. She grew up in a deprived area that she describes as ‘rife with criminal behaviour’.

She endured a childhood and adolescence of chaos, neglect, violence and sexual abuse, but was determined that her son would have a better experience.

Melissa’s father was seriously ill and her mother was physically violent and neglected her. The family lived in squats and had little money.

When Melissa was 18 months old she was taken to live with a foster family who lived nearby. The arrangement was recorded as ‘informal fostering’ and social care did not visit nor monitor the situation.  

The foster parents were significantly deprived and also violent. Melissa was neglected and rarely had enough to eat; she remembers scavenging in bins for food and being fed by representatives of the local church.

When she was still a very young child, Melissa’s foster father began getting into bed with her and sexually abusing her. Melissa was anally and orally raped and forced to engage in bestiality by him. Melissa adds that he was an alcoholic and a renowned local criminal and he allowed other family members and men in the local community to sexually abuse Melissa, sometimes in exchange for alcohol and money.  

The mistress and wife of Melissa’s foster father also sexually abused her. Melissa’s foster mother blamed her for the abuse, claiming Melissa had taken her husband away from her.

 

Melissa can remember calling the police several times, from the age of about six, when serious domestic violence was occurring in the house. But she says they never did anything and by the time she went to secondary school she had ‘all but given up trying to ask them for help’.

She says there must have been obvious signs that something was very wrong at home but none of Melissa’s teachers at school did anything about it. She felt there was no one looking out for her and because she had been abused from such a young age, she knew no other life than violence and abuse. She reflects: The signs were all there, but nobody picked it up ... nobody picked it up.’

Between the ages of 12 and 15, Melissa went to see two different GPs. She asked one for pregnancy tests and told the second one about the sexual abuse she was enduring. But neither of them took any interest in why she thought she might be pregnant and what she told them about her home life. The second doctor tore up the notes he made in front of her and told her to stop telling lies.

By the time Melissa was 15 years old, Childline had been founded and she called them to disclose what was happening to her. Social services and the police got involved but she says they were ‘aggressive, judgmental and disbelieving’ of what she told them.

However, Melissa’s foster father was convicted of abusing her and he was sent to prison. His sentence was reduced because he pleaded guilty and he served less than three years.

After the disclosure Melissa returned to live with her birth mother briefly. Her mother’s living circumstances had improved by then and she describes how difficult she found it to adapt to everyday essentials and ‘luxuries’ she’d never had before a clean duvet, a full meal, even a toothbrush. However, here she was subjected to more physical and sexual abuse and she did not stay long.

Melissa’s turbulent life continued throughout her teenage years and early adulthood.

She left school with no qualifications and says she carried so much anger about the abuse and the way she had been treated that she had no trust in people in authority. She engaged in criminal behaviour, took drugs and lived a dangerous life. She says having never experienced a ‘proper home’ she was unable to settle and moved around a lot.

When she was 18 years old Melissa had a child. She loves her son but with no positive experiences of parenting, she says she had nothing to learn from. She describes how watching her child play and behaving ‘so innocently’ brought home to her how different her own childhood had been.

She was devastated when her son was placed on the child protection register because it was said there was a possibility she would abuse him, due to her own childhood experiences.

However, she has a good relationship with her son she takes pride in having always been open and honest with him. She has brought him up to understand about abuse and that he should feel able to talk about any worries or concerns.

Melissa has also achieved a successful career, having returned to education as an adult. She finds writing a good therapy to help with her mental health and healing.

She feels that her resilience has enabled her to survive and come to terms with the abuse, but she finds it much harder that she is labelled and stigmatised as a result of it. She reflects: ‘I am what I am despite it, not because of it’.

She believes that because in the past she did not receive validation from the police, social services or others for the abuse she suffered that she now constantly seeks self-validation.

A few years ago, Melissa went to the police again, to make a full disclosure of all the abuse she had experienced. This time, she says, she was treated well and it was a very different experience to reporting back in the late 1980s.

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