Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Nataliya

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Nataliya was born into a Traveller family and a strict upbringing barred her from mixing with non-Travellers or anyone of the opposite sex.

She was sexually abused for more than 10 years by a family member.  

Nataliya was born in the 1970s and her parents separated when she was very young. Soon after, her mother became involved with another man and had a child with him.

Her mother ran a prostitution ring, and was often out working. Nataliya was often left in the care of her stepfather. For as far back as she can remember, he sexually abused her. She explains that he groomed her and made her believe that the abuse was ‘normal’, because he ‘loved’ her. 

The abuse happened nearly every day, and involved him making her ‘do things’ to him. As she got older Nataliya tried to make excuses to avoid being alone with her stepfather, but when she did this, he would tell her mother she had been naughty. 

He also used her love of animals to control her. Nataliya describes her pets as ‘my life’, and knowing how she felt, her stepfather would threaten them, to make sure she co-operated with the abuse. When some of Nataliya’s animals died, and some went missing, he told her he had killed them. She had nightmares about these losses.

From the age of about 12, Nataliya began buying cold remedies and antihistamines to make her drowsy so she would be ‘out of it’ when her stepfather came into her bedroom. She would also take any prescription medication she could find in the house. Some days, she says, she was so affected by medication that she couldn’t get up for school. 

Nataliya explains that because her family were running a prostitution ring, she grew up familiar with the idea that sex was used ‘in exchange for things’. As she got older, she says she realised that her stepfather would allow her to go to discos if she co-operated with the abuse. 

Once, when she was about 15, Nataliya ran away and was found by a teacher. She told the teacher about the abuse she was suffering, but the teacher did not take any action and she was returned home. Nataliya now thinks that the teacher may have been afraid of possible repercussions, as Nataliya’s family were ‘well known’. 

Nataliya left home at the age of 16 and her mother disowned her. She struggled to support herself and began taking amphetamines so she could work two jobs. Because she had no time to go out, she lost her friends and her connections became limited to other people who took drugs. 

After a while, Nataliya met the man who became the father of her children. She told him she had been sexually abused as a child. She says that he ‘hounded’ her to tell him who the perpetrator was and then ‘outed’ her to her family.

Nataliya’s mother made her report the abuse to the police. Her stepfather admitted some incidents of abuse. Nataliya says the prosecution process was ‘all too much’, and the newspaper coverage meant that people in her village knew who was involved. 

She adds that while the investigation was being conducted, her younger sibling was left in the care of her stepfather and she can’t understand why this was allowed.

As a young adult Nataliya’s mental health deteriorated and she attempted suicide. She was found by a passer-by and began counselling, which she has continued at intervals over the past 30 years.  

She experiences night terrors and flashbacks. When she had children, she says she would not let them out of her sight or trust anyone around them.

Nataliya continued to abuse prescription and illegal drugs at weekends when her children were staying away. She describes behaving in a ‘shameful’ way, placing herself in dangerous situations and becoming angry and violent under the influence of substances. 

After one incident she was required to attend an anger management course and she says this was ‘a wake-up call’. She became determined to get back into employment, and succeeded in doing this through voluntary work and training.

Nataliya feels strongly that all vulnerable children, including those that have been abused, should be entitled to extra support until the age of 25. She would also like to see improvements in the handover from children’s to adult services.

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