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Experiences Shared

Nell

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

A neighbour in his 40s started sexually abusing Nell when she was about eight years old. 

When Nell tried to talk about what was happening, her mother said she was copying a storyline from a television soap opera.

Stuart was the son of an elderly lady who lived next door to Nell. He was a teacher and the first time he abused her was in his house, where she had gone for private tuition. He started kissing her, and she remembers feeling that ‘it wasn’t right’, so she called out to her mother that she was ready to go home.

But Stuart continued abusing her over the next few years. She says he did ‘everything except sex’. He took advantage of the fact that her mother was an alcoholic, and would come to the house and ply her with drink so he could abuse Nell in another room. 

When she was about 11 years old, Nell told a teacher at her school what was happening to her. The teacher told her to tell her mother but nothing was done. Later, Nell overheard her mother telling someone that Nell was copying something she had seen on television.

Nell was in her early teens before she confided in anyone else about the abuse. She spoke to another teacher and again, she was advised to tell her parents. This time she spoke to her father about it and he involved the police.

An investigation took place, followed by a court case. Nell says she had a positive experience with the police but the court case was distressing. She felt terrified at times, and the cross-examination by Stuart’s lawyer made her feel ‘dirty and disbelieved’.

Nell feels she was ‘badly let down’ by her school. No one questioned why her grades had dropped or why she had started missing school. After the court case one teacher tried to help her, but ‘didn’t really know how to broach it’ with her. 

She failed her GSCEs and left school in her mid teens feeling a great deal of shame. She lost all her confidence and struggled at college, and feels that she had a bright future taken away. 

Her parents separated and she feels this was a result of the court case. Nell left the area and now has a partner and children. But she says, she finds sex difficult, frequently feels ‘on edge’ and vulnerable, and has had suicidal thoughts. 

Nell believes that sex education should be designed to ensure children feel comfortable talking about parts of their body without shame or embarrassment. She says professionals should be taught how to support children who have been abused, knowing ‘just to listen’ sometimes. 

She thinks it is helpful for victims and survivors to talk to other people who have had similar experiences.
 

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