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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Neve was the youngest sibling in a large family and she describes an atmosphere of ‘loyalty, sharing and looking after each other’ during her childhood in the 1960s and 70s.

But sexual abuse by an in-law, inflicted on her as a young girl, and later another family member, has taken its toll on close family bonds. It has also left Neve feeling guilty that she should have done more to stop the abuser.

When Neve’s older sister married, Neve was only about 10 years old. She remembers that when her sister started going out with her husband a few years previously, he made her feel uncomfortable. She wasn’t sure why, but looking back, she says ‘I can see that over the years he did things that I would now describe as grooming’.

After the couple got married, Neve would sometimes stay at their house. One night, when she was sleeping on the sofa, he came downstairs and indecently exposed himself to her. She turned away and after a while, he left the room. She was only in her early teens.  

At the time, the only person she told was one of her brothers, who advised her not to risk ruining her sister’s marriage by saying anything. 

She says ‘I was close to all my older brothers and took what they said then as ok.’

A couple of years later, another relative – an adult – said that her sister’s husband had exposed himself to her. Neve says there was doubt in the family about who to believe. At this time her sister asked her if anything had happened to her, but Neve said no. 

Several members of Neve’s family moved to another location in the following years, including her sister and her husband. One day, when Neve was preparing to travel to visit her sister with her young child, she received a call from one of her brothers. He wanted to warn her that his daughter had been sexually abused by their sister’s husband, when she was a young girl. They agreed that their sister should be told about this.

Neve says of her ordeal ‘I understand it may be minor compared to what other people experience, but it shows how even minor things can have a long term effect’.

Neve feels she has found long-term relationships difficult and sometimes made ‘foolish’ choices.

Her overriding concern is for her niece. Although Neve was so young when her brother-in-law sexually abused her, she is troubled by feelings of guilt that she should have done more to try and stop him offending again. She also worries about the impact the abuse may have had on her niece and whether she has had any support.

But she adds, ‘I feel ok. My child is great and I have good relationships with some family members.’

She has a professional career and has applied her knowledge and experience to form recommendations concerning child sexual abuse.

Neve says ‘I think it can get fudged in discussions that the perpetrators are almost always men’.

She believes that while the response to victims is important ‘until we sort out our response to perpetrators it won’t stop’. She recommends there should be more research into why men are motivated to put in the effort, over many years, to groom children for abuse.

She would also like to see stronger punitive measures, checks on men travelling abroad for ‘sex tourism’ and work to limit access to pornography and prostitutes.


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