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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Nicky grew up in the 1970s in conditions of squalor and neglect. She was sexually abused throughout her childhood into her teenage years by several perpetrators.

She also relates a catalogue of indifference and failures by social services and the police. 

Nicky lived in a major city with her mother and three siblings. Her father died when she was small. Nicky has recently seen paperwork that reveals the extent of social services involvement with the family. She says her mother was known to be ‘difficult to deal with’. She thinks this is possibly why the family were left ‘to get on with things’ without much intervention. 

She described the conditions in which she was brought up as ‘horrific’ and says her mother frequently had different boyfriends in the house. One of these men sexually abused both her and her sister. Her sister was removed from the family home by social services, as were her other siblings at different times, but Nicky was not.

Her mother neglected her throughout her childhood, and she was left vulnerable to many sexual predators, most of them known to her mother. When she was about seven years old, a council caretaker raped her, and a man who ran a local off-licence molested her. 

Other male friends of her mother’s were sexually, physically and emotionally abusive to her, as was the man that her mother went on to marry. When that relationship broke down, Nicky’s mother blamed her and kicked her out of the house; Nicky remembers being petrified that she might have to live with the husband.

By this time she was in her early teens, and her mother got another boyfriend who groomed Nicky and began to have sex with her. On one occasion, the police found her at his house. She was under age, but the police showed no interest in her welfare. She was harshly treated and given a medical examination at a police station, but no further action was taken.

After this incident, Nicky says she was ‘begging’ to go into care as her siblings had, but she was ignored. It is clear that social services knew what had happened because it is recorded in the papers. 

Nicky describes her desperation. She was truanting from school and getting drunk. She wandered the streets alone at night, was preyed on by men, picked up by the police and on one occasion strip-searched. She was told that social services weren’t open and was made to go home.

Some time later, her sister found her a place to stay where for the first time, she experienced some kindness. She moved from there to a squat, and was eventually placed into voluntary care.

Having seen her records Nicky feels she was the victim of a catalogue of failures by social services. Comments made in the reports show that social services knew the extent of what was happening. 

These include: ‘Sexual interference runs through the family like Brighton through a stick of rock ... All children have been sexually interfered with at one time or another … I get the impression that there is sexual rivalry between mum and her daughters … the children seem to be willing participants’.

She knows that when she was 11, her school sent some questioning letters about her situation, but no action appears to have been taken. They also failed to act on signs that she was being abused. During a sex education lesson a teacher remarked that Nicky ‘seemed to know what she was doing’. 

In November 2017 Nicky made a complaint to the police about the sexual abuse. The police interviewed one perpetrator but he would not make any comment and the investigation did not proceed any further.   

The horrific experiences of her young years have caused serious damage to Nicky. She has been diagnosed with mental health disorders, she suffers from extreme anxiety and is unable to work. 

Nicky says it is vital to listen to children ‘even if they are defiant and even if they are not saying anything … look behind behaviours and see what the reasons are for that behaviour’.

She has children but has brought them up alone as her relationships have failed. She has had treatment for her mental health issues. 


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