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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Olga was sexually abused by her father, and by a senior Catholic priest. 

Her family lived in difficult circumstances and she says the priest was aware of this and took advantage of it to abuse her.

Olga grew up in a deprived family in a poor neighbourhood. Her family were Irish Catholics living in the UK. She remembers being in church and seeing the money on the collection plate, while she was going hungry.

One of her younger siblings died, and she says her parents never recovered from this loss.  

Her father sexually abused her for 12 years, from when she was six until she was 18 years old. She recalls going to confession when she was young and describing herself as a child who looked for men. 

She is sure that her mother knew about the abuse ‘on some level’ but she was not able to protect or support her daughter. 

When Olga was preparing for her first holy communion, she was sexually abused by a priest. She emphasises what an important time this was for her religious family, and how much power and status the priests had in their community. 

She comments that being abused by a priest ‘was like being abused by God … where could you go?’ 

At school, Olga began to show signs of distress. She often fainted, soiled herself, and had frequent severe headaches. Only one member of staff treated Olga with compassion – a support worker who would clean her up after she had an accident.

She did not speak about the abuse. She says it would have been impossible for her to say what was happening to her. ‘This stuff is unspeakable.’

As an adult Olga suffered mental health problems and began to piece together memories of the abuse. She approached the Catholic Church, and was advised to report the abuse to the police. She did this, but the Crown Prosecution Service did not take the case forward and did not keep her informed about this.

Olga has experienced PTSD and had suicidal thoughts. She has struggled with addiction, and has difficulties with sex, intimacy and friendships. She says ‘What was damaged completely was my capacity to love’. Her first marriage broke down even though she says ‘he was in it for the long haul’. 

She believes that being part of a closed, religious, migrant community made her vulnerable as a child. She feels the barriers to these sorts of communities – whatever the religion – need to be overcome to protect the children within them.

She would like to see early intervention for people who abuse children as well as for potential victims of child sexual abuse.

Olga now works with vulnerable people. 

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