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Experiences Shared

Ophelia

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Ophelia was sexually abused and made pregnant by one of her mother’s partners.

Her mother allowed several men, including a family member, to abuse her.

Ophelia's alcoholic father died when she was nine years old, and after that her mother had several partners.

One of them, Mark, immediately began paying her attention and giving her presents. He started sexually abusing and raping her and she says that when she was about nine to 10 years old, she would go into school and tell friends that she’d ‘had sex’ the previous night. She remembers they were ‘intrigued’. 

Ophelia’s mother sent her to Mark’s flat on her way to school, where he would abuse her. He would then make threats so she wouldn’t tell anyone. Ophelia says that at the time, this seemed ‘normal’ to her. 

While this was going on, her mother would sometimes bring other men home and allow them to rape her daughter. Ophelia says that both her mother and Mark took photos and videos of her being abused, and she is constantly worried about where these images are. 

Sometimes a relative of Ophelia’s was present when she was being sexually abused, and he also regularly abused her.

One day in school Ophelia went to see the nurse because she was feeling unwell. The nurse did a pregnancy test on her, which was positive. In her mid teens, she was four months pregnant.

The nurse insisted she tell her mother, who beat Ophelia so badly she had a miscarriage. Her mother later told the school that Ophelia had had an abortion.

Ophelia says she became very depressed after this. Her school attendance became erratic, she left home and went to live with a friend. She suffered with nightmares and flashbacks and couldn’t sleep. After falling asleep in a lesson, a teacher asked her what was wrong and Ophelia disclosed the abuse.

Social services and the police became involved, and Mark was arrested. He was restricted from having any contact with her, but was not charged. The social worker assigned to her case only stayed in touch for a few weeks. After that she had no further support. 

For a time she slept rough, and ‘sofa-surfed’ until she found a job.

She has a strong impression that her mother encouraged and even enjoyed seeing her being sexually abused. She has memories of this happening with her father. 

One impact of the abuse is that she has an irrational fear about the safety of her child, and does not like anyone, including medical professionals, going near them. She also has a fear of cameras and does not want her child to be photographed. 

Ophelia feels she was let down by authorities that should have helped her. No medical evidence was taken regarding her pregnancy, which could have proved who the father was and confirmed her account of the abuse. She feels that victims and survivors should receive support, especially if they are forced to leave the family home, through no fault of their own. 

She does not have any contact with her mother, but she says she is in a good relationship with her partner.

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