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Experiences Shared

Reagan

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Reagan was abused by her mother’s partner nearly every day for three years.

She feels very let down by the way this was handled by police and social services.

Reagan describes her mother’s boyfriend Edward as a violent, destructive drug user who frightened her, her sister and her mother. He was addicted to several types of drugs, and spent most of the family income on them. He took both the girls on ‘drug runs’.

Edward began sexually abusing Reagan when she was about eight. She remembers him lying on the sofa asking her to ‘have a cuddle’. He kissed her and touched her vagina when she was in the shower, saying he was helping her wash. She says she was confused by this as ‘mum never did that’.

He also made her touch him, and if she didn’t want to he would lose his temper and ‘take it out on everyone in the house’. This made her feel she should have ‘just done it’. 

He took indecent photographs of her, saying that he was helping her to be a model. She says that looking back, this emotional manipulation really upsets her, because she trusted Edward as a dad. 

Reagan told her mother one day what Edward was doing, but then panicked and begged her not to confront him. But she later saw Edward crying and telling her mother ‘I was just being affectionate and helping her get dressed’. She adds that at the young age she was, she didn’t really understand that what Edward was doing to her was ‘bad’.

He continued abusing her every day. She remembers a lot of arguments between him and her mother. 

When she was about 12, a lesson at school dealt with the topic of child sexual abuse. This made Reagan cry and she told a friend what Edward was doing. The friend insisted that Reagan tell her mum, and she did.

Her mother made Edward leave the family home. Reagan says she felt very guilty about this and still felt unsure about how ‘dads were supposed to behave’. 

Reagan’s mother reported Edward to the police, and she later learned that a teacher who had seen her crying after the lesson had told a social worker in school. She was interviewed by the police but it was decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Edward. Reagan found this extremely difficult to accept. 

A court order was made to keep Edward away from the family but he constantly breached this and was arrested several times. 

Reagan became severely depressed. She was given medication and counselling but she did not find this helpful as she ‘felt forced to talk’ when she was not ready to. 

When she was a teenager, she took an overdose and was placed on a psychiatric ward. She missed a lot of college because of this. 

Later she had psychotherapy which she did find beneficial, and was able to return to college and find work.

Reagan says it is vital to offer the right kind of psychological support to victims and survivors, and not try and force them to talk. She would also like to see more awareness-raising for school staff to recognise children who could be suffering abuse.

She describes herself as ‘emotionally scarred’ and is still on medication. She is very troubled by the thought that Edward has access to other children and she can’t tolerate any boyfriends her mother has. She says she has ‘a thing about men … always will have’.

She also feels angry about the criminal justice system and the fact that social services did not help her family. 

However, she feels that she is resilient and has ‘bounced back’ from her experiences.

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