Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Rhonda

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Rhonda went to the local comprehensive school in a relatively affluent, middle-class area. Shortly after she began attending one-to-one lessons with a peripatetic music teacher, he began sexually abusing her.

She managed to report the abuse after two years. Although she was believed, the music teacher forcefully defended himself, and was allowed to continue teaching at the school, and abusing more girls.

Rhonda was about 11 years old and just beginning to develop physically when the music teacher, Mr A, started touching her inappropriately. This continued over the next couple of years, with his behaviour becoming worse.

Rhonda says she recognised it was abusive and wanted it to stop but was not sure what to do about it. One of her parents worked at the school, and she says she was ‘a perfect pupil’ who always tried very hard to do well and never skipped classes.  

When her younger sister arrived at the school and began lessons with the same music teacher, he abused her too. Rhonda says that she and her sister talked about it, but they ‘didn’t want to cause a fuss’ by telling anyone, so they decided to stop going to the music lessons.

But Mr A asked their parent at the school why the girls were not attending his lessons, and Rhonda and her sister had to tell their mum and dad what had been happening.

Their parent who worked at the school told the headteacher, who spoke to the music teacher telling him what the girls had said. Mr A was defiant, declaring they could ‘say what they liked’ about him and take him to court, where they would be made to stand up and prove what they were saying.

Rhonda’s parents asked their daughters what they wanted to do. Rhonda says that as a young teenage girl, she felt enormous responsibility to make a decision. She remembers she was horrified at the thought of having to go to court after the threatening way Mr A had spoken, and she told her parents she didn’t want to pursue the matter.

She recalls ‘it felt like he completely dominated how it was dealt with’, adding that she never had a voice in what happened about the abuse. She knows that her parents believed her, but says ‘there was no response in any way that made me genuinely believe it was being taken seriously’.

The matter was never talked about again. Rhonda says ‘It was a very middle class area … it was all just brushed under the carpet; it was just too difficult to deal with’.

Mr A continued to teach children one-to-one at the school. Rhonda says he was regarded as a ‘creepy man’ around the school and she understood from friends of her sister that he was touching them too.

Her parent continued to work at the school and she recognises how difficult that must have been for them, seeing the abuser regularly, knowing what he had done.

Rhonda says that coming to the Truth Project has helped her and her husband to understand the abuse and the effect it has had on her life. She blames herself for not doing more to stop the abuse, saying ‘I feel so guilty about not stopping it. I know I was a child and I didn’t have the responsibility, but I feel guilty’.

For years she did not tell her husband about the abuse  as she did not want the experience to dominate her marriage. She feels that in a way it has defined who she is.  She says it has changed the way she feels about men in authority and about how men might want to use her body.

Rhonda has young daughters and she is fearful of risks to them. She says ‘I’m scared because I have girls. I find it hard to keep perspective on the chances that it will happen to them’.

She realises that her experiences may be part of a much wider picture of abuse by the music teacher and is prepared to be part of any future action if others have made allegations against him.

Rhonda is keen for her experience to contribute to improvements to protect other children in future, emphasising that institutions and organisations must follow necessary procedures when abuse occurs.

She believes that if a child reports abuse to an organisation, the police should be contacted and the child should be spoken to before the perpetrator. She feels that children should have a voice in the investigation process and how it will be handled.

She also considers there needs to be a formal process to review the contact an individual has with children after allegations of abuse have been disclosed. They should not be able to work with children in one-to-one situations.

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