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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

The sexual abuse that Samantha endured as a child has had a devasting effect on her mental and physical health.

However, she still feels that her experience was ‘minor’ in comparison to others she has heard about.

Samantha grew up in the 1960s with her mother and a man she thought was her father, but was in fact her stepfather. There were lots of extended family members around. She describes feeling ‘special and loved’ and says she was confident and outgoing.

She doesn’t know exactly how old she was when her step-grandfather began sexually abusing her, but knows she was very young. She remembers him following her around, even to the toilet. He made her hold his penis and also recalls an occasion when she was on top of him, and feeling that ‘it was not good’. He told her not to tell the police as she would get in trouble. 

When she was about eight years old, she began to think that what he was doing to her was wrong. She remembers an occasion when she was sitting on his lap and he was touching her. Her step-grandmother walked past and he threw Samantha on the floor away from him.  

Samantha remembers that her step-grandmother would look at her ‘funny, as if she knew’. She also remembers feeling it was her fault and she would be blamed, so she started trying to avoid her step-grandfather.

Around this time she discovered that her stepfather was not her biological father. She was very upset by this, and began to get night terrors and was often ill. She started to feel that she hated him because he didn’t protect her and he favoured her siblings. She began misbehaving and would often get ‘a hiding’ from him.

Samantha says she did well at certain subjects in school, but also that she ‘fell in love’ easily and when boys didn’t reciprocate, she felt they knew what had happened to her. 

When she left school she got a job in a salon. At first she loved it, but being surrounded by mirrors began to affect her, and she developed an eating disorder. She remembers feeling she hated her body.

At the age of 15 Samantha started going to clubs. She met a man of about 20, went back to his house with him, where he anally raped her. She thought this was her fault and she didn’t tell anyone about it as she didn’t think she would be believed.

However, when she was in her late teens she told her parents what her step-grandfather had done to her, and they believed her straight away. Her stepfather was very upset. She learned that her step-grandfather ‘had a reputation’ and ‘women would not go near him’, and also that he had been violent towards her stepfather when he was growing up. However, no one did or said anything about the sexual abuse she had reported.

One member of her family did not believe her and said that ‘poorly people often make things up’ and this really upset her.

She continued to suffer with an eating disorder and developed a condition that required surgery, but has persisted for the rest of her adult life. 

Samantha says she has always struggled with relationships and feels she has a better time when she is away from everyone. She says she has ‘sat in the house for seven years’. She suffers from body dysmorphia, and hoards things. 

Samantha recognises that her illnesses are a result of her abuse. She believes that there were many opportunities that were missed by professionals, including teachers and doctors, to pick up on the problems she went through. She thinks professionals should be taught to recognise the signs of possible abuse, and ask the right questions.

She has received some therapy, but it did not help because she felt the therapist was not listening to her. She has a strong religious faith.

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