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Experiences Shared

Silvia

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Silvia grew up as a vulnerable child and she feels this made her a target for a series of sexual abusers.

She has used her experiences to contribute to work to support other victims and survivors.

Silvia’s first recollection of sexual abuse involves an uncle, who would make her ‘do things’ with her cousins when she was a very young child. She was also subjected to sexual abuse by a teacher. 

A few years later, Silvia spent time in a children’s home. There, older boys coerced her into crime, such as stealing and carrying drugs, and sexually abused her. She thought that one of them was her boyfriend but she found herself being passed around boys and men and being abused. When she was in her early teens, she attended a summer holiday camp where she was raped.

Silvia says that she was labelled a ‘problem child’ and an ‘attention seeker’ and she believes this is why no one responsible for her care helped her. 

Silvia’s mental and physical health has suffered as a result of the abuse she was subjected to. She has been homeless and has misused prescription drugs.

She has had mixed experiences with the police, but most of them have not been positive. She does remember one good example that made her feel validated, when a police officer told her ‘It does not matter what you were wearing … there is never an excuse for rape’. 

However, Sylvia adds, more than once her past has been used against her in court, and she feels that the justice system is tipped in favour of offenders.

Silvia believes that there should be comprehensive assessments of the needs of victims and survivors, including housing, mental health and legal support. 

She would like to see more ‘safe spaces’ available for adolescents to come forward and better funding for support organisations for victims and survivors of abuse, as well as easily accessible information about these organisations. 

Silvia is involved in work to support young people so they understand about abuse; she also contributes to academic projects on child trafficking and helps victim support organisations. 

She has received long-term support from a specialist trauma team and she considers herself very lucky to have this. 

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