Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Soraya

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Soraya, who grew up as a boy, describes a deprived and abusive childhood in a home where there was no emotional warmth. She was also sexually abused by a stranger.

She has constructive views on how children could be better protected and supported, and also on the role of the Truth Project.

Soraya and her mother were regularly subjected to domestic violence by Soraya’s stepfather, who was a heavy drinker. Soraya was also psychologically and emotionally abused by this man. The family lived in poverty and she was often malnourished and inadequately clothed.

It was against this very troubled background that Soraya was sexually abused by a stranger. She recalls that when she was about 12 she was out with two friends enjoying a bike ride in the woods, when a man engaged them in conversation and asked if they knew of any prostitutes.

He exposed himself to Soraya and her friends and masturbated in front of them. Her friends rode off and Soraya was left alone with the man, who then sexually assaulted her. The assault included oral sex and anal rape. He threatened that if Soraya told anyone about the incident she would be in a great deal of trouble and indicated he would harm her.

Soraya says this incident, added to her difficult home life, left her distressed, terrified and extremely vulnerable.

When she reached adulthood, Soraya realised that she had struggled with gender identity for as long as she could remember and took the decision to undertake gender reassignment therapy. She is clear that she made this decision freely and it was not connected to the sexual assault and rape. 

Reflecting on her early experiences, Soraya feels disappointed that despite the regular beatings she endured, having insufficient food and inadequate clothing, and being traumatised by a sexual assault, her circumstances were not noticed by any teachers or health care professionals.

She adds that because of her humble origins and the fact that her family were poor and had significant difficulties, her teachers were less interested in encouraging her to achieve academically and to be the best that she could be.

Soraya feels strongly that teachers should be more vigilant and should be encouraged to ask questions when any child presents with difficult behaviour or performs poorly in school. They should also have aspirations for all children regardless of background.

She realises that she has always suffered from very low self-esteem, has difficulties trusting people and sustaining relationships and internalises all strong emotions.

She advocates that mental health services should be available to people before they reach a crisis point, and that having available therapies to enable children and adults to talk about abuse or their fears and problems is an essential part of a comprehensive health service.

Providing there is a clear protocol and adequate safeguards to protect children, Soraya considers that social media can, in the right circumstances, be used in a positive way to inform and protect children.

Soraya explains that she thinks the Truth Project is unique and very important for the way it encourages participants who have suffered abuse to come forward and share their experiences. She sees it as a vehicle for positive change, in both preventing child abuse and making children safer. She feels by taking part she has been given an opportunity to help make children safer in the future.

Your privacy

There are very limited circumstances where we tell anyone your name without your consent, for example if a child is currently at risk and we need to tell the police.