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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Tracey-Ann describes a childhood of “abject terror”, with sexual abuse and domestic violence. Her earliest memory is being abused by her babysitter who later became her stepfather.

She describes how she and her siblings were terrorised by their stepfather. He would wait until they were asleep, then drag them from their beds while wearing a mask. 

On other occasions he would force Tracey-Ann to watch horror movies and then mask her mouth and eyes. She now believes her stepfather got a sexual kick from behaving like this towards children.

Domestic violence between Tracey-Ann and her mother occurred frequently and the family was well known to the police. Despite visits to the family home by the police, the children were never spoken with, and no one asked them what life was like for them. 

Tracey-Ann says the sexual abuse was relentless from when she was four years old until she was a teenager. Her stepfather threatened her with going into care if she told of the abuse. 

He told her he would kill her mother and that the man she knew as her father was not in fact her father. He added that no one would believe her and that as long as he was abusing her he would not abuse her younger sibling. Tracey-Ann subsequently discovered that in fact he was abusing them.

From the age of 10, Tracey-Ann says she began stealing, smoking, taking drugs and running away. An educational psychologist and social worker were assigned to her and, although, she says they were nice, neither of them ever asked her why she was behaving like this. She says, ‘That young girl that was troubled and bad was not bad, she was screaming for someone to help her.’

She remembered when her younger sibling was 10 years old, her mother came home and caught her stepfather sexually abusing her. Another relative of Tracey-Ann’s forced her mother to go to the police, but instead of reporting what she had seen, her mother reported that Tracey-Ann had alleged sexual abuse.

Tracey-Ann describes how, as a teenager, she was interviewed by a police officer who had previously taken her home on occasions when she had been found drunk or shoplifting. As she gave her statement about the abuse she had suffered, the police officer mocked her for not knowing the correct language for body parts.

She was placed in a detention cell while the police officer had a discussion with her mother. Later she was taken to a medical centre in a marked police car for a medical examination and told to strip for a male doctor so he could examine her. When she realised this included an internal examination, she cried and refused to cooperate. 

Back at the police station, the officer told her that they did not believe her. Her mother reiterated this, and that the doctor did not believe her, adding that she would would be separated from her sibling and placed in care. Tracey-Ann withdrew her statement. She remembers that the police officer wrote on the bottom of the statement that she had lied, and she had to sign it.

She remains very angry about the actions of this officer. She says ‘This sealed my fate and allowed the abuse to continue. That police officer was responsible for my sibling suffering sexual abuse for three more years and me for another 12 months. If she had done her job properly I would not have had to carry this for 30 years. She was as complicit in the abuse as my mother.’

Tracey-Ann’s mother and stepfather subsequently became Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she feels this allowed them to hide behind their religion and be seen as pillars of the community.

She left home as a teenager and with nowhere to go she began ‘sofa surfing’. Her sibling came to find her and told her the abuse was still happening.

Tracey-Ann tried to tell her mother, and other relatives about the abuse, but they did not believe her and labelled her a troublemaker. They forced her sibling to say that Tracey-Ann had made her sibling say this as she wanted to return home.

The abuse continues to have a significant impact on Tracey-Ann’s life. Although she says she now has a happy life, she remains highly suspicious of everyone and their motives. She has never allowed her partner to bathe their children. She feels she always thinks the worst in situations and is permanently in a state of hypervigilance.

Tracey-Ann used drugs and alcohol in her young adulthood, but no longer does so. However, she still experiences nightmares and flashbacks and feels she is unable to hold down a full-time job as a result of her experiences.

She recently reported her childhood abuse to the police again. She says this has been a very positive and empowering experience, and she received an apology for the conduct of the police in her early disclosure. She describes the police officer she is now dealing with as ‘amazing’ and feels involved in the decision making in the investigation.

She adds ‘I feel strong; essentially you are on your own with this stuff. People can have empathy but do not ever really understand the damage it has done.’

Tracey-Ann feels that current safeguarding training for teachers is not sufficient and that teaching assistants and other members of staff, including dinner ladies, should receive safeguarding training.

She feels strongly that professionals need to understand, not to dismiss the naughty child. Social workers and the police should question risky behaviour, such as young teenagers using drugs and alcohol, or mixing with older people.

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