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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

When she was about 11 years old, Vivien was sexually abused by a young male adult who was the older brother of one of her school friends.  

Vivien had gone to play at her friend’s house. During a game of hide and seek, she went to hide in a shed, and found the young male in there. He called her over and started stroking her hair and complimenting her.

She remembers feeling confused and frightened but did not know how to extricate herself from the situation. The young male was about 10 years older than her and she says she had been brought up to respect her elders.

He made her touch his penis, then put his hand over her mouth and pinned her against the wall. She describes ‘blanking out’ and the next thing that she was aware of was the young male pulling up her knickers and wiping himself on a handkerchief.

The abuser told her not to tell anyone what had happened. He added that if she did everyone would be disgusted with her and that she would get into lots of trouble. He told her that he knew where she lived.

Vivien says she had a good relationship with her parents but they never talked to her about sex and her father was rather strict. She believed that she would get into trouble if she told them what had happened.

However, she says that her behaviour changed at school and this was noticed by her teachers. Her parents were called into school and it was decided that Vivien should see an educational psychologist.

No one explained to Vivien what was happening and she thought that she had done something wrong. She says the psychologist did not explore what had caused her behaviour to change but diagnosed her as being highly stressed and recommended that her mother take her to swimming lessons. She recalls ‘It helped but it didn’t really get to what was going on’.  

It was only when she became a young adult that Vivien told someone what had happened to her. She did not tell her parents because she wanted to protect them, knowing that they would be very upset, but she spoke with a female group leader at her church.

Looking back, Vivien feels that the leader, although sympathetic, did not fully appreciate the impact the assault had had on her and tried to minimise it. As a result Vivien did not talk about the abuse again for several more years, until she sought therapy.

She describes how the abuse has affected her life. For many years she says she ‘felt damaged’ and that something was physically wrong with her. At school she became unable to concentrate on her lessons and she has experienced anxiety, nightmares and PTSD.

However, she also feels she has made a positive decision to ‘get on with things’, attain qualifications and train for a career. She has also found support in her religion and therapy.

She wonders about the assumptions that can be made about people who have been abused and she says ‘I see myself as a whole person with positive traits … I’ve got some difficulties and challenges that I‘ve been able to process and work through and still live a very functional life ... I don’t want to be seen as somebody dysfunctional or have assumptions made about me’.

Vivien believes there were opportunities to support her that were missed. She thinks the female church leader she spoke to did not have the knowledge to support her. She says ‘it would be very helpful for people in those kind of positions to have some knowledge and awareness of what to do’.

She adds that professions also need to be alert to non-verbal communication by children.

Vivien concludes by saying how pleased she was to learn about the work being done by the Truth Project.


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