Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Zara

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

When Zara was about five years old, she and her sister were taken into care because their mother, who was an alcoholic, was incapable of looking after them.

A family acquaintance took advantage of their need for basic care and necessities and groomed them for abuse.

When the sisters returned home after a few months in care, Zara says their mother continued to drink, but there was no follow-up.

Several years later, their parents split up, and the girls were befriended by Jay, the brother of their father’s new partner. Jay sometimes looked after them and brought them treats or clothes.

At the time, Zara says she and her sister were happy to spend time with Jay – they felt he was helping to look after them when their mother couldn’t. However, in hindsight, she now sees Jay’s behaviour as grooming. The contact continued even after Zara’s father split up with Jay’s sister.

Jay would collect either Zara or her sister and take them to his flat on separate occasions. When Zara was at the flat, she says Jay would come into her room and rape her. She recalls, ‘I used to keep my eyes shut, pretend it wasn’t happening’.

Zara says that Jay would also rape her sister, with more violence, often involving ‘items’. Her sister became pregnant by Jay when she was 13 years old. She said that the father was a boy she knew, and she was made to have an abortion by her mother.

 

The sisters considered telling their mother about the abuse, but knew that if they did this, they would be left alone with her. Zara says: ‘She was alcoholic and incapable of looking after us properly … Jay was at least buying us school uniforms and clothes.’

The abuse stopped when Zara moved away from home at 16 and decided she did not want to see Jay anymore. Her sister came to live with her. Zara says: ‘We lived in a shoebox after we left home, but it was a safe shoebox.’

When Zara was about 20, her sister reported the abuse to the police. Zara was approached by the police and interviewed ‘reluctantly’ and disclosed what had happened to her.

The police said it would be her and her sister’s word against the abuser, and that their stories didn’t match. Zara thinks this was because they were often separated and abused in different ways. Jay denied everything, so nothing could be done.

Two years ago, Zara was told the police are unable to reinvestigate the case as it is ‘historic’.

She says: ‘I keep up a crazy pretence that life is fine’ but she reports that she still has nightmares and difficulty sleeping. She also experiences feelings of guilt because she didn’t ‘shout if from the rooftops’ and she is unwilling to be touched, even by her partner.

Zara thinks people need to be more aware of abuse and to notice when ‘things aren’t right’, such as Jay taking the girls to his home alone and buying them clothes and shoes.

She also would like the police to make links to previous allegations even if there has been no prosecution. She adds that when children are returned to their families from care, they still need monitoring for their welfare, and should not ‘just be left’ and that if children truant or get into fights, the reasons should be looked into.

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