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All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Bella’s abuser was known to her parents because of his connection with the church. He was also in charge of a youth group. She can remember being abused by him twice, once in his house and once in the back of a shop.

Although she had a good memory from when she was little, it was only during psychotherapy treatment that memories of abuse started to come back to her.

Bella recalls a situation when she was young that did not ‘feel right’. She was in a house and feeling confused and upset because her younger brother was upset and in a different room, but she couldn’t get to him. Bella’s mum has confirmed that Bella and her brother were left with her abuser when he babysat.

She remembers having symptoms from when she was young and being in hospital with a pain in her vaginal area. She recalls the way staff in the hospital asked her questions and how there was something that she wanted to tell the doctor.

The pains and symptoms continued into her teenage years but calmed down when her abuser moved away. She was told he did this very suddenly without even telling his close friends he was going.

Bella says her abuser gave her a bible with a message inscribed inside ‘to my darling Bella’, signed ‘uncle’. She remembers wondering at the time why he wasn’t still around. Nobody heard anything about him after he left, and she does not know if he is alive.

Bella has had flashbacks, pains in her body, anxiety and nightmares connected to the abuse and about five years ago, was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. She was placed on medication and later intense therapy. Since coming off the medication, she says she has ‘felt awake again’.

After an admission to A&E, her friend called her parents and Bella talked to them for the first time about her memories of the abuse. She says information they gave her fitted with her memories.

Bella feels the abuse has had ‘knock-on’ effects on her, particularly with trust in relationships. She has been diagnosed with complex PTSD.

She believes that health professionals should not make assumptions or ‘throw out’ phrases without a full diagnosis. She also would like to see age-appropriate investigations of children and adults by health professionals.

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