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All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Bonnie’s father was a violent man who physically abused his wife and son and sexually abused her and her elder sister.

She describes living in total fear of her father. His violence was so extreme that he inflicted severe injuries upon her mother.

From when she was very young, Bonnie remembers her father coming into her bedroom and waking her up to abuse her. He would also try to get into the bathroom with her. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

She vividly recalls watching football on television and her father calling her out of the room to abuse her. To this day, any football on television triggers those memories. 

Bonnie says she used to hide her bruises during school PE lessons and make excuses not to go swimming but she really hoped someone would spot what was happening to her. She trusted her PE teacher and almost disclosed the abuse, but fear of repercussions on the family held her back. 

She wonders why other signs were not picked up – she says she was a bully in primary school and became very rebellious in her secondary school.

On one occasion her father hit her so hard her eardrum burst, but the GP never questioned this or any of her frequent visits. 

She had been conditioned into believing that the abuse was normal, but says when she was about 11 years old she realised it was wrong. She took herself to the local police station and sat in front of the duty desk. No one asked why she was waiting and after an hour, she left. 

After Bonnie realised that her sister had also been abused, and had made two suicide attempts, she too attempted suicide as a cry for help. She said she felt safe doing this, as her mother was a nurse and there was a doctor in the family home at the time. She wasn’t taken to hospital.

Following this incident, Bonnie and her sister told their mother and aunt that their father had been abusing them both, but they were not believed. 

Bonnie left home while she was a teenager. She was reconciled with her mother when she was in her 30s, and says she was finally listened to. Around the same time, she confronted her father but he threatened her with physical harm and would not acknowledge he had done anything wrong. 

Bonnie says the abuse has caused ‘damaging behaviour’ in her, including alcohol abuse. She finds it difficult to trust anyone and describes the healing she has needed over the years to deal with the impact.

She feels strongly that schools should play a key role in spotting signs of abuse. If children are angry and rebellious staff should ask why, and health practitioners should question physical injuries and frequent illnesses. 

She would also like support for children to recognise the signs of grooming and abuse. On sharing her experience with the Truth Project, she says ‘if I can make a difference to help just one child, it’s been worth it.’


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