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All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Carrie was abused in her home by a man who first lodged with her family, then began a relationship with her mother.

He threatened her that he would leave them if she told anyone about the abuse. Carrie knew her mother depended on him financially and emotionally, and was terrified of causing any upset.

Her parents had a difficult marriage and her mother began a relationship with their lodger, Hamish. Her father left when he discovered his wife was pregnant with Hamish’s child. 

At first, Carrie says, she was happy living with her mother, Hamish and her new baby half-brother. She says ‘it felt like a real family’ but she was also sad because she hardly saw her father.

Hamish groomed Carrie by being very nice to her and buying her presents. He began sexually abusing her when she was eight years old, and continued for about seven years. Because her mother and Hamish had different working patterns, Carrie says she was often alone in the house with Hamish. 

Hamish threatened Carrie that he would leave the family if she told her mother about the abuse. Carrie says her family were short of money and the threat of him leaving made her feel very vulnerable. She says her mother was also emotionally very dependent on Hamish, so she kept quiet.

Carrie knows that two other young girls accused Hamish of trying to abuse them. One was a babysitter who came to the house, and the other was a friend of Carrie’s. This girl’s mother accused Hamish of abuse and threatened to tell the police. 

He denied everything and Carrie’s mother believed him. Carrie says her mother was ‘besotted with Hamish and in denial about who he was’.

Eventually, however, Carrie was able to convince her mother that she had been abused by Hamish. She was taken to see their GP who asked only if she was pregnant, and suggested reporting the matter to the police.

The police arranged a medical examination of Carrie which confirmed physical effects of abuse. Hamish was arrested. Carrie gave evidence in court but says she was given very little support. Hamish’s defence lawyer argued that Carrie had ‘caused it all’, but the abuser was sentenced to three years custody.

When he was released from prison Hamish returned to the family home. Carrie says she ‘never hated anyone so much’ in her whole life and was unable to pretend ‘all was okay’. 

She left home and joined the armed forces, where she made good friends. Later, at university, she met her husband. She says she ‘couldn’t believe such a lovely man existed’. 

Carrie says she spent several years of her childhood in fear of abuse from Hamish. She continues to feel that she ‘lives on the periphery ... never actually part of a group or having a sense of belonging’. 

She says she loved her mother but adds ‘She was never kind to me’. She recounts being treated as ‘a second class citizen’ and being constantly told she was not as good as her brother. She has struggled with depression, and a lack of confidence and self-worth.

She describes the abuse as ‘just something that I’ve had to live with’ and says she never realised there might be help. She says she has now found some comfort in religion but she cannot forget or understand why her mother did not protect her, and tried to deny and minimise the sexual abuse she suffered.

Carrie concludes that she would like to see systems put in place to ensure that abuse cannot happen to the same degree today.

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