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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.



When Isla-Rose heard a talk at school about sexual assault, she realised her father was abusing her

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Because Isla-Rose’s memories of being sexually abused by her father are fragmented, she has sometimes questioned her recollections.

She says ‘I think it is important to recognise that it’s not unusual for sexual abuse victims to doubt themselves, especially if the experience was very traumatic’.

Isla-Rose grew up in the 2000s, with a very controlling father. He got drunk every night and was verbally abusive to her mother, often in front of her and her sister. ‘I always felt scared around him’ she says.

She was aware that her mother wanted to divorce him for several years before this happened.

From as far back as Isla-Rose can remember, her father would come into the bathroom when she was in the shower or bath. She says he always had some pretext for coming in, such as rummaging through the laundry. 

But, Isla-Rose adds, ‘Whatever he was doing would take a long time. I felt like I had to hide and tried to turn away or cover myself because I felt so embarrassed ... I was afraid to close my eyes when I was showering in case he was looking at me’. 

Looking back, Isla-Rose says ‘The boundaries in our house were skewed’. She explains that she and her sister were brought up not to expect privacy in the bathroom. Her father frequently walked around the house naked, and would often come into her bedroom when he was barely dressed.

She remembers that at some stage she began consciously checking that he didn’t have an erection when he came into her room. She says this was ‘a kind of protection mechanism’.

Isla-Rose does not remember exactly how old she was when her father began raping her; she knows she was over the age of five, but not yet 12 years old. Nor does she know how often it happened.

She remembers feeling deep shame afterwards. ‘A feeling that I am contaminated and dirty, like I have been ruined. Like my body isn’t really mine anymore.’

Isla-Rose describes the conflicted emotions she felt when her father was sexually abusing her, because in some ways he seemed like a ‘good father’. She adds ‘I felt as if I was in love with him, but now I see this as a result of his manipulation’.

She comments that she was seen as being ‘an intelligent but strange child’. Her mother took her to see a clinical psychologist when she was eight years old because she was behaving oddly and saying ‘very dark things’, and nobody could understand why.

Isla-Rose says that sex was never discussed at home, not even when she reached puberty. When she was 13, she attended a talk at school about rape and sexual assault, and began to understand what had been happening to her.

She began to dread being alone with her father. She says ‘I had been trying to tell people for years, but I couldn’t because I didn’t understand what it was that was exactly wrong. I didn’t have the words for it’. 

A few years later, Isla-Rose suddenly blurted out to a teacher that she had been raped. She says the teacher was very supportive and the school ‘dealt with it quite well’. The police were called and an investigation began into her report.

However, Isla-Rose says she did not have a good experience with the police and she felt they doubted her account. It was also difficult to access counselling and get the help she needed.

She describes feeling very confused and unsure of what had happened, and doubting her memories. She felt she was losing her mind and that no one believed her, and she tried to take her own life. 

Isla-Rose continues ‘The abuse has stained my life’. She says she has always felt scared of men, and is afraid of intimacy and relationships. She finds it difficult to interact with others and trust anyone. 

She has nightmares and flashbacks and an eating disorder. She suffers with depression and has self-harmed.

Isla-Rose believes that more should be done to recognise potential cases of child sexual abuse. She says ‘There were signs throughout my entire childhood that something was wrong, however nobody ever asked me if it was okay at home. I feel as if I would have told someone sooner had they asked me directly if something had happened’.

She adds that it can be a particular problem to recognise that children from any social or economic background can be abused. ‘We need to realise that children can slip under the radar because they are not classed as the type of person to experience abuse’ she says. 

Isla-Rose concludes ‘It is every adult’s responsibility to ensure our children grow up in a safe environment, where they feel they will be believed if they speak up about any abuse they have experienced’.

She is now having therapy which she says has enabled her to cope a bit better. She also finds online sexual abuse and incest support forums quite helpful.

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