Skip to main content

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



For Keyleigh, the care system was a place of safety, away from her sexually abusive father

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Keyleigh says that the best times in her childhood were when she was taken into care.

She wishes that people in authority had asked her whether she wanted to go home to her parents, instead of assuming it was the best thing for her.

Keyleigh grew up in the 1960s. Her parents were both alcoholics who neglected their children. Keyleigh was the oldest child and she tried to care for the younger ones.

They were all taken into care on two different occasions, after neighbours raised concerns about them. They spent time in children’s homes when Keyleigh was between the age of six and 10 years. These placements gave Keyleigh respite from the sexual abuse she was being subjected to by her father and his friend Trev. 

‘It was a good thing we were taken’ Keyleigh says, ‘I used to wish as a child that I was adopted and my real parents would come and save me’. 

Keyleigh didn’t want to leave care and go back home. She remembers being told once when they were being sent home for a visit ‘How lovely for you, going home for Christmas’ and knowing that she didn’t want to go.

When the children were returned to their parents, the abuse continued. Keyleigh’s father first sexually abused her when she was four, and he continued to do this for a further nine years. He abused her, made her masturbate him and perform oral sex on him. 

Keyleigh remembers how sick the abuse made her feel. ‘The whole thing was wrong … he was my dad, doing this’ she says.

His friend Trev began abusing her when she was eight. He would get into her bed and penetrate her with his fingers. Keyleigh says ‘In a way it was easier with him, because he wasn’t my dad’.

Keyleigh remembers that on the second occasion she was in care, a member of staff spoke to her about sex and relationships. She says this was when she began to understand properly what was happening to her.

When she was in her early teens her father tried to rape her, but she resisted and he stopped, and did not abuse her again. After this, she was fostered for a couple of years, then when she was in her mid teens, she left and went to live in a hostel. 

Thinking about the effect that her experiences have had on her, Keyleigh says ‘I don’t know what it's like to be a young carefree child’. She has felt shame and guilt, berating herself that if she had said ‘no’ to her father when she was younger, he would have stopped abusing her.

She has suffered from depression and had suicidal thoughts. She has been in abusive relationships, and has been hypervigilant about the safety of her children.

Keyleigh knows that when she was growing up, neighbours reported concerns about her and her siblings to the NSPCC, and this was what prompted them being taken into care. But she was not asked whether she was being abused, or whether she wanted to go back home.

She adds that throughout her time in care, she had over 10 different social workers. None of them ever talked to her about abuse. Keyleigh believes that children in care should be asked questions about abuse in their families, as they may not speak about it without being prompted. 

Keyleigh thinks many professionals have little understanding about the lives of looked-after children. She says they should not assume that contact with a parent is always in the best interest of the child.

She has had counselling which she says was the start of her healing, and she feels she is in a much stronger position. She now works to educate the public about child sexual abuse.

Keyleigh says ‘Ignorance and silence enable abuse. Not talking about it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Education and conversation about abuse can help change that’.

Back to top