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Now happy and successful, Sonia was sexually abused by her brother and failed by the police

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Sonia describes herself as a happily married mother and a successful businesswoman, with an active family life full of laughter. She is a trustworthy and loyal friend and has a sarcastic sense of humour.

Of least importance to Sonia is that she is a victim of child sexual abuse. She listed this last as, whilst she knows that the abuse has affected and shaped certain aspects of her, it does not define her.

Sonia told us her abuser had a privileged opportunity to abuse her: he was her older brother Paul. Sonia said he abused her for a number of years, starting when she was a young child. 

The abuse was frequent and happened at every opportunity. The pattern was always the same: Paul would make her lie face down and abuse her by sexual touching. This happened in various places in the home. 

For Sonia, the worst part of the abuse was the fear and anticipation of never knowing when it was going to happen. To gain some control towards the end of the sexual abuse, she would often offer herself to get it ’over and done with’.

Sonia tried to tell her mother, but said her mother dismissed it and told her that it was a ‘wicked and nasty’ thing to say and that she should never say it again. Shortly after this disclosure, Paul raped Sonia.

Sonia was hysterical and sobbing and Paul could now visibly see her distress. She told Paul that if he ever did this again she would tell their parents and the abuse then stopped. Although Sonia did not know it at the time, Paul had found another victim and moved on.

When Sonia was a teenager, she recalls telling a teacher about the abuse but did not say who the abuser was. She met with the school counsellor a few times but the school took no further action.

Paul’s other victim (also a young family member of his) spoke out about her abuse, but was branded a ‘liar’ and the family defended Paul. This made Sonia more cautious about disclosing her own abuse. 

Sonia told us the next time she spoke about the abuse it was to a family member, Carl, who was a police officer at the time. Carl stopped her from talking about the abuse, so as not to cause problems in the family.  

Sonia told us that her teenage years were peppered with confusion and fear followed by an adulthood of self-doubt, shame and silence.

More recently, Sonia took the brave step to report abuse to the police, placing her trust and faith in them.

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