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Toyah says ‘I thought I was just me – now I know it’s because of trauma I endured as a child’

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Toyah describes the difficulties she faces in life as a result of being sexually abused.

She also says that in trying to obtain justice, help and support ‘I was re-traumatised by the system’.

Toyah was born in the 1970s. She was sexually abused by Rik, a friend of the family. She is not sure exactly how old she was when the abuse started, but says she cannot remember a time when it was not happening.

Looking back, Toyah feels that Rik groomed her family and won their trust. He would read her bedtime stories when he visited and he began touching her when he did this. Over the years the abuse escalated to oral, vaginal and anal rape. Rik stopped abusing her when she reached puberty.

Toyah believes that the abuse by Rik made her vulnerable to abuse by older boys during her childhood. 

She told two school friends at different times that Rik was sexually abusing her. After the abuse had ended she told a teacher and later, a doctor. She had counselling when she was in her 20s and discussed the possibility of reporting the abuse to the police. 

Following a confrontation with an older family member, who had witnessed some of the abuse by Rik, Toyah’s father discovered what Rik had done. Toyah says he was devastated. He told Toyah that he knew girls had made allegations about Rik previously and Rik had been questioned by the police.

A while after, the family member walked into a local police station and reported Rik, and gave them Toyah’s details. At the time, Toyah didn’t want to report the abuse. She says ‘I didn’t think I would ever be able to report it, I didn’t think I was strong enough’. 

But following the publicity regarding the abuse committed by Jimmy Savile, Toyah realised that perpetrators of non-recent child abuse could be prosecuted. She approached a charity that supports victims and survivors of rape. She reported Rik to the police and describes the support the charity gave her throughout the process as ‘fantastic’. 

More victims and survivors came forward during the investigation. Toyah believes that because of Rik’s work it is likely there are many others.

She says the police were good about keeping her informed on the progress of the investigation, but she adds the process ‘felt like it was forever … it was all I thought about from the moment I woke up … it’s not going to be this week, maybe it will be next … and another Christmas ruined … we were living and breathing it every day’.

Rik was allowed out on bail and Toyah adds that she lived in terror of him coming to the house because her parents still lived at the same address. 

The case finally went to trial and Toyah was devastated that the jury could not reach a verdict. She describes feeling really let down by them – she saw two of the jury asleep during the proceedings. She adds that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service were shocked and angry at the outcome.

A second trial was held. Rik was found guilty of all charges and was given a long prison sentence. Toyah feels angry that because of ‘double jeopardy laws’, he did not face some of the most serious charges against him in this trial. She would like to see this law reformed.

Toyah also feels let down about the discrimination that she considers victims and survivors face. One example of this is that she had to hand over her mobile phone as part of the evidence. At a time when she felt extremely vulnerable and frightened she did not want to be without a phone. She got another one but had to continue paying the bill for the phone the police had, which was a big cost for her. She would like there to be an industry standard that makes provision for victims of crimes to have a replacement mobile phone in these circumstances.

Based on her experiences, Toyah considers that some aspects of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority processes are unfair, such as the time limit on making a claim. She says that because it is not likely that any criminal trial will have concluded within the time frame, this leaves victims and survivors vulnerable to defence questioning that their motive is financial gain.

She describes some of the ways she has been affected by the abuse she suffered. She has suicidal thoughts, experiences panic attacks and has self-harmed. She says ‘I have difficulties in concentration; I am permanently on high alert; get distressed more quickly and it takes me a long time to calm down’. These things impact on her ability to study and deal with stress. She also suffers with physical pain in different areas of her body.

Toyah has spent several thousands of pounds on counselling, and as a result lives in rented accommodation with little prospect of being able to purchase her own home. She suggests a more ‘joined-up’ approach to supporting victims of child sexual abuse, that might cover areas such as housing, mental health support and self-defence.

She would like to see victims and survivors receive fair compensation to help them overcome the disadvantages they live with as a result of the abuse they suffered as a child.

Toyah has joined with other victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to create an online resource that gives information on support and resources she wishes she had known about when she was reporting to the police and going through the trial. 

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