Our nightmare: mum says daughter's abuse was like 'bomb going off under family' (From Bournemouth Echo)
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'Pillar of the community' jailed for nine years for sexually abusing his own stepdaughter
WHEN Sarah (not her real name) discovered her husband was sexually abusing her daughter it was, she says, “like a bomb going off underneath me”.
The bits of her world were “flying around everywhere like a huge explosion and I could not make it stop. Everything was turned upside down in a couple of hours”.
Earlier this year, what she thought was her normal, loving, family life was shattered into a thousand pieces.
Her husband – who the Daily Echo is not identifying to protect the victim, his own stepdaughter – has just been jailed for nine years at Bournemouth Crown Court.
Judge Peter Johnson branded the churchgoing professional in his 50s, “dangerous and warped”for his “grotesque acts”. He described the victim impact statements read to the court as “harrowing”.
The court was told that his victim who is under 15, has considered suicide as at times “does not feel as if she wishes to live any more”.
Now the young girl’s mother has spoken exclusively to the Daily Echo, to highlight the devastating effects of her husband's actions.
“I would like nothing more than to shout his name from the rooftops and stand up in our church on a Sunday and tell everyone: ‘You know that man who you thought was so dependable, well he’s a paedophile. He abused my daughter’. But I can’t.”
But she warns others to look for the signs of abuse in their own children and in those who might be perpetrators. Even those closest to you.
“One of the most frightening things of all is how plausible these people can be. My husband was a churchgoer, a pillar of the community. He worked for a global financial firm based in London. No-one had a bad word to say about him and he would do anything for anybody.
“By and large these abusers are always seemingly the nice, dependable people. That is how they manage to insinuate their way into communities and families. And it’s also a way of trying to cover themselves if allegations are made. People would think ‘no, not him. He couldn't possibly have done that’.”
“He is very well educated. He appeared to know something about everything which is part of the way these people try to control you. With hindsight it’s as though he read a textbook on how to behave while all the time grooming my daughter and those around him.
“She was a classic victim.
Someone with low esteem, not eating properly, not many friends, introverted and anxious.
Abusers play on that kind of vulnerability and they use it. My daughter’s problems such as self harming were put down to bullying and of course he encouraged that theory at every opportunity.”
Sarah first met the abuser a decade ago and they were married a couple of years later.
“I was a single mum and was pleased to have met someone who seemed to be perfect for me and who appeared to love my two daughters. They loved him. It is such a betrayal. People like him act like they absolutely adore your children, which to you is a big attraction.
“We don’t know how long the abuse was going on for because he may have been touching her inappropriately when she was a lot younger. As well as being plausible these people are very patient. I believe I was targeted as a single parent with daughters and that the abuse was years in the making. Abusers see what they can get away with and build up bit by bit.”
Sarah confronted her husband (divorce proceedings are underway) one evening. They were all out for a family meal when a friend texted her to say they needed to talk.
Sarah’s daughter had confided in a school friend and she had in turn spoken to her own mum.
“I went round to see her and she told me what my daughter had said. I went straight home and spoke to her and I knew within 30 seconds that she was telling truth. Children can't make up the kind of thing she was describing. All parents should be aware of this.
“Then I spoke to him. At first he denied it, then he said it was all a misunderstanding. Then he broke down and gradually admitted it. I called him a monster and said the best thing he could do was hand himself into the police station straightaway.”
Sarah says she is now suspicious of every man. “I don’t want to even think about a relationship with another man, not until my children are grown up. My radar is jammed on the suspicion setting. I have no idea how I will ever unjam it.
“Thank goodness for the support of members of my family and friends. I just don’t know how we would have coped. As well as all the emotional and psychological trauma for my daughters and me, we’ve had the financial rug pulled from underneath us because he cancelled all the direct debits from his prison cell.
“I can only pay the mortgage with the help of my parents but I know there are people in my position who are not so fortunate.”
She feels guilty for, as she sees it, failing in her duty to protect her own daughter. “I invited him into my home. I feel it’s my fault.
“I have always thought I would know in that situation, but you don’t. There was never a single solitary moment when I thought something was not quite right.
The police told me the mother is always the last to know.
“It’s also an incredibly isolating experience, not being able to talk to people about what has happened because of the need to protect my daughter’s identity as a victim. It’s such a help to be able to go to a support group and have an outlet for all this.
“I am trying to deal with this with my daughter while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that my marriage has been a sham all these years.”
The guilt is not confined to Sarah. Her daughter worried that she had broken up the family and that her mum would be angry that she had lost her husband. Her stepfather told her no one would believe and mummy would be cross.
“Of course I was not angry with her and have told her that over and over. I am just so angry at all the devastation he has caused. He is sitting in the protection of his prison cell and we are left picking up the pieces. So many people have been affected by this. It’s not just ripples, it’s tentacles. He has made a mess of so many lives.”
Judge’s voice shook after guilty plea
SARAH’S daughter has urged any young person suffering abuse to come forward and not to suffer in silence.
She said: “Call Childline or speak to a teacher or a friend if you can’t go to your mum. Write a letter but speak up and it will stop.”
Sarah said: “She doesn’t want others to go through what she has suffered and if by speaking out it makes a difference to just one child it will have been worth it.
“We are all determined that some good will come of this. She is only young but she wants to be a social worker to help others.
“She has been amazing, very courageous. It’s a miracle she is still alive and I am so thankful for that.
“Many children endure abuse until adulthood and only then do they feel able to come forward. We were lucky in a way that it was a much shorter period.”
Sarah understands that what she and her daughter are now suffering is a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Her daughter cannot bear noise, sleeps poorly, has panic attacks and is frightened to go out.
She is like a rabbit in the headlights.
"She will have to unpack all of this at some stage but as the judge said, the effects are lifelong and permanent."
Sarah says the family is grateful for the nine year sentence, which included time for breach of trust. "In many cases the sentences are derisory. We were fortunate in that regard at least."
Sarah paid tribute to Dorset police's Child Protection Unit and her daughter's school. They had been "amazing. She urges anyone with concerns to call the NSPCC helpline.
- NSPCC 0808 800 5000 nspcc.org.uk
- Childline 0800 1111 childline.org.uk
- MOSAC (Mothers of Sexually Abused Children) 0800 980 1958 mosac.org.uk n Dorsetaction onabuse.com 01202 732424
- 1 in 20 children have been sexually abused
- Over 90% of those children were abused by someone they know.
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