BBC video journalist Samantha Everett today published a recorded interview detailing my experiences with sexual abuse as a child, as well as my thoughts and feelings on the first anniversary of the conviction of the man who abused me.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sam and her team, who were extremely professional in their handling of the subject and who have, I feel, produced incredibly emotive footage about my story.
I have included excerpts below but would encourage you to visit their site for the full article.
I had always known what happened to me as a child. I was eight when the abuse finally stopped but I had vivid dreams reliving the experiences for years. When I realised their significance at 15 they quickly turned to nightmares, turning my life upside down. Now, at 32, I have secured the conviction of the man responsible and finally found some measure of peace. By telling my story, I hope to help other survivors do the same.
It happened on weekend visits to a relative’s house during the early 1990s. The woman, who I called ‘auntie’, made sugar mice as treats for me. Her adoptive son Neil, an overweight, moustachioed man then in his mid-twenties, would withhold the sweets and use them to entice me to perform sexual acts on him, as well as keeping quiet about the assaults he would carry out on me, behaviour we would today label ‘grooming’.
The abuse occurred on multiple occasions over a period of a few years. For a long time I told myself, ‘it wasn’t that bad, other people have been through far worse’. What is important to me, more than any salacious details, is the profound devastation it caused.
I strongly believe that, as survivors, the more we are heard, believed and understood, the less power there is for abusers to stifle and coerce potential victims. We need to be sending the message to people who have survived abuse that they aren’t alone and are not damaged, disturbed or in any way abnormal.
Nothing will ever take away what has happened to us and I will forever have to fight the urge to spiral down into the well of negative feelings and thoughts abuse has left me with, but while the war may continue a defining battle for me has been won.
Neil Day of Park Lane in Ropley, Hampshire, was found guilty of six counts of gross indecency with a child and one count of indecent assault against a child at Guildford Crown Court in January. He previously pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing indecent images of children uncovered during his arrest.
I received an email this morning from a journalist I’ve been working with for several months.
He told me that the piece he has been writing about my search for justice was finally cleared for publication.
Mark Edwards, the reporter who’s been covering my case, has done a brilliant job in putting it together and I feel like his article should speak for itself.
So rather than repeat its contents in full, I thought I would reflect on what today means for me.
Today marks the accomplishment of a big part of what motivated me to speak out.
By publishing this article, Mark has helped me to warn others in the area about Neil Day, the man who abused me.
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Perhaps, in time, it will emerge that there are others he targeted.
If so, it’s my hope that by reading my story they too will find the courage that I know they have within themselves to tell their own.
No child should have to experience what Day put me through, even once.
My biggest regret, should it turn out that he did abuse others, will be that I didn’t say anything sooner but the blame will still remain firmly with him.
More widely, I hope that anyone who has been abused – by anyone and at any time – will speak out straight away.
It’s been a long road to get to this point and today feels like the closing of an act in the story of my life.
There have been notable chapters along the way, many of them filled with pain, anger, resentment, self-loathing, shame and negativity, but many that have made up for all that.
Those emotions and thoughts will always be there buried away, simmering under the surface.
After the euphoric high of giving evidence, of finally standing up and being heard, reality has begun to creep back into my life.
In the past week, unwanted emotions have made themselves known again and I could easily despair. But I don’t and I won’t.
The next act may not be easy, life never is, but I have a feeling that with hard work, determination and – most importantly – by nurturing myself and not giving in to the easy road of negativity, things are going to get better.