Survivor Louise shares her powerful and honest story of childhood sexual abuse, and how at the age of 21 she walked away. Enough was enough!
I was nine when it started. My mum got married and I was so excited to have a proper dad. Then one day, my entire universe came crashing down. My childhood was taken away from me and my future changed course.
Over the next 8 years, I endured sexual abuse more times than I could count. I lived in fear. The years where I should have been enjoying life were nothing but a fight for survival. The days were long due to exhaustion and the nights were even longer waiting for the sound of his footsteps on the floor.
The first time I spoke out, I wasn’t believed
At the age of 17, I went away with my church. I spent a week on the other side of the country. I was finally free, but I was scared. I knew I couldn’t go back to that life. The thought of it terrorised me.
So, a few days before I was due to go home, I wrote down what had been happening to me for the past eight years and gave it to someone. The police were called, and an investigation began. I returned to my home town and my worst nightmare became my reality. I wasn’t believed.
I was labelled a liar and attention seeking, and that was when my life literally fell apart. I didn’t see a point anymore. I had no escape.
I retracted my statement, he came back home, and the abuse continued. I became suicidal and my mental health deteriorated. I suffered the abuse for another four years.
Then, I decided enough was enough
At the age of 21, I decided that enough was enough and I walked out of that house and didn’t look back. I told myself to just keep walking.
Over the following few years, I continued to struggle with my mental health. I battled self-harm and alcohol problems which continued even after I had two children. I tried so hard to keep it together for them, but my abuser was still a part of my life. I couldn’t put my past behind me and ended up being hospitalised on several occasions. I was frightened for my daughter as I knew she would be next. I knew I had to do something.
Confiding in someone I can trust
I had opened up to my next-door neighbour who was a police officer at the time, and she told me that now I was an adult, I could report the abuse again. So, with her help, in September 2016, I contacted the police and cut contact with my abuser. This time was different. This time I was believed.
I was appointed an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor). She listened to me and helped ease my worries. During the course of a two and a half year police investigation, two more people who had also been abused by him came forward. It wasn’t just me anymore.
In March 2019, I was informed that he had been charged with over twenty sexual offences. A trial date was set for later in the year.
Attending the trial
In October 2019 with the support of my ISVA, I attended the trial. I took the stand, and my voice was finally heard. A week later, I got a phone call… the jury had found him guilty on over half of the charged offences. He had been remanded into police custody to await sentencing.
When I received that phone call, the world around me seemed to stop for a moment. All those years, all that heartache, all the days I fought through… I had done it. At the sentencing hearing, my victim impact statement was read out by the barrister. This amazing woman who had been my voice throughout the trial stood up and read out my words to the court. I got the chance to be heard and all he could do was sit there and listen. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. I left that courtroom a different person. I still had my problems and the awful memories and the scars, but I had done it and I was so proud of myself.
I am a survivor
My name is Louise, and I was a victim of sexual abuse. But I’m not a victim anymore, that isn’t who I am. My story doesn’t end there because I am so much more than that! I am a daughter and a sister, a mother and a friend. I love books, computer games and sunny days. I find humour in so many things and I always try and leave people with a smile. I was a victim. But I survived. Now, I’m a survivor and I always will be, and nobody can ever take that away. I will probably always have bad days. I’ve accepted that. But, I get through them because I always have.
I used to trawl through articles and survivors stories about what I was going through, and some were similar to my story. I was looking for something to hold onto; a little piece of hope. A reassurance that someone had been through what I had and made it out the other side.
So, if that’s you or someone you know, then here is that hope – There was a time I thought I would never survive. I was so sure it would kill me that I never really made any plans for the future. I was sure I’d never be listened to. I’d labelled myself as dirty, unlovable and broken, and I truly believed that I would always be that way. But I was wrong! I was so wrong! Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past few years, it’s that there is always hope, and there is always someone out there who will listen.
I know you feel alone, and you feel like nobody can help you, but I promise you – you are not alone, and someone will help. You deserve to be free. You deserve to live a life without fear. You deserve so much more than you’ve been made to believe. I thought I’d never survive but I did. And you can too!
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This website was developed in collaboration with North West Police Crime Commissioners, NHS England, and Sexual Assault & Abuse Services.
The North West SAAS Partner Network (Strategic Direction for Sexual Assault and Abuse Services) is led by NHS England and covers Cheshire, Merseyside, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.