Content Warning: Please be aware that some of the stories on these pages contain details and descriptions of abuse which you might find disturbing or upsetting.

I feel let down and I demand justice, but will I ever get it

girl looking at window

I was groomed for the first time around 13 when a young adult became my ‘boyfriend’. My friend was going through the same thing as me but with his cousin, and I remember how excited we were to go and meet them as we piled on the make-up and smoked cigarettes out of her bedroom window. That night, I felt the touch of a man out to take a child's innocence for the first time. 

In the latter months as a 14-year-old, I was in the thick of an ever-absorbing pit of peer pressure and angst. I would spend my lunch in the woodlands at school chain-smoking, so much so that I would vomit from the nicotine rush on most days. 

I could go on about the horrors of my school years and the things that I witnessed, but I’m going to share the part of my story that defines both my resilience and life-long sentence of repeat trauma and humiliation.

A friend of mine lived in one of the city's most run-down and neglected areas, and I would beg my Mum to let me visit regularly. She would be faced with the constant struggle of being a serving police officer and knowing the dangers of that area whilst not wanting to restrict me from spending time with my friends. One day, she decided to let me stay over at my friend's house, and it became a regular thing.

Back then, walking the streets was shockingly appropriate in our young and naïve minds. We ended up meeting a large group of kids our age who were loud, unhinged and, in our eyes, extremely exciting. These friendships led to a turbulent relationship with a boy, ending up drinking a bottle of ‘Vodkat’ after I was savagely dumped and hospitalised. 

The group we met were avid supporters of a local musical network of singers and rappers pooled together to make music as a band. You knew who was in the group or part of this following, as their middle names would be the abbreviation of the ‘band’ on Facebook…I remember how anxious I felt when I updated my middle name. Little did I know, I had just made myself known to the man who would haunt me for the rest of my life…

He started with the textbook approach of messaging me on Facebook, taking an interest in me and messaging me daily. I was elated that an adult man was interested in me – a lanky, nervous and damaged teenager with no prospects or desire to become anything or anyone. The compliments came thick and fast, starting with “you look pretty today” and “I love your smile”, which morphed into winking faces and greeting me with a “hey sexy”.

By age 15, we had talked daily, and I fell head over heels. We arranged our first meeting, and I wore a pink crop top and denim shorts, revealing my underdeveloped body for him to see. I remember seeing him, running down the hill and throwing my arms around him, noticing how frail and strange his body felt. He wasn’t my ‘type’, but it didn’t matter because he made me feel special. 

These visits happened several times, and we talked, kissed and hugged. We found a haven at a family member's house who didn’t seem alarmed by the blatant ‘relationship’ blossoming between us. 

After getting basic gratification from me, he was ready to take it to the next level and booked a hotel room in the city centre. I knew he was staying, but I thought we would visit the family member's house and maybe go to the shops to sneak in more kisses and cuddles without being seen.

That day, he picked me up outside my school as children poured from the gates. “I’ve got you a present, but it's at the hotel…shall we go and get it?” The answer was, of course, yes, and we sped off in his Audi to collect the gift. I remember walking into the hotel in my school uniform and being met with the concerned faces of the hotel staff. I wish that they had said something…

We arrived in his hotel room, where his things were partially unpacked, and the bed lightly ruffled from him lying over the sheets. He held up a pair of Beats by Dr Dre headphones, which I vaguely remember telling him I would ask my Mum for as a Christmas present. I was so overwhelmed and grateful. I reached for the box in his hands, and he moved them out of my reach and said:

“You will have to do something for me first.”

I giggled as he pulled me onto the bed, thinking that I was safe and we would kiss and cuddle like always…but something started to feel different. He removed his shirt and pulled his trousers down, leaving him in his boxer shorts. He climbed onto me, undressed me and started to kiss me and move his hands all over me…and the rest. He had a condom tucked conveniently under the bottom corner of the sheet and placed it on himself. By this point, I was physically shaking and saying, “no, I don’t think we should”…before I knew it, he was inside me.

Afterwards, he climbed off me, chuckling to himself, and I stared at the ceiling. “I’m a woman now,” I thought, convincing myself that what happened was normal and that this was what love felt like. We then drove to the family member’s house, where he played further into the fantasy of being invisible from his crimes and cruelty.

Things got really dark after that. He told me to download Skype, and I would lock myself in the bathroom and undress as he masturbated. He would send me songs that were sexual for me to listen to in the daytime, to “get me in the mood”, and ask me to touch myself on camera and think of him. He would guide me on how to do it and talk to him simultaneously. It breaks my heart to look back and remember feeling nothing but confusion as I fumbled my way around my tiny body for his gratification. 

On his next visit, he asked for a blanket at the family members' house and touched me as he looked them in the eye, unzipping my shorts and having no fear of the consequences. Yes, they did see; no, I don’t want to talk about it. 

Afterwards, he said he wanted to go to the shops, which of course, we didn’t. He wanted to find a quiet and secluded place to be alone. Under his spell, I recommended a nearby field, and we made our way over. 

We got to the top of the hill, and he kissed me and guided me onto my hands and knees. He always got me to wear my stretchy denim shorts, and years later, I realised this was because they were easy to remove and pull up quickly in an emergency. He moved away from me, and as I turned around, I saw him rummaging through his wallet. I saw the familiar wrapper of the condom from the hotel room and tried to get him to change his mind, using the location and getting caught as a potential ‘out’, but it was no use…it was going to happen, and I just had to deal with it.

As it was happening, I saw a man walking a dog. I freaked out and told him, but he continued to thrust and slap me from behind. It still terrifies me that he had no fear of being caught. 

The visits and Skype calls continued for months, and I accepted my fate. I started to develop feelings of resentment and didn’t want to be ‘with’ him anymore, but I was trapped and felt so reliant on him. He told me that if my parents ever found out about us, I would get in trouble for being deceitful.  

The week after my 16th birthday, I went on a school trip and spent a weekend away in a different city. He lived a few miles away from where we were staying and decided that he would like to spend the last evening with me in my hotel room before heading home on Sunday. 

After helping to sneak him into the dormitory-style corridor, the friend I was sharing a room with moved to the room opposite, where two other friends were staying. I remember him running down the corridor with his bags, and my heart just sank, knowing what I would have to do next. 

The following Monday, I returned to school and expected a million questions from my friends. They knew about him and that he was my ‘boyfriend’, but it was the first time they had seen him in person. I walked into the classroom and was met with a dozen eyes staring right at me, with laughter and low murmurs circulating the room. Something had happened…

The teacher – who had accompanied us on our school trip – asked to speak with me outside, and I just knew. “Did you or did you not bring a man into your hotel room on Saturday evening?”

A combination of fear and relief washed over me, knowing that I was out of this situation but also knowing that I was in so much trouble. I broke down in tears and was swiftly escorted to the headmaster's office. The teacher left me there, and I waited for the next bout of judgement.

At this point, I still had my phone and knew I needed to contact my abuser. I sent a rushed and frantic text saying everyone knew and I was in trouble. I can’t remember his complete response other than the part when he said, “Just stick to the story, and everything will be fine.”

The story was that if anyone found out about his visit on my school trip, it was the first time we had engaged sexually in any way, shape or form. It never made sense to me, but now I realise it was his ‘get out of jail free card’ as I had just turned 16.

As the headteacher was off-site, I had to wait for what seemed like hours for him to return. Text messages from my abuser regularly alerted me, taking me out of long periods of dissociation.  The headteacher arrived, frantic and flustered from the upheaval of his day, and he knelt in front of me as I wailed and apologised with no context. He bobbed down to meet my eye level and said, "Whatever this is, we can sort it.”

He was rushed into his office and briefed by the returning teacher that walked me to his office. He shouted for me to come into his office and was told to sit down. I stared at the floor, waiting for him to say something. As I raised my head to meet his gaze, he said, "You could have done anything apart from that.”

The handful of hours that followed consisted of being told several things. How I had brought “shame to his Catholic school, myself and my family” and asked me, “what do you think will happen to our reputation when the papers find out about what you did?” My spirit was completely broken.

My parents burst into the room with tears in their eyes and a look of heartbreak, anger and humiliation on their faces. I apologised, but I knew it wouldn’t affect their feelings towards me for a long time.

The headteacher told them that “he had no option but to permanently exclude me” from the school, just six months before my GCSE exams. I’ve never seen my Mum beg for anything in my life, but she desperately pleaded with him to let me come back. It was agreed that I would be excluded from school and return the following year. The months that followed are too painful for me to write about.

After my exclusion period, I returned to school with a renewed sense of determination. I wanted to pass my GCSEs and go to a different sixth form to start a new chapter in my life. However, I was met with cold stares from my group of friends who helped my abuser into the hotel room, and I quickly realised I would be spending my final school year alone. 

(I never understood why my friends turned against me until I contacted them ten years later. The headteacher excluded them from school for one day and told them it was “their fault I was groomed.”)

I was called to the headteacher's office and told to keep my head down for the remaining time at school. I expressed my sadness to him about my friends not talking to me, to which he replied, "well, what did you expect?” 

I left school with only 2 GCSEs, devastating my parents and ending the school year on an extremely low note. 

The penny drops

My growth into adulthood was treacherous but rewarding. I managed to get the grades I needed in Sixth Form to go to University and left with a degree and an award for my dissertation.

I had a series of toxic relationships, with one bringing all of my trauma to the very front and causing me to have a very severe mental breakdown. I was resented for my carelessness and destructive tendencies, and my family were distant and confused by my behaviour. 

One day in my early 20s, a video popped up on my Facebook feed by Stinson Hunter, aka ‘The Paedophile Hunter’, who used adult decoys to trick paedophiles into meeting with him. 

This particular episode struck a chord with me and was all too familiar…I soon realised I was a victim of sexual abuse and online grooming. This was too much for me to bear, and I started thinking about ways to kill myself quickly and with next to no pain, but I managed to muster some inner strength and called the Samaritans. 

The person I spoke to encouraged me to pick up the phone and talk with my parents. I had always said the first time I did anything with my abuser was at 16 and that it was consensual. Their hearts broke as I told them my story; after that, my destructive behaviour began to make sense.

Speaking out

When I turned 23, I was raped by my brother's best friend in my bed, making it the third time I had been a victim of sexual abuse. Although I wasn’t ready to report that specifically, I decided it was time to get justice for my younger self.

I reported what had happened, and investigations began. It was such a weight lifted speaking my truth, and I continued with my life as I awaited an update. The process was painfully long, but eventually, the police had everything they needed to make an arrest.

Whenever they told me an arrest would be made, I would keep myself busy with family and fill my day with something happy and positive. At least four times, I would call the police to check if the arrest went ahead as planned, and each time, they told me they had cancelled the visit. 

I’m struggling to describe the whirlwind of emotions I would feel when I was told they hadn’t made the arrest and didn’t think to let me know sooner. The final time this happened, I spoke to the Detective Sergeant overseeing the Officer In Charge of my case.

He told me, “If a little girl is raped, we are obviously going to prioritise that over your case.”, which sent me into a manic and inconsolable state. My parents were livid and complained about it to the police, with a successful arrest following a few weeks later. 

The Catholic School, Catholic Church & Council

Whilst waiting for the court dates to be determined, I started digging into the lack of safeguarding at my school. To my knowledge, they hadn’t made any referrals to social services or the police. I spoke with the local council and dozens of lawyers and made a complaint to the Department for Education, all of which told me the same thing… it's not the school's fault, and it's too late.

One day, I decided to call the NSPCC – who instantly referred me to Operation Hydrant – a coordination hub that handles enquiries into non-recent child sexual abuse investigations concerning persons of public prominence or in relation to those offences which took place within institutional settings.

Operation Hydrant shared details about the headteacher with the police, but the officer said it did not reach the threshold for ‘Misconduct In Public Office’. From then, the Local Authority Designated Officer at my local council represented my best interests and focused on how the headteacher was still in an extremely prominent post in Education and the Catholic Church. 

The Diocese refused to intervene and instead offered me “a place to pray for my mental health recovery.”

The Legal System 

The mandatory Magistrate Court appearance was cancelled last minute 3 times, and by this point, I had reached the edge. Rather than having a mental breakdown, I mustered my strength and began making phone calls to the Court. I didn’t waiver at the monotonous feedback when asking to speak to the Court Listings Department and persevered until I got through to the department. 

The member of staff I spoke to was met with anger, frustration and tears as I told them the effects of these last-minute changes on my mental health. I was then updated regularly, with the Magistrates Court date going ahead a few weeks later. The Police and Victim Support department told me I was the first victim they had heard of to get through to them on the phone and make this happen. 

The Crown Court Case

On the day of my court case, the pit in my stomach was at a record-breaking low. The previous day, I received a call from my Officer In Charge, who told me that the Rape charge had been dropped because “I continued to meet with him and see him.” This destroyed me, and as a result, I felt even more broken and shaken about taking the stand. 

As I walked into the courtroom, the judge didn’t smile or bring me any comfort. He bluntly said, “if you’d just like to take a seat”, which only heightened my anxiety. Then, to make matters worse, as I looked up into the public gallery, I was met with the face of my abuser’s dad. I had requested to be screened from seeing my abuser, and it hurt that the court was so careless with where his family had been sat. 

(After the gruelling cross-examination, I found out that my ISVA was furious at the judge for being so cold and because the public gallery should not have seen me. The court had mistakenly thought I was appearing via video call, and if they had followed through with my request, I wouldn’t have had my abuser’s father staring at me throughout my testimony.)

The first half of the court day was manageable; I didn’t mind the lawyer at first. Then came the second half. Despite my rape charge being dropped the day before, the lawyer spoke through the entire rape scenario, bringing up an incorrect witness account from my friend. I corrected the lawyer immediately and said that the detail was wrong and that my friend must have misunderstood, as I did not identify that particular occurrence as a rape. 

Once the ordeal was over, my lawyer congratulated me, telling me I had done a really good job. I felt relieved and like this horrendous ordeal was finally concluding…then it all changed.

The officer in charge, who was my main point of contact throughout the court process, said that the witnesses for the next day had been cancelled so I could talk freely to my friend, mum and all other witnesses that were no longer needed to attend court. I trusted him, as he had been my guide throughout the court process, and I didn’t think to question him.

Later that evening, my friend called me to check in on my well-being, and I told her that my officer in charge told Mum and me that we could now discuss the case openly. I told her about the defences ‘Rape’ questioning, and if that was her recollection of what I confided in her all those years ago (even though I knew she had misunderstood), she could only tell her truth, and she did the right thing.

My friend received an overlapping phone call from the officer in charge, who questioned her statement as it contradicted the date of my recollection and asked when we had last seen each other and spoken. She then told him we had spoken on the phone moments beforehand and had met in Leeds for lunch the month prior. We were never told that we could not meet in person, and when we did, we made sure that we did not discuss any details about the upcoming court case.

The following day, my mum visited me as she wanted to keep me in good spirits whilst the case was ongoing. We were chatting over a cup of tea when suddenly, my phone rang…it was the officer in charge, and he informed me that he was on his way to my house. 

Being an ex-police officer, Mum knew something was off when she opened the door, and the officer in charge had brought a colleague with him. They sat on the sofa and informed me that my case would be completely thrown out within half an hour. I completely dissociated and went into a trance, with tears streaming down my face and a total inability to speak.

When Mum asked why the case had been thrown out, the officer in charge looked at me accusingly and said, “I think that (name) knows why,”. He said it was because I had spoken to my friend about the court case. 

Mum challenged this immediately, saying that it was not only I that was told that conversations between witnesses were allowed but that he told her the same thing. He denied having said anything of the sort and continued to gaslight us. The judge instructed the jury to give a non-guilty verdict, and that was it; I had lost everything.

A four-hour meeting was called with everyone involved, including the CPS Lawyers and my representing barrister, who decided to pull the plug. I felt threatened the entire time and had to hire a defence lawyer to try and protect me from being criminalised. In the meeting, the barrister representing me even stated that the phone call with my friend could be seen as a criminal offence. 

The officer in charge then admitted what he did in front of everyone and stated he had told the judge that he had made a mistake. Rather than considering my position as a vulnerable victim trusting the officer in charge, the judge stated that I should have listened to his initial instruction not to speak to anyone about the case. He didn’t seem to care that I wholeheartedly trusted the officer in charge and would never have said a word if I wasn’t told I could. 

I applied for a Victim Rights Review, which was returned, stating that the case had been thrown out because I had spoken to my friend and this contradiction reflected on my character as a witness. Refusing to give up, I applied for two more reviews and got a final letter acknowledging my officer in charge’s actions, but it still didn’t matter. It was over, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

My Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA), who supported me for over two years, was discharged with no referral, so I lost one of the only forms of support I was given. I also couldn’t have therapy while going through the court case and was on the waiting list for over four years.

Eventually, I was placed on suicide watch for a month and was visited daily by the NHS crisis team. It took me a long time to see a glimpse of hope and get on the road to recovery. I lost my justice and even friends during the breakdown…the cost was huge. It was a really dark period of my life. Nothing helped except for time, and just as life started to feel bearable again, I received the news that my other case had been rejected for lack of evidence. 

You start to think it's all your fault when so many bad things happen. It’s the damage that’s been left—trying to function, turning to self-harm and a constant feeling of anxiety. The unending pain from my past parallels this happy life that I have worked hard to build for myself with my husband. What happened with all of these institutions feels worse than the abuse itself. I feel let down, and I demand justice. But will I ever get it?

Please note, our team are taking a short break over Christmas as will not be checking emails regularly. We'll respond once we are back on Tuesday 3rd January. Thank you for understanding.

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