An historical abuse survivor repeatedly raped by her mother’s partner more than 30 years ago has thanked the West Midlands Police team that fought for her justice − and urged other victims yet to break their silence to reach out for help.
In a heartfelt letter to the specialist Historical Sex Offences Team, the woman praised her investigating officer’s “outstanding kindness and dedication” and for “allowing the little girl I once was a chance to have her voice heard”.
The woman, who was 12-years-old and living with her mother in south Birmingham when the attacks started in 1979, kept the abuse from the authorities for 35 years before she broke down in tears at a child safeguarding conference.
She had been sent on the course, aimed at helping education professionals spot the signs of abuse, grooming and domestic violence, by the private school where she worked.
“I thought I would be able to cope with it,” she said, “but it brought back haunting memories and I broke down in tears at the event. In the days afterwards I was offered some sessions through the school’s counsellor but I had a feeling I was being ostracised, that I’d somehow embarrassed the school.
“They didn’t know how to address the situation and I came away with the impression they were more worried about the school’s reputation.”
Following that conference − and after years of trying to blank out the abuse − the woman, now in her late 40s, searched for her abuser’s name on the internet. And she was shocked by what she found.
“I had been told by my mother that he’d died… but the web search threw up a directory enquires listing and the name of a woman he was living with. My mind started to wander, worrying whether she had children or grandchildren, and if he was subjecting them to the same kinds of abuse I suffered.
“I knew then that I had to speak out and contact the police.”
The case was initially picked up by her local police force in Buckinghamshire but transferred to West Midlands Police’s specialist Historical Sex Offences Team when she disclosed the abuse occurred in Birmingham.
She previously had reservations about disclosing offences to police after what she describes as a Life on Mars attitude by officers in the early 80s when she tried reporting domestic violence on her mum by her abuser.
She added: “I remember their attitude was very macho, on the side of my mother’s partner, and I was made to feel like a naughty child who was making up stories. That was a long time ago, though, and the response I’ve had from the historical offences team couldn’t have been more different.
“It was such a relief to know you’re being listened to and believed. I didn’t feel like I was being judged or questioned… they were very factual and simply wanted to get to the bottom of what happened.
“The officer who handled my case was very personable; I felt I could tell her anything and always focused on the end objective of getting justice. She never gave up − I felt she was on my side, knew I was telling the truth, and was determined to prove that.
“She was very thorough… they have to be as they need to build up a compelling case.
“But at times it is hard, it is emotional and it can put strain on friendships and relationships. The team has to speak to potential witnesses from your past, teachers, family, school friends, and delve back into past medical records. They leave no stone unturned.
“And it can be a drawn out process: from the day I disclosed the offences to police, to the day he was jailed, about two years had passed. It’s because they are detailed investigations − but I was always kept up to date on how the case was progressing.
“I remember my abuser used to discard used condoms down a manhole cover. The officers made enquiries with the water company to pull up that drain to look for evidence. They were long gone but it just shows the lengths they will go to for justice.”
Last year, the woman’s abuser was handed a 15-year jail term after being convicted of multiple rapes in the late 70s and early 80s.
She’s now urging other abuse survivors to get in touch with the Historical Sex Offences Team so they too can get justice and help moving on with their lives.
She added: “They wanted to help me get justice − even if you can’t get your childhood back, your life back, you can take comfort from knowing that your actions can protect other people and stop them from offending again.
“Without the dedication of the officers I might not have got the justice I’d waited so many years for. I’m so grateful he’s been found guilty and, despite my ill-health now, I can really start moving on with my life.
“Abuse shouldn’t be a taboo subject… it shouldn’t be hidden. People who’ve suffered abuse can experience related neurological conditions long after the abuse has stopped − so I’d urge them to speak out and get support.
“And if they perhaps don’t feel quite ready to contact the police then there are lots of support groups who can help.”
West Midlands Police’s Historical Sex Offences Team has dealt with almost 300 cases in its first year − and secured justice for some survivors who suffered abuse up to 50 years ago.
To contact the Historical Sex Offences unit call West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit at Perry Barr police station on the 101 number.
Support can also be found at the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) that offers compassionate support to victims, plus national charities like Women’s Aid or NAPAC that helps children recover from sexual abuse.