Child Abuse- a parent’s perspective

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Let me start again…

I know you can’t see all the previous versions of this post I’ve written, but starting again and again and again is all I have done for four years and this post was no different.

I’m not going to beat about the bush with trigger warnings because… take a look at the title and the link and think it through. What follows is a snapshot of what follows after child sex abuse from a parent’s perspective…But I will put a lovely picture here so you can escape without reading on if that it what you want to do.

Probably all you need to know is my children are loved and are loving.

I can’t say with honesty that I wanted to write this, because this isn’t a fictional account. There have been more than enough opportunities for openness to be cathartic for me not to be hoping for that.  But I do want you to read this, because before it happened to my family, I had no idea what happened when a child reported abuse.  I would have probably questioned how it could happen, that children could be assaulted in their own home and the parents not know. I think I assumed there were systems in place to support children and families in this situation.

Four years ago, in the spring of 2015, at least two of my three neuro-diverse children were sexually assaulted by a man with impeccable qualifications and references we had employed to allow them a more normal life. The third child was too young for us to ever know definitively.

My eldest child told me they’d done something good and positive with their carer. I knew it was sexual assault. I went straight to the police.

In the spring of 2016, the man was sentenced to 10 years for assaults to five children. I still don’t know exactly what charges pertained to my two children, but I do know the two rape charges initially framed by the CPS were dropped to one during the trial as part of the plea bargain. This lowered the sentence tariff. He will serve 6 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole. Photographs of my children are in the darker parts of the internet and my children’s pictures are with CEOPs so they can be identified and removed if found. Somebody somewhere will have them on their hard drive.

I know my children were raped, whatever the precise legal definition is, because they have told me so.

My children were not hurt or frightened by the assaults but were told they were acts of friendship. Would make them bigger and stronger to defeat their school bullies. That they should show other children how to do this because this is knowledge that should be shared. I don’t know if their abuser thought this a kindness, perhaps it was something he himself had been told, but it was his biggest act of cruelty. We recognised immediately that the children might go on to repeat these acts, because as concrete learners these instructions from their abuser we now embedded. Interventions couldn’t begin fully until the trial was over in case it tainted their potential evidence.

As a family we took the decision they must be supervised to make sure they didn’t display their sexual knowledge to others. School couldn’t do this, so we started to home educate and had to buy in more support to make sure the children were properly supervised. We did this from our own pocket and it was crippling… but what do you do when it rains (and it was pouring) but spend your rainy day fund and hope that the rain stops.

During the heavy handed and non-autism friendly “recovery” support my eldest child developed PTSD from being told the things that happened to them were assaults. At our last scheduled session (because the children were “fixed”) my middle child, broadly non-verbal at the time of the assaults, suggested they had touched their younger sibling.

In the spring of 2017, we were put into Child Protection procedures because our children were a risk to each other. There was no further money, but our three children must have “constant supervision”. Because they had irregular sleep patterns because of ADHD and Autism, this meant one parent with their ear on them all night.

We had tried to keep everything light and normal at home. As light or as normal as it can be when your child has been assaulted by someone you told them to trust. Where you paid for the time they were being assaulted. Where you allowed into your own home and didn’t know they were assaulting your child 20 feet from where you were cooking the evening meal. When as part of the recovery we had to employ more carers, allow more professionals in and out of our lives, while remaining vigilant at all times. While friends and family pulled away because they could trust our children or our staff with their children. Or us. I mean, who employs a paedophile to work with their children?

Then social services came into our home and told us we couldn’t cuddle up on the sofa under a blanket to watch TV in case someone was touching someone else inappropriately. We had to cover our bodies from neck to knee during the night so the children were not exposed to naked bodies. The misplacing of an SD card with some risqué home photos of us as parents resulted in a multi agency enquiry. Threats were made at meetings that our children wouldn’t be found suitable local foster families but would be split up and put in group homes.

Suddenly we lived in the world where schools wouldn’t take the children because they posed a safeguarding risk, but elective home education (because we’d initially withdrawn the children from school) is not paid for. No-one funded the supervision at home so the financial stress went up and up.

The soap opera that was now our life went on to the scene where the police referred themselves to the IPCC because they had caught our employee with child porn on his computer three years before we employed him and failed to take action because he was a child himself. I’m not wanting them to have jailed him at this point, but where was their responsibility to him as a child being groomed into thinking looking at images like this were all right, by his new “friends” on the dark web. Where another parent who’d employed him before us failed to report him to the police, just sacked him and hoped it would go away. Where, went they did go to the police, the police did nothing. That the police didn’t act didn’t surprise me anymore. When he was on bail, we reported to the police we’d seen the abuser on social media out with children. They did nothing then either, and he continued to abuse two family members for the 7 months between us going to the police and charges being brought, because the police hadn’t checked if children frequented his family home.

At the enquiry, an officer was blamed for everything and everyone else had retired. We were advised to get a lawyer. We did. We now have a barrister who at our first meeting victim shamed the women in a previous case he’d worked on. We’d be ok, he said, because there was no question our children were innocent, whereas she’d had a drink, worn a short skirt and got in a taxi. We can’t sack him, because he represents the three families involved and he was the barrister in the case where the legal precedent was set in this field of law. He is our best chance of recouping some of the costs we’ve incurred, and getting damages and further support for the children. And I would love to ignore the costs, but we’ve spent well over £60,000 in carer support in four years and paid for private education on top of that.

Eventually after 11 months of Child Protection procedures, the children were identified by a psychologist to be less of risk to each other than had been assumed, but to still need psychological help and support and then we had to fight for this to be funded, because it is not NHS in our area of the country. Less of a risk, not no risk. Every decision we make at home with regards to supervision is still risk aware.

The children have gone back to school in the last few months. Schools who put their fingers in their ears and sing “La, la, la” when we want to talk PTSD triggers for both children. Because no-one likes to acknowledge these children know about sex and giving them a PHSE lesson on sexting is not something they need.

With the help of the psychologist we have started rebuilding our children’s understanding of sex, which means being a very sex positive household. Sex was never the problem here, breach of trust was. Abuse of power was. I want my children to know that sex is not shameful. Not a source of physical or emotional pain. Seeing naked bodies doesn’t make you a pervert.

God, that is fucking hard some days.

We have to focus on that. The intimacy of sexual contact is an important part of the glue that holds my husband and I together. It is an important part of who we are… this blog is a bit of a clue to that. But you can’t ignore the dual edge of sex in our home.

Four years ago, a man came into our home and raped our children when he was supposed to be helping them change their jumpers and attend drama club.

We caught him. Stopped him. My eldest child was particularly brave and gave super evidence to the police despite having communication issues. Other children are safe because my child spoke up. We remind them of that often. Several professionals have told us that the abuser was moving so quickly increasing the severity of his crimes that he would have continued to escalate.  He drove an anonymous van with a panelled rear. It is not a stretch to think where his behaviours may have gone.

I don’t know what our children’s prognosis is.

My eldest has learnt not to tell the truth to adults anymore. That to tell them what happened opened pandora’s box. They have told our psychologist that if it happened again, they wouldn’t tell, because the consequences were too difficult.

My middle child has learnt that when people look at them, those people find their body and face sexually appealing. They cannot take a compliment because it may have repercussions.

My youngest child has grown up in a house where every penny is spent on providing supervision, where there are more strangers in our lives than family members. Where you can’t cuddle your siblings.

I can tell you that they are doing as well as could be possibly hoped for after all this. They have positive and trusting relationships with us and with their carers. That it’s become clear they have non-typical ideas of gender and sexuality and that they are more prepared and have more tools to deal with these things as they are going through puberty now and in the next few years than most LBGTQ+ children. That they are emotionally literate. And yes, we still cuddle.

I can tell you that the process, some of it still ongoing, that follows reporting your children have been sexually assaulted is damaging to the children and the family who are victims and that as soon as a child acts on sexual knowledge obtained in the course of assault they become a “risk” not a “victim” and we became “negligent” and “neglectful” for not being able to supervise three disabled children around the clock and work to bring in enough money to keep the household running, without having other adult help. That social workers and schools are terrified of a sex positive approach, even when it is psychologist led.

I have learnt that some people will always look at me as the person who let their children be raped.

16 Replies to “Child Abuse- a parent’s perspective”

  1. The system does not cope with the reality of someone coming into a home and being an abuser. They are only just beginning to understand how to support instead of the blunt reaction that it triggers.
    I’m sorry you all have been through this. Your children are amazing for reporting and giving evidence. So many are silenced and don’t.
    I wish you luck.

    1. It is funny.. we did the Earlybird (National Autism Society) parental support training for parents of newly diagnosed children in 2012, and the opening point was disabled children are 4 times more likely to be assaulted than typical children… and that figure is down to two things, parental stress and use of carers. But without carers, children cannot access normal activities nor can a family operate successfully. One of the three activities this carer supported was to come to church with us and keep an eye on the children so we could actively participate in the service, rather than constantly parenting. The worst thing is, now they know the consequences of reporting, they wouldn’t do it again… what does that say for our system?

  2. I have finally got into your blog – I am speechless – what you and your family have had to endure is just brain altering.
    I was abused as a child. And as a child I felt if someone paid me attention they too wanted me sexually. In fact if a man was kind to me and didn’t make sexual advances, I wandered why.
    My Mum never knew.
    My heart goes out to you guys and I want to thank you so much for being brave enough to write this. I am sorry it has taken me this long to get here but I literally could not view your URL on my computer.
    Wishing you all well x

    1. Thank you Violet, and for your sharing on twitter.
      I am sorry to hear about your experiences.
      This was important to share, because honestly I think this is one of those life events that even Soap Operas underplay… and where untli it happens to you or someone near you have no idea how unprepared the law and its servants are, or health services. Or practically anyone…and the only way that will change is with awareness and understanding. Parents, just like the children directly involved, are so isolated, so if there other like us out there, I hope they feel a little less alone.

    2. Thank you May for your kind words and your sharing. Also your perseverance. I think we’ve killed the technical gremlins for now. I am sorry to hear about your experiences. I think my middle child feels similarly, that any comment on appearance is sexually motivated. It is getting better though, and I am hopeful in a few years maybe they’ll feel more comfortable. I hope others get something from me sharing this, not just a tale of woe is us. Thank you for promoting this on twitter- not something it’s easy to do on this subject. A x

  3. Thank you for sharing this.

    As someone who was sexually abused as a child and didn’t tell until much later and was ignored by parents and saw no justice whatsoever I want to thank you for doing everything you could, even if the systems failed you, even if the repercussions increased the complexity of things. I’m so sorry for your family’s challenges. Love will endure.

  4. As hard as this is to read, that’s minuscule compared to what it must be like to live through and write about it.

    A friend has an autistic daughter and I’ve heard similar things from her regarding the problems of dealing with the professions to get appropriate treatment, especially the way they seem so indifferent, even callous and incompetent.

    To read that that is the tip of the iceberg of your problems is staggering.

    Words fail me at this point because abstract knowledge of such things is meaningless when presented with this kind of reality.

    I do hope that you are able to rebuild a life for your children and yourselves. I doubt it will ever be the one you envisaged, but any form of ‘normal’ family life sounds like it will be a win.

    Best wishes, melody x

    1. Thank you for your kind comments.
      We had excellent news last week and have got our eldest into a specialist autism based school that is happy to take on their gender flexibility and PTSD. Middle child was awarded a placement their in February,- so they both start in September. But to get those places I had to go to court and take on the LA (Education) and CCG (Health) and social work. To go to court against the police, a joy that awaits, we have been asked to provide every single electronic communication between us and the rapist. Most of it is now gone- text messages and work application communications through a third party site. Not to mention the police themselves told me I could delete stuff from my computer after it had been given to them as evidence and the trial was over with no appeal forthcoming. That will be used against us.
      But we are fine. The children are happy day to day and the monsters that climb out of the cupboard can be slain one by one. They know that what happened has not changed how we feel about them.
      At least fighting for them, we feel less helpless. When the fight is over… I suspect the grieving will start.

      1. I know it’s a case of being strong because there’s no other option except give in. But I’m sat here, amazed at what you’re coping with and full of admiration.

        Best wishes for the new school.

  5. I cannot begin to imagine the horror you and your family had to endure during this process. I’m so sorry that this took so long for any kind of reprieve. I wish the best for you and your family!

  6. Oh my goodness, I don’t know the proper words to convey how much I admire you for sharing this, how amazing you are in nurturing your children and trying so hard to undo the after effects what that awful man did to them, and how sorry I am that you are all having to go through this. Much love and strength to you and your family xxx💐

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