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The Mother

They met through a dating agency. She did it for a laugh, but when he phoned her ?he sounded lovely.?

They went on their first date when her second daughter was six weeks old. By the time she was six months, they had bought a house together.

When she was nine months old, they had married. It was a whirlwind romance. He was the perfect partner, who understood her vulnerabilities, her low self-esteem, and how the abuse had left her with scars that would never heal. She even told him about her first husband, whom she?d married young and who had abandoned her with two young daughters. He understood her perfectly. ?He made sure he was everything my first husband wasn?t. He wasn?t secretive. I met all his family. He provided for me, bought us somewhere nice to live, made sure we had lovely things and couldn?t do enough for the children and was a definite ?father figure? for them.

?He wasn't secretive. I met all his family?

He wasn?t afraid to take them out for the day, bought things for them and he appeared the ideal gentle, laid back, placid guy. I just couldn?t believe I had met someone who wanted me, more in fact than I wanted him. I was amazed.?

Jane is a strong woman now. Attractive and in her mid-30s, she now understands the cycle of events that have taken hold of and shaken her life, until she has almost been ready to give up.

She recounts in a carefully, controlled tone how the most important man in her life went on to sexually abuse her three year old daughter.

?After a couple of years together, we lost the business and had to move out to rented accommodation. It was during that time that my middle daughter made allegations to a neighbour of mine, who in turn told me. It snowballed from there really.? This was 1988. Her daughter was three.

?So I obviously confronted him. There was a huge row and he denied everything. He wanted proof. He wanted me to call the doctor and the police, because he said he hadn?t done anything. So I phoned my GP, who came out, but he said he couldn?t see anything and that there was nothing else he could do.? She pauses, tense.

?He just went off and left me with all these doubts. I was thinking ?my daughter?s said this?, and the doctor had just left. I didn?t know what to do.?

The police were eventually called in, but they decided not to pursue their investigation due to a lack of evidence (very common in sexual abuse cases, where often it is an adult?s word against a child?s).

?They didn?t say anything, they just left it, which was so traumatic,? she emphasises.

The trauma was all the more real because Jane was herself a childhood victim of sexual abuse. The allegations triggered her own repressed memories of that time, sending them flooding into her daily thoughts. It took a terrible toll on her:

?I couldn?t really believe it at the time. I just couldn?t or wasn?t able to believe he could do such a thing, and at the same time had all my own memories coming back...it was not knowing what was going to happen, not knowing if he?d done it, but not being able to believe he had. It was an awful, terrible time.?

There was no-one to turn to. Even her health visitor just told her ?oh, you?ve always coped.? Her husband said the abuse could have taken place at the hands of a neighbour or carer, and she wanted to believe him. They soon moved to a bigger place. ?There were 13 months between the first allegation and the final allegation. A 13 month period where my daughter didn?t say anything to me, where we seemed to settle down, there didn?t seem to be any problems and we started getting our money sorted out.? But things changed. ?Then there was another allegation. It was so clear this time that I couldn?t doubt it. I couldn?t say to myself ?I don?t believe this has happened?. I couldn?t say to myself ?no, he wouldn?t do that? because by now my daughter was four and she was so explicit in what she said that there was no way a child of four would know those things, unless something had happened to her.?

She didn?t confront him. She waited until he went to work ?which meant getting in the same bed as him that night, which wasn?t easy.? In the morning, she called a paediatrician.

She called Social Services herself and took her daughter to the hospital. They confirmed she had been abused.

?I sat there knowing there was no doubt. Beforehand he?d said she was in and out of houses, playgroups, whatever, and anyone could have done it. But this was so clear. She told me what he?d done, that it hurt and I just put my arms around her and I promised that he would never be able to hurt her again and that?s a promise I made and kept.?

Her husband was arrested and charged, although he denied the allegations completely. However, he wasn?t convicted, again due to insufficient evidence. So Jane threw him out of the family home - but he still didn?t leave them alone.

?He sent me letters and made dozens of phonecalls. He claimed he was innocent and said he would prove who had done it and reunite us as a family, bring us back together again.

?No matter what he said, I knew in my heart he had done it.?

Like many abusers, he seemed unable to comprehend or admit to the enormity of his own actions. His calls and letters were themselves abusive, full of foul language and accusations, until she obtained a court order to stop him.

When he finally did get some therapy, he admitted the abuse but was unable to accept it was a sexual motivation - he said he had done it out of anger. ?Anything rather than say it was sexual. He couldn?t cope with the idea.?

Neither did his family believe her. They ostracised her. He has since joined another single mother with kids, who may or may not know of his past. He?s not on the Sex Offenders Register, having never been convicted. And to make it worse, he retracted his admission of guilt when it caused him to be rearrested by the police.

?So he actually admitted it, took it back and put us through all that trauma of admitting it. I thought he could get therapy, so that he wouldn?t hurt anyone else. I was so frightened he would abuse others and wanted him to get help.?

This was around 1990 and Jane started having therapy herself ?because I needed to talk through why I was getting involved in these awful relationships which were affecting my children. I didn?t want it to happen anymore. I didn?t want to make mistakes. I wanted to understand myself better and heal what had happened to me, without using anti-depressants.? She is one of very few who have done so.

?I?ve seen some incredibly damaged people who are desperate for help but there?s not the money there.? There are good voluntary organisations but even Jane never knew any of them or where to find them. In fact the police Child Protection Officer asked her to set up a helpline in the area for other parents.

She points out how in mental health there is a system; similarly for a child believed to be at risk, under Social Services; but for adult survivors there?s nothing at all. It helped when she became a Christian.

?Nobody said to me I had to forgive, but I came to a place where I knew for me to survive and continue with my life I had to forgive. Even though he never said sorry to me or my child, and even though the man who abused me is dead, so he can?t possibly say sorry.?

She felt she had to get on with her life. ?But that doesn?t mean I don?t ever get angry with my ex-husband. Nine years on from the first allegation and he still causes me great pain.?

She?s still waiting for that one letter which says sorry, that he?d done it, that he was going to say sorry to her child. But instead he?s fighting her for greater access to the kids - he gets Legal Aid, she doesn?t.

And with such a battle, the family have to relive the trauma again and again; they cannot heal. ?My daughter?s had ongoing therapy since she was four. How does someone else feel who?s been abused throughout childhood and never been able to tell anybody??

These articles were originally published in MSN NEWS

Other stories in this series:

Sex abuse: the survivor

The lasting nightmare of child abuse. Peter Saunders tells how the scars last for a lifetime.

Sex abuse: the probation officer

How to shatter the sex offending cycle. Donald Finlater helps sex offenders survive back in the community.

Sex abuse: the police

Inside Scotland Yard?s Paedophilia Unit. We?re dealing with very serious crimes warns DCI Reynolds.

Sex abuse: the mother

Whirlwind romance led to horror of child abuse. He was everything my first husband wasn?t.

Sex abuse: the legal expert

The law is failing the victims of child abuse. Barbara Joel-Essam is trying to change the culture around sex offence.

Sex abuse: the investigator

The man who catches child abusers. Abusing children is the main focus of some people?s lives.

Sex abuse: the expert

?You can buy a child for a packet of crisps?. Grim warning from Britain?s top sex crime consultant.

Sex abuse: the abuser

Abuser who claims six-year-old led him on. Convicted paedophile hasn?t yet taken full responsibility for his crimes.

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