Day 3. Esther* 46

Monday 27th November, 2023

My uncle started making sexualised comments towards me when I was a small child, asking me what I was wearing to bed when I was only ten years old. As my parents are deaf they wouldn’t have heard his comments to me, he took full advantage of this, I always felt uncomfortable around him and was relieved when he left.

When I was 16 he stayed over at our house, because I was so uncomfortable I locked my bedroom door, I am so relieved I did, because he tried to come into my room in the night. When I heard the door handle go I froze… I just froze… I was worried in case he tried to break it, but thankfully he didn’t. The next day I was sent to ask him if he wanted a hot drink, when I did he showed me his erect penis. I was terrified.
He gave me 5 pounds, I felt it was to buy my silence. It was a few months before I told my mum, she knew something was wrong and kept asking me. When I finally told her she was horrified, but I felt I was to blame somehow. They never let him near me again, but they didn’t report him to the police and I always felt it wasn’t taken seriously enough.
I felt like a dirty oily rag for years.

I felt like a dirty oily rag for years


Almost half of all child sexual abuse reported to the police takes place within the family setting, and most perpetrators of child sexual abuse in families are males. Typically child sexual abuse within a family starts at a younger age than that outside of a family setting and it can go on for years. It can be additionally traumatic because of the betrayal, stigma and secrecy involved.

It is difficult to work out the prevalence of child sexual abuse within families, although studies suggest that 15% of girls and 5% of boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 16. A lot of this abuse however, remains unidentified due to the secrecy surrounding it. Children may, like Esther, be afraid of their abuser, or they may not want to get them into trouble, they may believe the abuse is their fault and they may fear the repercussions within the family. Children may also fail to recognise that what they are experiencing is abuse.

What we do know is that the effects of abuse within childhood are often both profound and lifelong and we will explore some of these over the next couple of days.

*not her real name.