When she was just 13, Kate* was contacted on Facebook by a much older man.
He invited Kate out in the evenings to ‘hang out’ in local parks. She decided to go along and met a group of men there. They seemed friendly and fun. She met up with them a few more times as they only lived around the corner from her house. Everything seemed fine.
But soon things started to go wrong. At the age of 14 she found herself being pressurised into losing her virginity and having a sexual relationship with one of the men.
Before long Kate was regularly expected to have sex with him — if she didn’t, she would be threatened and manipulated.
This emotional and sexual abuse, including rape, continued for the next couple of months. When Kate finally managed to escape her abuse, it took all her courage to face the man in court.
She discovered she was not the only victim and this group of men faced criminal action for abusing other young girls. Her bravery, and that of the other victims, resulted in the men being sentenced to more than 30 years’ imprisonment for crimes including rape, sexual activity with a child, and sexual assault.
Kate, who lives in the Thames Valley region, said:
I was deeply affected by the abuse I suffered and started to self-harm on a daily basis. Twice I attempted suicide.
Doctors diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I constantly felt guilty, as well as fearful and angry. I still have difficulty sleeping and when I do sleep, I frequently have nightmares.
The damage has not just been psychological but physical too. Kate has suffered from a number of urinary tract infections and has ongoing problems with abdominal pain, as a consequence of the abuse she suffered.
Victim Support referred Kate to a psychotherapist who found that, in addition to her depression and anxiety, she was also suffering from many of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kate received therapy and started taking antidepressants.
At this time, with Victim Support’s help, Kate put in an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) — the government agency responsible for awarding compensation to victims of serious crime.
After months of waiting, she received a response from CICA. When she read what it said, she was devastated. The letter said CICA would not be honouring her claim because ‘on the balance of probabilities [she] had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts’.
This letter, which was very cold and business like, seemed to imply I was somehow responsible for the abuse I suffered. I was 14 when this happened. How could I have consented? I was a child.
All of the care professionals who have had contact with Kate agree she has been sexually abused and has suffered serious consequences as a result.
The local probation service calls Kate’s case ‘one of the most serious cases we are currently working on, due to the level of exploitation and harm involved.’ They add that ‘it is very important [Kate] is not made to feel responsible for what happened or that she is not believed. She was a minor and therefore unable to give consent. She was groomed… and the offenders were convicted.’
* name changed to protect identity.
If you’ve been affected by sexual abuse or violence, you can contact Victim Support for free and confidential support.