My first memory of emotional abuse was when I was three years old. Mum left me with the next door neighbour who was the local flasher. He didn’t think anything of showing himself to me, it confused me. Mum knew he used to ‘play with himself’ in the shed at the bottom of his garden in full view. In case you’re wondering, my long term memory is very clear, like things happened yesterday.

Around the same time, I caught mum kissing her best friend’s husband in our kitchen. She shoved me into the other room, slammed the door and told me to leave them alone and go play. I was so confused, why was she being so nasty, why was she kissing Colin? The affairs were always going on, way before the sexual abuse, she would take me with her to meet her ‘boyfriends.’ She was caught out by a wife one time, I hid in the well in front of the car seat while all the shouting was going on.

Her very best friend’s husband played guitar in a band, she slept with him too, and one of his friends, she made me wait in a walk in pantry while she did the deed, I heard everything.

Much later in my life when I was eight years old, mum went to a psychologist for smoking. They became friends and later lovers. My dad had a good job and worked in Milan a lot for Pirelli tires. When he was away, my abuser used to come to our house. He was a hypnotist. Just to put you in the picture, he was arrested and taken to court in the 60’s for child abuse but instead of going to jail, he promised he would get help and was told never to work with children or in the medical profession. He changed his name.

The first time I remember him coming to my room was when he hypnotised my mum and made her sing in the bathroom where he could hear her. He walked into my room and also ‘put me under.’ He used to bring me round just as he was finishing whatever he fancied at the time. I remember waking up with my arms around his waist and my face close to his groin.

From then on I was so scared every time he came to the house. If I needed the bathroom I would sit and pee on my floor rather than go anywhere near him. I felt and still feel so ashamed about that. Things come back to me all the time.

He used to take kids on camping holidays, mixed boys and girls of all ages in the same tent. The first time I went Iwas expected to sleep with all these loud, swearing teenagers who I’d never even met. I cried, I was eight years old. Mum was furious but let me sleep in the van with her and my abuser in the end. My dad didn’t know about the affair, I had to keep it a secret from him. My dad wears glasses, I remember wanting to cry every time I saw a man wearing glasses, couldn’t understand why until I was much older.

The morning after that incident when I wouldn’t go in the tent, mum had to go home. My abuser took this opportunity to put his hands all over me. I remember the whole scene, the colour of the van — yellow inside, the condensation on the sides, the smell. I was clammy, I tried to push his hands off, he persisted, something told me it was wrong. He made me feel guilty because I didn’t want him to touch me. He said it was just a cuddle because my dad didn’t love me. I was wearing a light nightie or summer dress, can’t remember which, I climbed into the front of the van, out the doors and ran up a hill. I hid until I saw my mum’s car later on. She remembers me running towards her in the thin dress. I’d shivered for hours hiding, well it seemed like hours. I tried to make sense of it all. I started wetting myself again, I was so embarrassed.

There were many more times he visited my room, but I never stayed in the van until I was older. I didn’t tell anyone. His wife warned my mum about him. How could she have left me? I carried on going to camp and stayed with the teenagers as I got to know them. I saw and heard so many things an eight year old should never be confronted with.

One summer, one of the boys abused me while he thought I was asleep. I just lay there frozen. He went outside the tent at one point so I hid in another corner of the tent so he couldn’t find me amongst everyone else (it was a big tent). We were camped illegally on the beach amongst the sand dunes. The police were always moving us on.

He abused other girls too, some have come forward. My mum caught him with one of the other girls and went mad! I still kept quiet. One girl went missing, he never called the police, she was eventually found shivering in a public toilet, no one knows what happened to her. She never spoke a word to anyone. She was 14.

I had to be taken to the doctors on many occasions because of problems down below. Why did they never pick up on any of it? He abused me in the swimming baths in broad daylight once, all my friends were there.

Still I kept quiet. Lots of things happened, my dad as far as I was concerned probably knew by this time she was having an affair with him.

I am going to jump on to when I was 14. He was always making comments to my mum about my development, how big my boobs were getting, she never said anything. He bought a boat to convert into a cruiser. I didn’t get on with dad at the time I was fairly rebellious, so I used to go with him and mum and a couple of their friends to this boat down in an awful shipping yard in Fleetwood near Blackpool. We went every other weekend. I had to endure them having sex in the back of the van whilst I was across the front seat. One night it was all too much and I ran off. I hid behind some pallets in the dark, heard mum come out and say ‘she’ll be ok. She’ll come back.’

The place was full of dockies and fishermen and I was on my own in the dark. They didn’t even try to find me. I was so cold in the end I had to go back. No apology, it was like nothing had happened. I know it seems bizarre that I kept going with them, but my dad was acutely depressed, I was a bag of nerves and suffered with anxiety problems, it was the lesser of the two evils, my dad was so nasty at that time, and always bowling. I would have been home alone and I hated being alone. My relationship with friends was hard, they didn’t understand why I was so moody and sad all the time. They used to leave me out a lot. I just felt abandoned apart from my granddad who I used to go and stay with. My nerves were so bad I was even nervous around him. But I knew he loved me. I tried to run away from home one night, I just couldn’t take the abuse much longer.

My abuser bought an old caravan to the dock to live in at the weekends when the boat was being finished. He abused me in broad daylight when my mum was only yards away. I was wearing a bikini top and shorts, I managed to get away but was surrounded by wolf whistles and dirty men. I could have been raped, murdered, anything it was a dangerous place at 15 wearing what I was wearing (it was a hot summers day). I had to go back. They were eating lunch! When I arrived home that weekend I tried to end my own life by taking the antidepressants I was on and lots of paracetamol. Mum called my abuser to tell him and he told her not to take me to the hospital, just to keep an eye on me. I remember how ill I felt, she lay in bed all night with me and I remember her touching my breast. I’d never felt so low. I went to the boat once more after that.

On the way home I lay in the back whilst mum drove and he sat beside her. I fell asleep. We must have stopped at the services, he had my hand on his private parts when I woke up. I don’t know why, I just pretended to be asleep, He performed a sexual act on me, when we came home he told mum he’d been asleep all the way back! That’s when I put a stop to it all. I was 15, picked the right moment and told my mum. She didn’t believe me. She said my dad was not a loving person and my abuser was just trying to be a dad! That was the end of my world. He was a psychologist/hypnotist. Who would believe me if mum didn’t. I never told dad. I kept away, stayed in my room, withdrew. I hated school, was moody and rebellious and one night got drunk and slit my wrists. My best friend’s brother bandaged me up and took me home. I met a boyfriend but was so clingy and possessive he finished with me and I took another overdose. This time I slept for two days, still didn’t go to hospital. The doctor told my dad. I still never told dad why I’d done it.

All this is just a part of my story. There is too much to write down. I suffer now with depression, anxiety, PTSD and low confidence and self esteem. I feel I’ve never deserved love and crave affection and want everyone to like me. I bother too much what others think of me and I’m very very insecure about myself and generally. My mum had always put me down and has never been there to protect me. She left my dad when I was 17 to go and live with my abuser’s friend in Fleetwood. I lived with dad in a flat.

All my relationships failed because I was looking for love and affection and went about it the wrong way. I went through a stage of agoraphobia when I was 19, couldn’t go out or work without a drink. Somehow I pulled myself together, met Tony, had my two children but suffered with postpartum depression both times.

Only now am I getting my life together with the help of my fantastic husband who has put up with so much, my kids whom I love so so much and my pdoc who is a godsend. I’ve survived it all, I am determined NOT to let that man ruin the rest of my life. It’s taken nine months of bad depression, an overdose and slashed wrists and a big scare when I though Tony and I were finished for good to turn my life around.

If I can do it, believe me so can others. I wouldn’t call myself a strong person, but I will be, and I will learn to lay down boundaries and love myself. Please have faith that things can change, my life is changing for the first time for the better.

I wish all the people who read this so much luck and happiness.

I will not let my abuser ruin my life any more.

If the police catch up with him he is in prison, he has gone underground, but my file is on record — I’m just waiting…