My story of childhood sexual abuse and why it took me so long to say something

From the ages of 5 to 9 I was physically, mentally and sexually abused by a neighbour, his sister and their friends.

It seemed like all of them knew about it and no one said anything. Not even me. He said he would kill my parents and then kill me if I told anyone.

It was like something out of a horror movie. Quite literally. He wore a mask from a quite famous and violent horror movie that everyone would know what it was if they saw it. He carried an 8-inch knife around with him, and used it whenever he was abusing me.

He was such a violent person and everyone knew about it. He beat his own mother on a regular basis and the police and ambulance service were always at their house. She had broken bones and black eyes all of the time.

I would get made to play hide and seek in the woods and chased by this guy with his mask and knife. His friends would laugh and look away when he was abusing me.

His sister often caught him abusing me and just walked off. I often wonder if she was glad it wasn’t happening to her for a change – as she did live with him and I can’t imagine how hard that must’ve been, especially with what he did to his own mother.

I would get locked in the shed outside with him or in the attic and everyone found it hilarious, apart from me.

When the sexual abuse started becoming more regular and more severe, where I was being threatened with the knife, I tried to get away from it. But I ended up having my arm slashed and being sexually assaulted anyway.

One time I escaped from the shed. I remember it so clearly because I really hurt my shoulder stretching up to the top lock on the door. You know that kind of pain you get when you pull a muscle in your neck?

I ran through the kitchen and he chased me through the house, the front door was locked too and I got out. I ran and then tripped up the steps outside and scraped my knees. He grabbed my ankle and pulled me, pulled his mask off (I guess because we were outside) and then I still managed to get away.

I ran home crying. My mum quizzed me about my arm and knees and I told her that I “fell out of a tree”. No further questions asked.

The abuse only stopped because another female neighbour’s mother had come round to warn my mum that my abuser was a predator and had tried it on with her daughter. She was 4 years older than me and was able to remove herself from the situation. My mum kept me away from them and always wanted to know where I was from then on.

Fast forward to age 13. From when it happened to this time I had totally repressed it in my memory. I started having nightmares about the events that had happened to me.

It was frightening because I didn’t know why I was having these nightmares or what they meant.

Then I became depressed and started self-harming. At age 15 I was seen by the childhood psychosis mental health team because I was harming myself daily, was hearing voices and had tried to kill myself because of it. I was put on medication.

One day I finally snapped and just sat there and poured my heart out about my life to this lovely lady at the mental health place. I remember saying that I didn’t know if it was real or not because nothing feels real anymore. My nightmares were actually my life and I suddenly remembered every single detail of my life in the form of flashbacks.

I was then diagnosed with PTSD and dissociative disorder relating to my symptoms of PTSD and I started seeing someone regularly for help and therapy. I still hadn’t told my parents.

When I was 18 I finally told my mum. I told her everything and told her about the PTSD. She wanted me to tell the police because of how horrific the nature of it was. She said it would help me heal.

The mental health team agreed but said I should do it with caution. I reported it and he was arrested.

Everyone involved was questioned and they all took his side. Even his sister and mum. They said it wasn’t true. He denied it too. So because there was a lack of evidence and because it was historical he couldn’t be charged.

But he and his family and the people involved have an order that they aren’t allowed near me or to contact me ever again.

The police also allowed me to apply for compensation. which I’m in the process of receiving right now. The mental scars I have have left me unable to work and unable to trust other people, especially men. I find life really hard sometimes. I guess it comes with the PTSD but since this I have been sectioned into a mental health unit (when he was arrested) because I was adamant he was going to kill me and my parents (like he said).

I was there 38 days roughly and diagnosed with having a psychosis episode and bipolar disorder. I take 3 different medications just to have a calm mind. As time goes on I seem to forget this happened to me. Life is a little bit more bearable every day. I don’t think it’s something that will ever go away but it can certainly be managed with LOTS of therapy and sometimes medication.

Meditation and relaxation is also key in managing the symptoms of PTSD. I find it therapeutic to practice mindfulness daily. It keeps me grounded.

I used to be terrified of Halloween and horror movies because I thought they were actually real because of what happened to me. I am now 26 and I have finally let it go in the sense that I realise movies aren’t real life. And just because bad things happen, it doesn’t mean they will always happen.

Halloween is a fun time for friends to hang out. It doesn’t mean you’re in danger. I like that I have finally overcome those fears.

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