Victim of sexual abuse bravely shares her experiences
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In September, a sexual offender Stephen Flynn was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of seven counts of child sexual abuse and child cruelty.
Two months after the sentencing, the victim, who will remain anonymous, has met with her investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Vicky De’ath to discuss her experiences of the investigation.
“It’s difficult to sit here and put the experience into words because nothing can prepare you for what it’s like. I wouldn’t say I had a pre-conceived idea about what an investigation would be like, but it’s totally opposite to what’s shown on TV and films. “When my investigation began, I was just 13 years old and struggling to deal with what had happened to me on top of the worries and stresses teenagers normally have. I was so reluctant to talk to anyone and felt as if I was constantly talking to different people every day, whether that was from the police or other agencies. “When Vicky took on the investigation, I felt a real sense of stability and consistency. The court process is long and I was anxiously thinking that any progress we had made would fall out from under my feet. But Vicky would update me on a regular basis, even if there wasn’t much to say. She also managed my expectations perfectly preparing me for any outcome. “When the time did come that we had a court date, I was one of the first people to go through the Section 28 process, meaning I would record my evidence prior so that I didn’t have to see the defendant in court. This was so different to what I expected. You watch court scenes on the TV and it’s just the opposite to what happens. One thing that has stuck with me, was writing victim impact statement, a week or so before the trial started. This involved me watching back old recordings of my interviews, where I was just 13 years old. I felt sad watching my younger self speaking about what I’d been through as I remember back then thinking that the abuse I was subjected to was the norm. “The four-day trial was nerve-wracking, and I would anxiously wait at home for updates, sitting there thinking about how this was all in the hands of 12 random jurors. It did feel at times like it was his word against mine, so what if it didn’t go in my favour? I remember getting called about the guilty verdict and feeling in complete shock. “The day after the sentencing, although I should have been happy, the whole thing hit me all at once with that closure. I remember the first thing I did when I woke up was check social media. I sat there reading people’s comments on the Facebook post about his sentence. There were a couple of negative ones but I remember seeing someone comment to say that my bravery had helped keep their granddaughter safe. That felt amazing to know I had taken a dangerous man off the streets and he couldn’t harm anyone else like he did me. “My control had been taken away from me by the perpetrator for so long, I think when I got the control back it was so overwhelming. “One thing I cannot fault is the support I’ve had from Vicky. When we first met, I would say ‘are you sure you’re a police officer’ cause she just went against the stereotype I had in my head of police officers being intimidating and uniformed. She has spoken to me during some of my darkest moments when at times I was being quite difficult, but she’s never judged or treated me differently. I feel like Vicky literally put the power back in my hands and she always put my wellbeing first. “I feel comfortable knowing that Vicky is out helping other victim’s just like me.” “Despite the positives, this whole investigation has been far from easy. My health has been affected, I have suffered with anxiety and missed out on job opportunities as I waited for this whole process to be over. What I’ve been through has not shaped who I am but it’s changed by views on sex and relationships as well as my ability to trust people. There is no stereotype for being a sexual abuse victim, it can literally happen to anyone, and I certainly didn’t think it would happen to me. “I’m so thankful for the support I’ve received from Essex Police, especially Vicky and will remain grateful for helping me get justice and put this man behind bars for a long time. If you’re reading this and have been through something similar, but not found the strength to come forward yet, please reach out for help and don’t suffer alone. There is no guidebook to get you through the investigation process, you have to be patient as this will not happen overnight.” “It’s taken years for me to get to this point and get justice but knowing that I can help others by sharing my experiences is all part of my healing process too.”
Support and guidance
Synergy Essex provides support and guidance for survivors of sexual and sexual abuse across Essex. The Essex Rape Crisis Partnership is formed of three organisations:
CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse) who cover mid and north Essex
SERICC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Specialist Service) who cover South and West Essex
SOS Rape Crisis who cover Southend, Castle Point and Rochford
Survivors can self-refer and receive emotional support, specialist sexual violence and abuse counselling and or specialist advocacy services, no matter when the sexual violence or abuse occurred. In addition to this, they also offer support to survivor’s loved ones.