Stephanie had a difficult and traumatic childhood which left her mental health suffering. With the help of the South Kirklees enhanced team she’s now in a good place and wanted to share her powerful story:
One of my first and happiest childhood memories is visiting a jumble sale with my mum. As we arrived, I noticed the most beautiful toy castle. We bought it for 50p and I took it home and played with it for hours. Ever since then I have always loved castles. I don’t remember much else from my childhood, apart from one moment when I was 13.
It was coming up to Christmas, and I’d seen something that I wanted to watch on TV. It was about 9:30pm, and all my other six siblings were in bed. My mum and dad called me downstairs, and I thought they were going to let me stay up late to watch TV as a special treat. But as I got downstairs, my mum and dad told me to stand in the corner and take my clothes off.
I thought it was okay. My mum was there. She would protect me and would never let anything bad happen to me. But tears came down my face as my mum stood there and watched my dad sexually assault me.
I couldn’t sleep. I wondered if this was normal. I went to school feeling sick, scared and confused. I couldn’t concentrate. I decided not to go to school and ran away from home. I was walking the streets and didn’t know what to do.
I eventually came back, and it happened again. My dad sexually assaulted me in the bath. It was so painful, and I couldn’t tell anyone. I just ran away.
I used to go to the shops to see an older lady. I began to trust her and she became a good friend. She gave me a key, and said I could stay for a little while longer and lock the door before I left. One night, I put the key under the doormat and stayed upstairs under the bed. I had a horrible cough, so she knew I was there. She asked me what was wrong.
I told her my mum knew that I was staying out. In fact, my mum didn’t know I was there, and never tried to look for me. It was heartbreaking. It felt as though no-one cared for me.
A little later, when I was 14, I was playing with some friends in the park. Just nearby, four boys were playing a game. It was a card game, and each card had a rude image on it. They came over to me and showed me a card, and asked if I could do that. I told them I didn’t know what they meant. So they said they would show me – and there in the park they sexually assaulted me.
It made me think it was what I deserved as it had happened with my mum there. After this, I didn’t want to live, but I didn’t want to die either. What kept me going was the old lady from the shops. I wanted to look after her as she had given me so much.
I eventually found the confidence to tell a man who I went to the shops for. He told me I should tell the Police. The four men were arrested, and I had to sit in front of them in court with the man, who was a social worker. Not with my mum or dad or anyone who should have cared for me. I never felt loved or cared for by anyone.
I had a daughter when I was 15 and a half years old and we survived on just £3.75 child benefit a week. I don’t know how I functioned. I was depressed, but nobody knew. I cried and didn’t know why I seemed to be the only one. Unless you have depression, you would never know how it makes you feel.
Depression was getting the better of me but I knew I had to give my love to my little girl and she would give it back. When I got older, I wanted to give something back to people so I started a job as a care assistant. I went on to have three more children – a boy and two girls. I was a single parent for most of my life and I did my best to shield my children from the trauma of my childhood. I tell them that they can tell me anything and always do everything I can to keep them safe. I’d like to think I did a good job as a mum.
When I met Christine from the South Kirklees enhanced team, I was finding it hard to trust anyone. I’d had a lot of difficulties in my life and I never knew why I felt how I did. As I got to know Christine, I began to trust her. The look on her face, the words she used. I just knew she was there for me. Each time I gave her a little bit more of Stephanie. I am so glad she came into my life.
I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me, and I feel like I have come out of it as a better person. I still love castles too – recently, my husband surprised me with a meal and overnight stay at a castle. Whenever I go inside one, it takes me back to my happy childhood being 10 years old playing for hours with my 50p jumble sale toy castle. I am in a really good place now. I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor.