A young woman who was raped by her father at the age of 12 has shared her story in the hope it will help other victims of sexual abuse.Gemma Schembri, now 21, from Lincolnshire, revealed her father, Mark, had always been controlling but took his abuse horrifically further after he split up with her mother.
She said: 'He started to sexually abuse me when I stayed with him and it went on for over a year. He was very manipulative and controlled my thoughts to make me believe it was normal.’ The first time he raped me he said afterwards, "Well it was better that it was with me than with some random person in a hotel".'
Gemma said she didn't realise what her father wasn't doing was wrong and it took her years to pluck up the courage to reveal she was a victim of abuse.She explains:
'My mum hadn't spoken to me about sexual abuse and what type of touching was acceptable and what wasn't. It took me two years to tell someone I was being abused as I didn't realise it was wrong at first and then, when I did, I didn't know how to broach the subject with my mum.
'As a result of her ordeal, Gemma is now supporting a campaign by the NSPCC - who supported her as she came to terms with her experiences.The charity have launched a campaign called PANTS that encourages parents to have simple, age appropriate conversations with their children to make them aware of the dangers of sexual abuse. They advise parents to tell primary school children of the 'underwear rule' - that they shouldn't be touched by anyone else in the areas their underwear covers. It's something Gemma wishes she had been taught at a young age.She said:
'I think for me to have known that what was happening was wrong my mum would have needed to have said, "You shouldn't let people touch you in areas that your underwear would cover" so I knew what was acceptable and what wasn’t. ‘I’d had sex education at school when I was younger but that was just about safe sex and I think a girl should be told about what constitutes sexual abuse by her mum not teachers.'
It was after she finally confided in her mother that Gemma's abuse at the hands of her father finally ended and he was arrested, charged and eventually jailed for nine years. Gemma explained:
'Telling my mum about the abuse was the worst conversation of my life.’ I sat down with her and couldn't get it out at first. Then I was just really blunt and blurted it out. Mum was shocked and started crying and we all sat crying together.'
But despite Mark being behind bars, Gemma's ordeal was far from over as she had to cope with the aftermath of his abuse, something she eventually learnt to deal with thanks to the NSPCC's help.She said: 'Mark was arrested and our family was in bits. Mum blamed herself and there was lots of arguing. I felt broken and suicidal and was self harming. I started acting out. I was drinking constantly and didn't care what I did.'I had lots of social workers but they didn't stick around so when I was introduced to a worker from the NSPCC I told her I didn't like her. But she stuck with me and was always there for me. She made me realise a lot of things about myself and helped me understand why I was acting out and helped me work through it.'I'm better now and love my life but I think that if I'd spoken out and stopped the abuse earlier and gotten help earlier I would have recovered more quickly.' Victoria, from Dewsbury, who has a seven year old daughter said following the advice of the PANTS campaign has given her more peace of mind.
PANTS stands for 'Privates are private', 'Always remember your body belongs to you', No means no', 'Talk about secrets that upset you' and 'Speak up someone can help'.
Culled from DailyMail