A sex abuse survivor's story

SENSITIVE support is in place for abuse victims across Somerset. STOCK PHOTO.

SENSITIVE support is in place for abuse victims across Somerset. STOCK PHOTO.

First published in News
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A CHILD sex abuse survivor who was groomed by a “monster” now serving a 13-year jail term has spoken out about her experience.

Former Taunton butcher Christopher Raymond John Hawker, 42, was found unanimously guilty by a jury at Taunton Crown Court on Wednesday of two historic counts of raping a child under the age of 13 and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Speaking to the County Gazette after the sentencing, his victim, Alice (not her real name), says the verdict means she no longer has to live in fear, looking over her shoulder.

Now in her early 20s, she says the night Hawker was sent down was the first she was able to sleep without the light on since her childhood.

After seeing the court case through to its conclusion, Alice is determined to send out the strong message to other abuse victims suffering in silence that you can speak out and there will be people to help you every step of the way.

For years, Alice, who was born in Taunton, suffered in silence, feeling powerless to go to the police with the full, horrific reality of what Hawker had done to her when she was a child.

As a result she has suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental issues for as long as she can remember and has received therapy since suffering a breakdown aged 19.

When she was 18, Alice left the county town for good to escape the memory and fear of Hawker.

Eventually, she found “normality, love and happiness” with her partner, Jessica (not her real name), and felt safer and supported, but her past ordeal was continuing to cast a deep, dark shadow over her life.

On the face of it, Hawker was a well regarded figure in Taunton, Alice said.

“He’s a local man, Taunton-born and bred, a family man to everybody else.

“Little did everyone know he had this horrendous dark side he managed to keep so hidden for such a long time.

“I had this underlying sense that I was still being taunted and controlled, and it was out of my control the way I was living my life.”

Alice’s trauma was also having an effect on her relationship with Jessica.

Jessica said: “It came out in dribs and drabs. As our relationship developed I pieced it together until one day I had to ask her if she’d been raped.

“It was like living a nightmare with her. With more and more therapy they realised she’d been groomed not to say anything.”

As Alice continued to explore what Hawker had done to her through therapy the idea of going to the police grew stronger, and in December, 2012, she took the decision to make her statement.

It was Jessica who made the first call to the police with Alice by her side, and a year after making that call Hawker was arrested.

Alice said: “The longer I didn’t say anything the longer he was getting away with it, and he knew that.

“I hadn’t been able to come back to Taunton for a long time because I just couldn’t face it.

“We couldn’t do normal things, like take the dog for a walk or go to the supermarket. I was like a prisoner in my own life.

“He was in my dreams, in my head.

“He’s a butcher by trade and has had a slaughter licence since he was 16.

“I couldn’t do something as simple as going to a shop to buy a steak for dinner because that smell of raw meat triggered memories from when he attacked me.

“He still had that power over me.”

Alice said the support she received from day one from Taunton police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and staff and security at Taunton Crown Court, was incredible.

She said: “It does seem very daunting at the start, but you have a phenomenal amount of support along the way.

“There’s a sensitive support network out there. If this has happened to you and you’re suffering in silence, there are people and organisations, and the support you might not necessarily believe there is.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s historic, or whether you are or were six, 16, 66, or 86 – you don’t have to hide any more and there’s always someone there for you.

“We had an amazing detective constable from Taunton CID called Jason Earl who lived it with us and made it as smooth as this process could be.

“If he didn’t hear from us for three weeks he’d give us a call to check in and find out how we were.

“He was just a very optimistic, bubbly man who made you feel safe, whether it was him being there in person or with that phone call or email.

“There are all these people telling you to stand up, hold your head up high and be strong – everyone made the process a lot smoother by helping to break it down into bitesize chunks.

“If you can walk up those stairs, if you can walk through that door, you can give your evidence.

“It helps you know that you’re strong enough to do this, and you will.”

Today, Alice is starting the rest of her life, and soon she will begin a programme of intensive psychological therapy.

Then there are those day-to-day things that will make a world of difference to her which most people take for granted, such as sleeping with the window open, going on a day trip in the sunshine or having children.

She said: “It won’t ever be forgotten. It will always be part of my make-up, but now I have a chance to grab life with both hands.”

Alice also issued a stark warning about Hawker, whose address prior to going to prison the court was unable to confirm.

“He may have been given 13 years, but the law says he could be out in seven if he’s a good boy,” she said.

“He still might come back to this society and this town. It’s where his family is, what he knows.

“Everybody deserves the right to protect their children and protect their family.”

Jessica said: “He’s very clever. You wouldn’t have a clue. He looks like your average Joe.

“He hasn’t just groomed a child – he’s manipulative as a whole.

“When he was asked in court why he did what he did he answered ‘I don’t know’.

“It was like an eight-year-old being questioned by a teacher. There was no remorse there, no emotion – he didn’t protest – but the truth will always out.”

Alice said: “The judge’s parting words were ‘what sort of a man does this?’ “It will stay with me forever.”

HELP IS AT HAND

RAPE and sexual assault are very serious crimes and should be reported. Your complaint will always be treated with sensitivity and consideration.

If you have been the victim of sexual violence, or if you know of a family member or friend who has, the police would prefer to speak to you on the phone (by calling 101) or in person.

However, if contacting the police online is the safest way to get in touch, you can complete a secure online reporting form at www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/contact-us

If the rape or sexual assault is recent you should contact the police by dialling 999.

The Bridge is a multi-agency support service for victims of sexual crime which provides a range of services in the Avon and Somerset area, including:

- Crisis Workers, a free 24/7 telephone support, information and police referral service for all survivors of sexual violence, their family and friends.

- Support for clients who have been recently sexually assaulted through forensic medical examinations.

- Short-term counselling services to people over 17 who were sexually assaulted within 24 months of contacting the service.

- Support services for children and young people aged seven to 17 who have been a victim of rape or serious sexual assault.

- Visit www.turntothebridge.org, call 01173- 426999, or email turntothebridge@uhbristol.nhs.uk

INFORMATION PROVIDED BY AVON & SOMERSET POLICE

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