Published on December 20th, 2012 | by admin0
‘I was raped by 35 men’: Victim speaks out to help others affected by sexual abuse
A YOUNG woman has told how she was raped and sexually abused by 35 men from the age of six while growing up in a hotel in the Highlands- now she hopes her story can save other victims.
JESS Ryan has been through far too much to mince her words. Quite simply, she believes Children 1st saved her life.
Robbed of her innocence from the age of six, she was on the point of mental and physical collapse until the charity came to her rescue.
Jess said: “I tried to take my own life a few times and ended up drinking, taking drugs and self-harming.
“I wouldn’t have survived without the help of Children 1st, who supported me through it, and I wouldn’t have had the courage to report my abusers to the police.”
Explaining her decision to tell her story to the Daily Record, Jess said: “I thought about speaking anonymously but then I decided I had nothing to hide and I was worried other victims might not think I was a real person.”
Now a mum-of-one living in Inverness, Jess has turned her life around with the help of therapy sessions, the support of her partner and her passion for singing.
She can scarcely believe she made it. The dark days of her formative years were a private, personal hell that seemed inescapable.
Jess, who grew up in a village in Wester Ross, recalled how she was first sexually abused at the age of six by a 13-year-old pal of her brother.
She told her mum but believes the abuse was written off because her abuser was young. She added: “My mum wasn’t there for me. I don’t think she believed me. I didn’t get any support when I told her about the first time it happened.
“My mum suffered depression and mood swings. She didn’t seem to bother about me. My parents split up so my dad wasn’t about either, and my mum couldn’t cope.”
Jess was 11 when they broke up. She stayed with her mother and the pair moved into a hotel in the village where her mum had found work. The place soon became little more than a torture chamber for Jess.
She was passed around like a piece of meat by family friends, staff, residents and drinkers and regularly raped.
Jess said: “My mum was never around and I spent most of the time on my own in a hotel room or with my mum’s so-called male friends.
“Some of the staff were really nice and they fed me and made sure I got off to school but others just took advantage of the situation.
“I was raped by members of staff, punters from the bar and residents until I was about 15, when I cracked under the pressure.”
Jess tried to keep herself on an even keel but it seemed everywhere she turned, someone was trying to take advantage of her. She joined the Air Training Corps only to be interfered with by her instructor and latterly by her then boyfriend.
Jess said: “Friends of my mum and this civilian instructor, who had a duty of care towards me when I was an air cadet aged 12 until I was 15, were also raping me.
“For years I tried to block it out and throw myself into my school work and the air cadets. It got to the stage where I couldn’t trust anyone.”
Jess took to drinking heavily and self-harming, ending up in care – but that led her to Children 1st’s Killen Abuse Recovery Service in the Black Isle.
She spent three years supported by their expertise, battling to claim her life back before she was ready to go it alone in the world.
Jess said: “After I was taken into care, a very kind woman took me in and she drove me to the weekly meetings 70 miles away at Killen until I was 18.
“When I first went to Killen it was a very difficult time.
“I was estranged from my family, I suffered post-traumatic stress from the abuse I had experienced and I was recovering from drug and alcohol abuse and was self-harming.
“Attending Killen changed my life and the project workers really supported me.
“Being abused shatters your world. It’s all-consuming, it takes over your life. People feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed – they feel like it’s their fault.
“Teenagers have it in their head that nobody cares – when you throw problems and abuse into the mix, it makes it even worse.
“But over time, the staff at Killen helped break those walls down and I was able to see that things would get better.
“Every time I felt good – instead of depressed or bad – those periods of time lengthened and the periods of time I felt bad shortened.
“The centre doesn’t feel at all clinical. They let you be where you want to be. I went through a lot of regression. I was able to be a three-year-old drawing pictures, and do all the things I needed to do. It’s a beautiful setting, with plenty of space to relax and work through your feelings.
“I used to take a hockey stick into the field and just batter a ball about to let off steam.”
Jess told of her horror when she began to list the number of men who had abused her.
She said: “During the three years I attended the recovery service, I made a list of all the men who had raped and sexually abused me and was shocked when it reached 35.
“I couldn’t really take it in. I realised the abuse had become a way of life for me. I had never really known anything else. There must have been a paedophile ring in the area, otherwise, how would they have known I was a target?”
It was with the help of therapy sessions that Jess finally plucked up the courage to report two of her tormentors to police – including her instructor in the air cadets.
He was kicked out of the Air Training Corps but escaped conviction. The other pervert, who was a friend of the family, was sentenced to four years in 2009 – two in jail and the other two under a supervision order.
He was put on the sex offenders’ register but was out of jail within a year.
But Jess got some satisfaction at what she achieved, adding: “I would never have had the courage to report my abusers to the police had it not been for the help I got from the recovery service.”
Following therapy, Jess is now in a relationship and has found employment as a carer for autistic children. She recently gave up work to spend time with her 21-month-old son.
Jess also discovered another passion – music, which is how she hopes to repay Children 1st – and helping others.
She wrote a song called How Would You Know? which she sang at the charity’s anniversary celebrations last month.
Jess said: “It tells the story of how Children 1st helped save my life and how I felt at the time.”
She hopes her story and her song will encourage other sex abuse victims to seek help.
And she was thrilled when Children 1st asked her to become the voice of their Christmas campaign. The Daily Record had her song recorded for people to download from our website.
Children 1st chief executive Anne Houston said: “I was blown away by it. This is a beautiful and powerful song which reflects the importance of a child having someone they can talk to – and that’s what our services provide.”