Getting in touch with the Advocacy service in One in Four can be a starting point for people in overcoming many of the barriers survivors face. The fear of disclosing a long held secret, being blamed for what happened and not being believed are only a few of the reasons people find it hard to reach out for support. Many of the men and women we talk to everyday have suppressed and minimised the abuse for many years, often decades, until as adults they cannot suppress it any longer. 

These issues are very much to the fore for survivors who have been abused by female offenders. 

In our series of blogs in the last few weeks One in Four have highlighted how the complexity and taboo of female sexual offending creates a barrier for people in seeking support. We know from our work that survivors who disclose abuse by a female can encounter friends, family and professionals, who, because of how females are viewed in society, minimise and explain away what is in fact sexual abuse. These responses can have a devastating impact on survivors by compounding feelings of shame and guilt. It is so important as a society we come to terms with the reality of female offending.

Below a client we worked with describes the road he faced and followed when he realised how his abuse by a female teacher in school had impacted him. Coming to terms with what happened, self-doubt and the feeling that he had in some way been responsible where all challenges he faced.

My first moment of doubt about what had happened came years later when I attended a course on ‘disclosure of sexual abuse for the first time’ as part of college training. I still remember that feeling I had after that day of intense confusion and doubt.

Could someone who claimed to love me do that to me?

This was incredibly difficult and took time and effort to understand, but with professional help, it was ultimately one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Because in doing it, I came to trust myself and recognise my own power.

She built up the greatest barrier to my finding justice the moment she began to groom me.

When I look back now I can see the grooming started the first time we spoke by the staff room, outside of class. In her role as a teacher she knew I had recently been through a very difficult time. I remember the eagerness she had to get to know me, to learn more about me and my interests and most importantly, to understand me. I realise now that day she began the process of introducing herself into my life as my confidant, counselor and ultimately as the only person in the world I thought I could trust.

As it was a boarding school she had access to me on a continuous basis. When I wasn’t around her, she created the opportunities for me to be. But I wanted to be there – she became the center of everything for me at a time of intense emotional despair.

The grooming and sexual abuse was hidden in plain sight. People looked on but never stopped it. She was my teacher and a woman so when it was talked about, it was seen in the light of a cocky young lad seducing an older teacher. Depending on the perspective, this was either really cool or very questionable but very few at the time saw it as what it was, an abusive relationship.

After some time, my family raised objections with the school. The school told them they would look after me but instead, they gave a warning but never acted any further. Her ability to manipulate and their unwillingness or inability to grasp the seriousness of the issue allowed it to continue.

I was a teenager maturing into his sexuality and she rooted herself at the core of that development. For me sexual encounters were significant, but in reality I can see now how they were really about power and control.  Her strings became tangled around me, even after it ended. For years I was confused as to what had happened. Was it abuse or not? The world around me believed it was a relationship so why wasn’t it? It made it even more difficult to come forward and admit to myself what this really was.

From the first phone call to One in Four until the day I walked out of the Four Courts after settling my case – they supported me to realise the truth of what happened to me, to find a new center of being for myself which did not include her but which, most importantly, does include my freedom and my wonderful wife and sons.



One in Four is delighted to announce a lunchtime webinar series, 'Overcoming Barriers,' which will discuss the experiences of adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Each webinar will last 25 minutes, which includes a Q&A section. 

Register in advance for one or more episodes of the webinar series: