As we continue our series on Female Offenders we share a Survivor’s Story.

“She was the centre of my world. I adored her. She was kind, gentle, caring. She loved me and I adored her.

It is very difficult to write the truth. I have lived for so long in two distinct realities, two truths, one of which must never be written down. Mostly, people don’t want to know and telling this story puts me at risk of being ostracised, at best. At worst, laughed at, mocked, dismissed, discounted, once again to be completely doubted.

I want to be able to tell people what it is like to be turned completely inside out by the one person you love most of all, who is the centre of your world, your guide in life, your teacher, feeder, nurturer, object of all-encompassing love, love that fills the one who loves.

The mother who I loved treated me as a non-person. She roared into spaces in me that I didn’t know existed until she blasted them open. She tore me to shreds.

I don’t remember many exact events, and those I do remember are vague, lacking in detail. I think I shut down. I don’t want to remember, quite honestly. It’s bad enough remembering what I do remember. I still replay those moments.

Her betrayal left a lifelong pain, a painful emptiness. Thoughts of suicide started very young. I did not want to live in a world where my mother, who I loved, would treat me like that. So I learned very young to pretend to myself that it wasn't real.

My pretence could not change the fact that her betrayal was devastating to my sense of self, of myself in the world and for understanding and coming to terms with my own sexuality. My mother was beautiful, smiling, gentle, loving. And she violated me. If I couldn't trust her, how could I, a child, learn how to trust anyone, including myself? She hollowed me out. That emptiness has coloured every relationship I have had in my life, with lovers, with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Intimacy has always been a minefield. The line between affection and sexual interest has always been confusing to me and both feel threatening and dangerous.

I tried so hard, for so long, to be the person I would have been if it had never happened. But all the while I was carrying around an enormous invisible wound that infected everything. I came to understand myself as someone set apart, someone who could never expect to have the things that 'normal', 'ordinary' people had. I tried to make a virtue of it, but the hollowness inside always pulled me back. I never had all of me in the effort. Usually I did not know, myself, what I felt.

I still love her and I always will. And I know that she loved me, even though she often couldn't see me. But there are days when she seems like a monster to me and I cannot find any love for her in me. There are also days when I think I can see her own pain and vulnerability so clearly that it breaks my heart.

The worst part was never being able to talk to anyone about it, ever. I was keenly attuned to any mention, in person, or in media, of any mention of sexual abuse by women, especially mothers. I encountered a lot of scepticism and disbelief, of people just not getting that it could happen, or people thinking that it would be a trivial thing. It is not trivial. It is devastating.

I am nearly 60 now. In my fifties, against the odds, perhaps, I found myself in love with a wonderful, caring, supportive woman who was also in love with me.  We got married four years ago.

I appreciate, more than I know how to say, the help and support I have got from my therapist in 1-in-4. I wish it could have happened when I was younger, but our society was not yet ready to acknowledge that women sexually abuse, even mothers, and I am very glad to have it now. It's all very confused in my head still. I have come to understand a lot through therapy with Orlagh. But I still have a very long way to go. I don't know that I will make it. But I have to try.

I have found healing in my fifties through love and through therapy. It may take the rest of my life, but it's getting better all the time. Life is good. “