CHILD ABUSE VIC­TIM STILL SUF­FER­ING

Woman tells of men­tal health strug­gles fol­low­ing at­tacks

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - ANNA LEWIS Re­porter anna.lewis@waleson­line.co.uk

AWOMAN re­peat­edly abused as a child has told of the har­row­ing im­pact it has had on her men­tal health. Paul Rid­out, 72, was in his 50s when he forced his school-age vic­tim to carry out sex­ual acts in a tent.

It was not un­til 20 years later that Rid­out, of Caerau Lane, Cardiff, stood trial at Cardiff Crown Court, where he was found guilty of four counts of child in­de­cency.

Now, af­ter an ap­peal to ex­tend the pen­sioner’s sen­tence, his vic­tim has spo­ken out about the last­ing im­pact the abuse has had.

The woman, who can­not be named, was less then 10 years old at the time it took place. “I thought it was nor­mal,” she said. “He used to buy me gifts and buy me presents. I used to have dolls. He would take me to the shop down the road and would buy me toys.”

For Rid­out’s vic­tim, think­ing back to the abuse is dif­fi­cult. While she can re­mem­ber some de­tails, such as where it would take place, other things re­main blank.

“I thought it only went on for one month or two, but in court I was told it was a pe­riod of around nine months,” she said.

Be­liev­ing her abuser’s be­hav­iour was nor­mal, the girl did not im­me­di­ately re­port what was hap­pen­ing. It was only when one in­ci­dent hurt her that she spoke about it to her mother.

It was at this point that she be­gan to strug­gle with her men­tal health.

“I would get ill reg­u­larly, so my child­hood would be my mum tak­ing me to get med­i­ca­tion or go­ing to new ther­a­pies,” she said.

“I was strug­gling with sui­ci­dal thoughts, so some­times I would be in CAMHS (Child and Ado­les­cent Men­tal Health Ser­vices) or some­times I would be in hos­pi­tal. Some­times I didn’t see what the point was in liv­ing.

“I’ve been on anti-de­pres­sants since I was 11 and if you’re feel­ing low, they put you on an­other one.

“Now I’m still not 100%. I still have that anger.”

As a teenager, re­la­tion­ships with other peo­ple also be­came strained.

She said: “In my teenage years I re­ally hated men, even up to the point where I had my first boyfriend. I didn’t re­ally have nice boyfriends at all. The men I was with were all the same type of char­ac­ter.”

To this day, Rid­out’s ac­tions have left a last­ing im­pact on his vic­tim’s fam­ily.

De­ter­mined to get an­swers, her sis­ter made her­self at­tend court day to hear the de­fen­dant’s ev­i­dence. Think­ing back, she re­mem­bers the large amounts of time her sis­ter spent alone, com­pared with oth­ers her age out play­ing with friends.

She said: “It took away her child­hood as that was when she was most af­fected. We felt we could have lost her at any time.

“We just wanted to make sure she lived like any other child. No-one tells you how to cope with this.

“She got an­gry a lot. She didn’t even trust im­me­di­ate fam­ily, so she was quite dis­tant.

“As she was vul­ner­a­ble she was very sus­cep­ti­ble to men who were not good,” she said.

“It’s been dif­fi­cult, it af­fected ev­ery one of us. Ob­vi­ously she’s still suf­fer­ing now.”

In Au­gust, Rid­out was sen­tenced to eight years’ im­pris­on­ment with a oneyear ex­tended li­cence. Through­out the trial, he con­tin­ued to protest his in­no­cence.

Now, through his so­lic­i­tor, he has an­nounced plans to chal­lenge his con­vic­tion through an ap­peal yet to be heard.

For his vic­tim, how­ever, news of his im­pris­on­ment has not helped to heal the wounds.

She said: “My sis­ter came out scream­ing from the court room. He was found guilty on all charges.

“At this point it doesn’t feel like it’s made any dif­fer­ence. I just thought it would make me feel bet­ter than it has. It hasn’t changed a thing.”

On Thurs­day, judges in the Court of Ap­peal in Lon­don de­cided to ex­tend Rid­out’s sen­tence to nine years’ im­pris­on­ment with a one-year ex­tended li­cence pe­riod.

The de­ci­sion was made af­ter the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral, Robert Buck­land QC MP, re­ferred his sen­tence to the Court of Ap­peal for be­ing too le­nient.

But for his vic­tim, no sen­tence will ever be long enough for the pain he has caused.

“I still don’t think it’s enough when you look at her life,” the woman’s sis­ter said.

“I don’t think it will ever be enough for the dam­age it has caused to her and our fam­ily.”

Speak­ing af­ter the hear­ing, the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral said: “I am pleased the Court of Ap­peal has agreed that Rid­out’s sen­tence de­served to be higher. He sex­u­ally abused a young girl on re­peated oc­ca­sions, and I hope that she will be able to take some com­fort from the in­creased sen­tence he re­ceived to­day.”

DAVID CHESKIN

Pic­ture posed by model

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