CHILD ABUSE VICTIM STILL SUFFERING
Woman tells of mental health struggles following attacks
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.”
Picture posed by model