Two years ago, Hayley didn’t want to be alive anymore. At 16, she was groomed and raped by a man in her local neighbourhood. She was left feeling guilty and blamed herself. But she eventually found the support she needed. Today, at 19, her ambition is to make her grandmother proud and keep working in health care, so that she can help others who need it. She knows the power of having someone that will listen. Now she wants to let other people know that, with the right support, it can get better.
When Hayley was 16 her whole life changed. Without her realising, a man in her local neighbourhood, had been grooming her since she was 11 years old.
‘He used to buy me phones, buy me sweets, always give me compliments. I just thought he was being a nice person’
When she took her little brother to visit the man’s son, he offered to repair her phone. But then he said that she’d have to repay him. That’s when he raped her.
‘He wouldn't let me out, he locked all the doors. I was going, ‘No, don’t, don’t, don’t touch me, please don’t’. I didn’t know what to do. I just froze.’
In one afternoon, Hayley world was torn apart. She didn't feel safe anymore and at any moment, she could be attacked again.
Blaming herself about exploitation
I blamed myself for everything that had happened I blamed myself for everything that had happened
For four months, she was too afraid to speak to anyone about what had happened. She blamed herself. Her life was in pieces and she was in severe emotional pain. Hayley believed the only way she could end it was by harming herself.
‘I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want anyone to speak to me.’
‘I used to self-harm every single day. It wasn’t good. I would find different ways to try and hurt myself. I didn’t want to be alive anymore.’
When Hayley couldn’t take it anymore, she tried to take an overdose. Fortunately, the police found her.
taking away the blame
Shedding the blame
After a stay in hospital, she was referred to Janet, one of our project workers who specialise in child sexual abuse and trauma. Hayley didn’t think it would help at first, but Janet listened. Slowly, Hayley was able to trust her enough to open up.
Bit by bit, she started to talk about the rape and how it had made her feel. Going at her own pace, she was able to process all the feelings of fear and guilt she had kept hidden.
Finding hope at the children's society
Hayley started to see that her thoughts and feelings were a common response for people who have been raped. She was not to blame.
My life was terrible. I just didn’t know where to turn to. I just didn’t know who I could trust and then I came to The Children’s Society,
More than techniques
Janet taught her coping mechanisms, including identifying feelings, positive self-talk and breathing techniques to help her manage her anxiety and control the thoughts and feelings she was experiencing.
‘From then to now, I haven't self-harmed in seven months. I have a safety box with nice things in it. If I ever felt like I needed to self-harm I would look at the things I've got, and I would think “No, I can't do it, I've come so far”.’
These techniques, meant that Hayley didn’t become overwhelmed. She now had the resilience she needed to process what she had gone through and someone she trusted. Hayley started to feel like she had hope again.
Smiling and hopeful
‘I think Janet has helped me, because I'm so much better now. I don’t want to die. I can talk about it. I'm so much stronger than I used to be. There's no words that can describe how amazing they are.’
‘The most important thing that I have learned is to love myself and that I need to stop putting myself down. I am a nice person. I've learnt that.’
‘I want my voice to be heard. Not for me, but for other people. I want to say to anyone who has been through what I’ve been through, it really isn’t your fault and it gets better. Don’t ever blame yourself.’
Speak up and let your voice be heard.
Donate today to help our project workers reach young people who have experienced child sexual abuse.
Together we can support children as they use their inner strength to rebuild their lives after facing trauma. We help them to stay safe and have hope and optimism for the future.