I was determined to get justice, even if it meant turning detective. By Charlotte Kennedy, 18

Waving my mum off to work, I felt so proud that I had been left in charge. ‘Look after your dad,’ Mum called out as she got into the car. 

I felt so grown up as I shut the front door. It was the summer holidays and I was only 10 years old, but I didn’t mind taking care of my family.

After my dad, Shard, was badly injured in a car crash it fell on me to look after him and my siblings while Mum was out at work.

Dad had been left immobile after the smash and it had been touch and go whether he’d pull through.

We’d never been close - he didn’t seem especially interested in us - but when Dad survived the accident, I would have done anything to make him happy. I hoped some quality time alone would make us closer.

Later, I heard Dad call out to me. ‘You couldn’t make me a cup of tea could you, love?’ he asked.

I bounded down the stairs, leaping at the chance to prove I could be trusted to help my dad out.

‘On its way,’ I grinned, boiling the kettle. I felt like such a big girl as I proudly set the cuppa down next to Dad.

‘Sit down,’ he said suddenly as I turned to leave. Maybe Dad wants to get to know me better? I thought as I shyly sat down next to him.

I was so excited about finally getting some attention from my dad. But when he rested his hand on my leg, I started to feel uncomfortable.

‘What are you doing?’ I quietly asked as his hand started to creep up my leg, but Dad ignored me.

‘Stop,’ I cried, as he began to tug at my top, but as Dad held me back I felt powerless. ‘It’s normal,’ he leered as he pulled me closer to him.

Shaken and confused, I didn’t fully understand what had happened. But I knew I didn’t like it. ‘It’s our little secret,’ Dad whispered afterwards.

Horrified but too scared to tell anyone, I refused to leave my room. I only came out at mealtimes and even then I did my best to avoid Dad.

If he can’t find me, he can't hurt me, I told myself as I shut myself in my bedroom.

But it was no use, Dad always found me. I came to fear Mum driving off to work as I heard Dad call out for me.

‘How about a cuppa?’ he asked, a sick glint in his eye.

As the teaspoon chinked against the mug, my stomach churned. I prayed that Dad wouldn’t hurt me again but as he patted the seat next to him, I realised my sickening ordeal wasn’t over.

I endured Dad’s abuse for two long years, and I knew that every time Dad asked for a cup of tea, he’d take his chance to abuse me again.

Please let this be the last time, I willed silently afterwards. But it never was.

As Dad gradually recovered from his injuries and became more mobile, his abuse became more frequent.

There was no escaping his advances, and soon Dad started to abuse me in my own room. He no longer relied on his sick tea breaks to hurt me, instead he took every opportunity to get me alone.

I was at breaking point and cried myself to sleep every night. Then in 2012, when I was 12-years-old, I felt the familiar pang of despair as Dad asked for a cup of tea.

But this time, he seemed different.

‘Just watch some telly with me,’ Dad asked innocently as I took in his cuppa. I was shocked. Dad was never this nice. Maybe he’s actually going to stop?

I breathed a sigh of relief as Dad continued to watch the TV. Was my ordeal finally over after two years?

But my hopes were dashed when Dad launched himself at me, tugging at my clothes. I felt sick as his hands wandered over my body, snaking under my clothes.

In that moment, the horrifying realisation dawned. He’ll never stop.

But just then, Mum’s car headlights suddenly shone through the window, and I finally saw a way out.

Pushing Dad off me, I made a run for the door.

‘I’m telling Mum!’ I said bravely, with as much conviction as I could muster. But Dad's face twisted with anger and as he grabbed hold of me, I feared for my life.

I’d never seen Dad so angry. ‘If you tell her, I’ll have to hurt her,’ he spat menacingly. And I believed him.

I’d come so close to revealing the horrifying truth, but I was terrified and couldn’t risk him hurting Mum.

‘Everything ok?’ Mum asked breezily as she came in. I stared at Dad and knew I couldn’t confess. ‘Yeah, fine,’ I sniffed as I brushed my tears away with the back of my hand.

I stayed silent but it must have been enough to scare Dad off, because the abuse stopped after that.

I tried to bury my sick secret deep inside and pulled away from my family. But by the time I turned 16 and had met my first boyfriend, Owen, I couldn't hold it in any longer.

One day, I told Owen everything.

‘I’m so sorry,’ Owen soothed, putting an arm around me. ‘You have to get justice for what your dad did to you,’ he told me.

I was so scared that Dad would hurt me or my family that I’d never consider going to the police before. But I knew Owen was right. I needed justice… but how?

That’s when I hatched a plan. ‘I need evidence,’ I told Owen. ‘I’m going to set a trap,’ I went on as I explained I was going to set my phone to record mode then confront Dad.

I took a deep breath and knocked on Dad’s door, while Owen listened in the next room.

‘Can we chat?’ I asked Dad, quickly flicking my phone onto record. ‘Why did you hurt me?’ I pushed on, tears pricking my eyes.

To my surprise, Dad began to crumble. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he whispered, admitting everything. His apology felt so sincere I almost felt sorry for Dad - until our conversation came to a close and he made a final request.

‘Please don’t tell anyone,’ he begged. ‘You’ll ruin my life.’

I’d ruin his life? It was sickening. I couldn’t believe his nerve. Dad had abused me in the worst way imaginable. He’d stolen my childhood.

But after everything he’d put me through, he was more concerned about protecting himself. It was almost too much to bear and in that moment I knew I had to make Dad pay.

With my recording in hand, I reported his abuse to the teachers at school, who marched me to the police station.

For two long years, Dad denied the charges, but as my recording was played in court I knew there was no way he could worm his way out of it. I’d nailed him.

I wept with relief in January 2018 when Dad was jailed for 13 years for multiple counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of assault of a child by penetration.

Thanks to my recording, I’d shown Dad for the monster he really is. Now, I’m moving on, and Owen and I are concentrating on our little girl, Macey.

I’ll never forget what happened, but I’m so proud my recording jailed my sick Dad. He’ll never hurt me, or anyone else, ever again.

When Charlotte bravely jailed her abuser dad, the team at Sell My Story supported her through the process of telling her story in the press, raising vital awareness and supporting other victims of child sexual abuse.  If you want to speak out about an experience of abuse, call us in confidence on 0117 973 3730 to find out how we can help.


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