Abuse victim breaks silence to help others

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The Independent Online

A 20-year-old woman who was sexually abused by her step-father for five years today broke her silence in the hope of helping others.

Rebekah Cresswell-Jeal revealed the terror of her ordeal at the hands of her step-father Andrew Moisan when she was 14 to 19 years old to give others the courage to come forward.

Ms Cresswell-Jeal, from Portland, Dorset could not confront him or tell anyone else and she said, in a statement released through Dorset Police: "I was in complete denial of the situation, I didn't believe that it was happening. Then I became really angry because I was like how could someone in my house do this? And then I became really depressed.

"I started going out and drinking a lot and began to hang around with others who were drug-taking.

"After I learnt to drive, I hardly ever came home, there were occasions when I slept in my car so I didn't have to go home.

"I lost lots of weight as I wasn't eating at home but didn't have enough money to even eat out.

"It was terrible, I even began to self-harm. I also dropped out of college, even though I wanted to be a barrister.

"It ruined everything for me and I just thought how could I carry on?"

Moisan, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) civilian dog handler from Weymouth, was jailed for four and a half years in December 2009 after admitting 24 sexual offences.

He was arrested in April 2009 and pleaded guilty to three charges of indecently assaulting his step-daughter in 2003. He also admitted one charge of sexual assault in March 2005.

Moisan pleaded guilty to a further 20 charges of taking or making indecent photographs/movies of children, which related to more than 500 images and four movies.

The indecent image and movie offences took place between 1979 and 2008.

He stored hundreds of lurid photos of his step-daughter on his home computer in a folder called BIB which stood for Becka in bed.

He had taken the pictures while she was asleep in bed in her room.

Ms Cresswell-Jeal said: "When you are in those situations, your thinking becomes completely illogical.

"I soon thought that my mum and my brothers were involved. I just couldn't understand how they couldn't see what was happening. Talking to them now, they really didn't have a clue."

Her mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, became suspicious when her daughter began to date.

She said: "When Becci reached the age when she started dating, his (Moisan) behaviour became very odd and that made me think that there was more to what was happening than I'd originally thought.

"I had always had my suspicions and then when Becci's phone went missing and he blatantly lied, I knew that there was something drastically wrong.

"That's when I began to look for even more evidence that something was going on."

It took nearly two years until she confronted her husband and called in the police.

"You just feel like you have failed as a parent because it's your job to protect your children and you've let someone like that into your home.

"Basically it seems that they trick you and you don't realise what's happening and then obviously when you do, you've got to do all you can to fix it."

Ms Cresswell-Jeal said it was a huge relief when the police were called: "There were times when I was thinking, just hurry up, I want this to be over, but I am so glad that it wasn't like that and that the police took so long doing what they did because they did a brilliant job.

"I can't say enough for them, both the child abuse investigation unit and the technical team, they did such a really good job."

Ms Cresswell-Jeal, who is now undergoing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, said it had been hard for the rest of the family to accept as well.

"I do feel sad for my brothers, because he (Moisan) was to them a dad and now they've got to accept the fact that he's in prison for sexual abuse," she said.

"That is something that I was always cautious of when I was younger. I was always afraid that if I said something, then my brothers and my mum would blame me for making a monster of this person who was their dad and their husband, somebody who they really trusted and who they cared for.

"That terrified me. I didn't want to be the person that ruined everything."

But she urged other victims to come forward and added: "If you don't think your family will be there to support you, find someone who you think will like a teacher, a youth club assistant. I also found help with telling my friends.

"It was really difficult to tell people what's happened to you especially when you've spent five years keeping your mouth shut.

"But they did a brilliant job and made me feel really comfortable. Even though they wanted the answers I didn't feel they were really pushing me for them, they let me come through in my own time.

"It's not an overnight fix to say something and it's not going to be as simple as telling the police and everything is wonderful and you get on with your life.

"It's a process which you have to go through and it will take a long time, but I am closer to feeling back to normal than a year and a half ago, when I first said something.

"What's happened to me hasn't stopped my life altogether. It has sort of just held me back a bit. I want to be a barrister and that is what I am going to be."

In 2009 in Dorset, 106 crimes of rape or sexual assault were reported to police where the victim was aged 17 or under. In 2008, this figure was 75, and 2007, 45.

DC Natasha Lawrence, who investigated Ms Cresswell-Jeal's case and is part of the Weymouth Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: "In the past two years, reports of sexual abuse and rape to children and young people have doubled.

"This does not necessarily mean that there is more sex abuse within families in Dorset, but it could indicate that more abuse victims are coming forward and disclosing what has happened to them.

"Child abuse seems to still be quite a taboo subject but Rebekah's bravery in coming forward to talk about her experience will hopefully lead to more victims getting the confidence to approach the police.

"On receipt of a report of abuse, our first priority is to protect the victim and their family. We have the resources to ensure that the victim and an entire family can be protected if needed.

"We work very closely on a daily basis with a host of other agencies including the local authority, social services, health and other statutory and voluntary organisations to ensure victims are safe."