Child Abuse Victim Speaks Out
A young Portland woman has bravely spoken out after being sexually abused by her step-father from the age of 14.
20-year-old Rebekah Cresswell-Jeal has broken her silence over the five year ordeal at the hands of Andrew Moisan, to encourage other victims to come forward. He was jailed for four and a half years last month, after admitting 24 sexual offences.
Rebekah said: "I'm really glad that he got four and half years because that's how long he abused me, but I would have liked a longer sentence."
Moisan, a Ministry of Defence civilian dog handler, was arrested in April 2009 and pleaded guilty to three charges of indecently assaulting Rebekah 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.
Moisan stored hundreds of lurid photos of Rebekah 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.
Rebekah was never able to confront her step-dad throughout the years of abuse or tell anyone else, so lived with the insecurity of not understanding what was happening to her.
Rebekah said: "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."
Things spiralled out of control for Rebekah as she became unable to cope with what was going on at home behind closed doors.
"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?'"
Rebekah became suspicious of the rest of her family - believing that they had something to do with her step-father's unacceptable behaviour.
She 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."
Rebekah's 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 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 Rebekah's mother was able to confront her husband and then report the matter to the police.
She admitted it was a devastating time: "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."
Rebekah 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,"
Rebekah, who is now undergoing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, admits it has been understandably hard for the rest of the family to accept as well. "I do feel sad for my brothers, because Moisan was to them, a dad, and now they've got to accept the fact that he's in prison for sexual abuse.
"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.
Rebekah has a message to other people who might be going through the same thing she did: "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.
"DC Natasha Lawrence was a brilliant police officer, and she made me feel really comfortable when I was doing the interview. 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, double the number that were in 2007.
The investigating officer in the case was Detective Constable Natasha Lawrence, from the Weymouth Child Abuse Investigation Team.
She said the figures do not reflect the excellent work of her team but are a positive sign that more people are coming forward. "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."
COUNSELLING AND SUPPORT
For those who have been raped and/or sexually abused or victims of violence, including services for children who have suffered emotional trauma.
Elder Abuse Response - 0808 808141
Rape Crisis Line (females only) - 01202 547445
Relate (Bournemouth and Poole) - 01202 311231, (Dorchester) 01305 262285
Victim Support - Dorset - 01258 453100
Bournemouth Outreach Service - 01202 547755
Dorset Women's Outreach Project - 0800 5877480
Poole Domestic Violence Project - 01202 710777
Christchurch & East Dorset Outreach Service - 0800 3284457
CHILDLINE 0800 11 11
Women's Aid 24 hr Helpline - 0808 2000247
Mankind UK - 0870 7944124
If you are leaving home because of violence there are four refuges or 'safe houses' in Dorset
providing emergency or temporary accommodation for you and your children.
Bournemouth Women's Refuge - 01202 547755
North Dorset Women's Refuge - 01747 858555
West Dorset Women's Refuge - 01305 262444
Weymouth Women's Refuge - 01305 772295
If you are male and need refuge accommodation, then please contact: Male Refuge - 01643 863352
SHELTERLINE for housing advice 24hr housing advice line - 0808 8004444