The following 1,200 word article is from Chat magazine - a popular British weekly women's magazine with a circulation of approximately 225,000 copies which makes it around the 4th most popular women's weekly.
The same experience (but a different article) appeared in May 2017 in the British newspapers The Sunday Mirror / The Daily Record - see my post below which also includes related links with more background information:
Chat magazine, 17 August 2017, pages 6, 7 and 8
ABUSED by Dad AND Uncle Charlie (Front cover tagline)
SEXUALLY ABUSED AGAIN AND AGAIN
First it was my own, trusted dad, then my church elder
By Angie Rodgers, 36, from Ayrshire
As Dad rang the doorbell, I stared at the ground. Please don't know me, I prayed silently.
It was 1991 and I was 10. My family were Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Each weekend, my dad Ian, then 30, would take me door-to-door, trying to recruit new members, convert them to ‘the truth’.
Mortified, I kept my head down, dreading a kid from school answering the door.
I was already being bullied.
‘Bible basher,’ kids called me.
I wasn’t allowed friends outside the religion, or to participate in school activities.
We didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas. It was a lonely, miserable childhood.
Evenings were packed with book study, family worship or meetings at our local Kingdom Hall – Jehovah’s Witnesses’ houses of worship.
Then, one night, when I was 11, life got so much worse.
I woke up, and Dad was on top of me, touching me. His hands were up my nightie, groping my private places.
What’s happening? I panicked.
In shock, I froze, too terrified to speak.
After, Dad left without a word.
My head swam with questions.
Was this normal?
It didn’t feel right.
But Dad was a devout man – and, as strict as he was, I trusted him.
So I didn’t say a word, even when it happened again.
Then, one day, I had gastric flu, was throwing up. Dad looked after me while Mum went to the Kingdom Hall. Scooping me up off the couch, Dad carried me upstairs.
I thought he’d tuck me into bed, but instead he took me to his bedroom and molested me as my fever raged.
I was sobbing, so frightened.
Please come home and save me, Mum, I prayed.
But she never did.
‘If you tell anyone, I’ll rip you apart,’ Dad snarled after.
I was terrified of him.
And it kept getting worse.
‘You’ll break up the family,’ he’d warn.
Or, ‘You’ll be taken away by Social Services.’
I was sheltered, naive, and felt trapped.
Then, aged 14, we went to a Jehovah’s Witness convention.
Inside one of the tents, Dad grabbed me, pinning me to the ground.
Wrestling my clothes off, he pulled down his trousers.
He’s going to rape me! I realised.
I didn’t dare scream.
Frozen in fear, I closed my eyes as Dad was about to force himself on me.
‘Ian?’ a voice called from outside the tent. It was one of our elders, Harry Holt – known as ‘Uncle Charlie’ to the kids.
‘Just a minute,’ Dad called, hurriedly yanking up his trousers and rushing out.
I was saved. Just.
Horrified, I confided in a friend, who was also in the religion.
‘Dad touches me,’ I wept.
Shocked, she later told her father, an elder from another congregation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses like to keep everything within the church. So, instead of involving the police, a ‘judicial meeting’ was called.
I sat in a room being interrogated by three male elders, including Uncle Charlie.
They asked me such embarrassing, intimate questions.
Where was I touched? How?
Dad just sat there, head down, listening to every word.
‘What were you wearing?’ one asked – like I was to blame.
I was humiliated, completely traumatised.
But I’d been brought up believing the elders were above the law, and everyone not in the religion needed saving.
Dad was reprimanded, demoted from his position – yet, because he showed repentance, he was allowed to remain in the church.
‘If this gets out, I’ll go to prison,’ he hissed.
But at least he didn’t dare abuse me again.
Mum was in denial, and we didn’t go out much after. We’d all been embarrassed, and all felt ashamed.
Then, seven months later, I went door-knocking with Uncle Charlie.
After, like usual, I went back to his place to have something to eat.
‘Let’s watch a film,’ he grinned, putting on Braveheart.
We were rarely allowed to watch anything on TV. ‘I’ll just wash before taking you home,’ he said as it played.
Only, he came out of the bathroom with just a towel wrapped round his waist.
Stunned, frightened, I leapt up from my seat and started putting my jacket on...Over the page: I learned I wasn't the only victim of my dad or Uncle Charlie...
Justice at last
'Are you tickly?’ Uncle Charlie leered, brushing his hand against my breast.
Then he tried to take off my coat.
‘Mum’ll be waiting,’ I insisted, scared.
Uncle Charlie dressed, and we got into the car.
Only, on the drive, his hand crept up my thigh towards my crotch.
When we pulled up at my house, I dashed straight to my room.
‘He touched me,’ I wept to my parents, after Uncle Charlie left.
Another judicial meeting was held.
Uncle Charlie was stripped of his elder privileges – but that was it.
I felt sick.
I'd been used, abused and abandoned by Dad and the church.
Four months on, I left home and went to live with a relative.
Then, in early 1999, aged 18, I left the religion, and was disowned.
Homeless, for a while I sofa-surfed, struggled with drugs and alcohol.
Until, in January 2000, I met my partner, then 22.
Then, in February 2000, another girl reported Dad to the police for alleged abuse.
Pregnant by then, I realised I couldn’t let Dad get away with it, so I went to the police, too.
It was the second time I’d spoken out about him. This time, I just hoped he’d be suitably punished.
In January 2002, at The High Court Edinburgh, my dad Ian Cousins pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd, libidinous behaviour, and two of indecent behaviour towards a girl aged 12-16. He was jailed for five years.
No more cover-ups. Justice.
Looking to the future, my partner and I went on to have three girls, now 16, 11 and 6, and one boy, 14. And, with Dad in jail, Mum left the church and we became close.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she wept.
But I didn’t blame her – she’d been as trapped as I had.
Putting the abuse behind us, I focused on my family.
Only, in autumn 2013, police knocked at the door.
‘We’re here about Harry Holt,’ one said.
Other victims had come forward, and they’d traced me based on the complaint I’d made to the church back when I was young.
Sickened to discover that I wasn’t his only victim, I made a statement.
In February last year, Harry Holt, 71, appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court.
He was charged with sexually abusing young girls.
I gave evidence, but Holt denied everything, accusing all his victims of collusion and making up stories.
However, the jury didn’t believe his lies.
He was found guilty of five counts of lewd, libidinous behaviour, two of indecent assault, and four of indecent behaviour towards a girl aged 12-16. He was jailed for three and a half years.
Now I’m having therapy for post traumatic stress disorder, and I suffer nightmares, flashbacks.
I’ll never get over what happened to me, but I’ve learned to live with it, and my partner has been my rock.
It terrifies me to think that there might be other victims like me out there, still suffering in silence.
So I’d urge them to go to the police, no matter how long ago the abuse was.
If I can help just one person by telling my story, then it’ll have been worth it.
BOX: PLUS BELIEFS
Jehovah's Witnesses believe they're the only true Christians and the Bible is the Word of God. Local congregations are led by a body of male 'elders', and members attend their closest Kingdom Hall for meetings and Bible study. They maintain a degree of separation from non-believers, who they regard as 'sinful'.
In recent years, the religion has come under fire over its child-protection policies.
BOX: Get help...
If you or anyone you know has suffered sexual abuse, help and support is available from Victim Support on 0808 168 9111, or go to www.victimsupport.org.uk