Mental scars 30 years after abuse by uncle at age 11

Assistant supervisor Robelle Chavez (right), 24, tutors a girl from DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre and Transition Home at the classroom.
Assistant supervisor Robelle Chavez (right), 24, tutors a girl from DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre and Transition Home at the classroom.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Three victims who were sexually abused as children speak to The Sunday Times how their adult lives have been affected.

"Michelle" was 11 when during a Christmas party at an uncle's home, he asked her to go into a room, where he started kissing her on the lips.

She is 41 now, but still finds it uncomfortable to give more details.

"I was trusting and naive then. He was like a father to me."

After the moment in the room, she walked out in tears, though she said she did not fully understand what happened. That was also why she did not tell her parents about the incident - until 20 years later.

She stopped being able to focus in school. At the age of 12, she took four Panadol pills thinking it could kill her. She started smoking and dabbled in drugs as a teenager.

While studying in Britain, she said she was molested by a friend and had a nervous breakdown. Her parents sent her to the Priory Hospital, a mental health hospital in London. "There were trained people who knew what to do, and I met other people who needed help. I began to feel I was not alone."

She then went to a halfway house - in Dorset, England - for counselling and therapy sessions for a year. The sessions "helped me see that what happened when I was 11 continued to impact my life as I became an adult - that's the nature of abuse".

Michelle, who is single, is self-employed and has a diploma in counselling. She still finds it difficult to trust men and is coming to terms with the fact that her family is still in touch with the uncle - whom she has not confronted.

She urged victims like her to get professional help. "Some people are embarrassed. It will be the hardest step you take. (But) I've learnt that it's when I don't ask for help that I get into trouble. "

Lim Yi Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Mental scars 30 years after abuse by uncle at age 11'. Print Edition | Subscribe