Raped and pregnant aged 11 - Stevenage victim tells her story

Terrie and Paul O'Brian

Terrie and Paul O'Brian - Credit: Archant

A woman who was raped at the age of 10 and went on to endure years of sexual abuse while in foster care has told the Comet her story in a bid to help others.

Terrie O’Brian, who lives in Stevenage, has waived her right to anonymity to encourage others who have suffered sexual abuse to come forward, and to call for a change in the way social services operates, so it affords children in care more protection.

Terrie, who is now 29, says she lived in 84 different homes between the ages of nine and 18.

She said one set of foster parents would often leave her with a friend of theirs. Terrie says she was just 10 years old when this man raped her.

He went on to rape her repeatedly over time, telling her she would get into trouble if she told anyone. A year after the abuse started she got pregnant.

Terrie, who was moved to another foster home, said she then spoke out about the abuse. “I expected the police to be called, but no one did anything,” she said. “Social services decided the only option was for me to have an abortion.”

“Rather than getting him arrested, they put me in a secure unit in a detention centre.”

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The abuse did not stop. Her attacker tracked her down when she was released from the detention centre and continued to rape her, and at the age of 12 she became pregnant again.

Determined not to have another abortion, Terrie had the child, a little girl.

She said: “When I got pregnant again they put me in another detention centre, this time in County Durham. They kept me in there for six months, until the birth of my baby.”

But the baby reminded Terrie too much of the father and so she had her adopted. “When she was taken away I broke down,” she said. “I dressed her in a little white cardigan and gave her one last kiss.”

As soon as Terrie was 16, she left care and went to live with friends in a flat.

Shortly afterwards she reported the crime to police, and in 2001 her attacker was convicted of rape.

Terrie went on to make a formal complaint to Hertfordshire social services, claiming they failed to care for and protect her properly when she was a child.

She accepted a £15,000 cash settlement in February 2010. Terrie said: “They admitted fault and said ‘what do you want?’ They can’t give me my childhood back, but they could give me compensation. I took the money, but afterwards I was sick to the stomach to take such a little amount after what had happened – £15,000 for losing my childhood and two children.

“I blame social services the most because they had so many opportunities to get involved and didn’t do anything.

“Every time the going was getting tough they got me another social worker or moved me to another place.

“I would like an investigation into how it was allowed to happen, and I’m not going to rest until I get it.”

Terrie wants to encourage others who have endured sexual abuse to speak out. “If anyone is suffering like I have, come forward - don’t stay in silence because you think you have to,” she said.

She is also calling for a change to social services. “I would just like to see the system change to make sure children have total protection,” Terrie said. “Social services, I don’t believe do enough checks on people, and I do think people prey on those in care because they are vulnerable.”

Terrie has been married to Paul for 11 years and she and her husband have two children together. At one point, Terrie started proceedings to find her adopted daughter, but stopped, saying it would not be fair on her two children or her adopted daughter to rock their lives.

She said: “I have moved on, but I will never get over what happened. I will always be emotionally scarred, and he’s constantly on my mind.”

A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council, which provides social services, said: “There are some deeply cruel people who prey on vulnerable children and we’re very saddened by this case. Along with our partners, it is our priority to reduce the risk to children and help them have a safe childhood.

“There have been significant improvements in the last 20 years in child protection, as well as in the assessment and monitoring of foster placements and support given during pregnancy.

“Anyone who experienced abuse as a child – no matter how long ago – is strongly encouraged to talk to the police so they can conduct a full investigation. Additionally, former children in care can raise concerns with the children’s services department at the relevant local authority. “Advice and support is available at www.hertssafeguarding.org.uk”

Last year, Terrie published a book about her past - Nobody Cared: An Evil Predator, a Vulnerable Girl Who Fought Back. It is available from Amazon, at www.amazon.co.uk