The mother of Jason Hedley’s victim will never forget October 31, 2014. It was the day her daughter revealed that she had been raped and sexually assaulted as a child.
Suddenly the overnight change that her mum and stepdad had seen in their 10-year-old daughter all those years ago made sense.
“She had been talking about it to a doctor because she was really struggling,” her mum said. “She had been put on antidepressants. The doctor said she needed to tell us.
“She said now she was thinking like an adult, not a child, and she knows she’s got to look out for herself. “She’s got a daughter now and if something happened to her, she would want to know. I think up until then she wasn’t actually ready to say anything.
“It made sense but then it was kind of disbelief. I can’t really think about it properly because I would go to pieces.”
Today they share their family’s experience in the hope that it will give other victims the courage to speak up and seek support.
“To keep something like that for so long, for all those years, it must’ve been eating her up inside,” her stepdad said.
“Police say the historic cases are the hardest to prove because of the lack of any forensic evidence, but if young people are beating themselves up, they’ve got to come forward. They’ll be listened to, the Crown Prosecution Service are taking historic cases to court. They took our daughter’s and there are others.”
Her mum added: “Even if it brought one person forward and it helped just one person, sharing our family’s story would be worth it. We would urge them to come forward. For their own sanity, because I’ve seen the change in our daughter.”
Following the rape and sexual assault, they noticed their daughter’s became withdrawn and moody.
Her mum said: “She became quite reclusive around that age. She didn’t like going out anymore.
“He got into her head. She thought people wouldn’t believe her.”
And around the time of her GCSEs, she became even more troubled – a change triggered by being called upon to give evidence in an earlier case against Hedley.
“She went from an A* student to a nightmare,” her mum said. “She just went like a wild child, which obviously impacted on us. We didn’t know what the problem was. We thought it was moving to high school and getting in with the wrong crowd.”
The couple had not known the nature of the 2005 case in which their daughter gave evidence, so never suspected that she could have been a victim of a child sexual exploitation.
Her stepdad said: “We just didn’t know he had been convicted of something similar. If we had know that, the children would never have gone near him. We felt useless. If we had known…
“She left school at 16 but she’s not been able to work. It’s dragged her back and been at the front her of her mind for so long. You could see the relief, once she had given evidence.
“Some days she’s thinking I’m going to be believed and he’s going to be found guilty, but even minutes before the verdict she struggled. She had this over-riding sense that she wouldn’t be believed, right up until the verdict.”
Having told her family that she wanted to face Hedley in court, their daughter chose not to give evidence behind a screen or via video link.
“We’re proud of her, absolutely, but we feel bad because this happened when she was young,” her stepdad said. “We knew nothing. We were duped by him.
“There are people who have tried to make her feel bad because she’s reported it, but they’re only interested in their own reputations and how it’s going to impact on them. The people who stick with you are the ones who matter.”
The recent trial has been deeply upsetting for the whole family, but they feel yesterday’s sentencing is the first step in their daughter moving on from an experience that has overshadowed all she did for so many years..
“I don’t want this experience to define her for the rest of her life,” her mum said. “For the first time in a long time she’s looking forward, which is fantastic.”