‘It feels like I’m free’ – Child sex abuse survivor Kim Chown speaks six weeks on from rapist father’s incarceration

Child sexual abuse survivor Kim Chown waived her right to anonymity as her father was jailed for 20 years last month.
Child sexual abuse survivor Kim Chown waived her right to anonymity as her father was jailed for 20 years last month.

Six weeks ago Kim Chown made the brave decision to waive her automatic right to anonymity and speak to the YEP about the horrors she suffered at the hands of her rapist father from the age of 11.

In an exclusive interview, she talks today about the overwhelming messages of support and her hopes of giving other survivors the strength to speak out.

Kim Chown, pictured here as a teenager, was abused by her father from the age of 11.

Kim Chown, pictured here as a teenager, was abused by her father from the age of 11.

Shame, guilt, fear. These were the feelings that had defined Kim Chown’s life for decades as she lived with the secret of horrific sexual abuse carried out by her own father when she was a child.

Now, six weeks on from his incarceration, there are mixed emotions but the most powerful of all is relief.

Kim, 53, said: “It feels like I’m free, totally free from something that’s bolted me down and been a burden on my life. I just feel so happy.”

Former university lecturer Francis Beaumont – known to some as Bernard or Bernie – was jailed for 20 years at Leeds Crown Court last month after being found guilty of five counts of rape in the 1970s and 1980s.

A childhood picture of Kim Chown taken when she was a toddler.

A childhood picture of Kim Chown taken when she was a toddler.

Read more: Depraved Leeds rapist who threatened to dissolve daughter in acid tried to claim she ‘seduced’ him

Seeing justice done at last was undoubtedly a significant moment, but Kim knows the task of moving on will not be a simple one.

“I’m not used to thinking about anything associated with it, unless it’s on my mind for wanting to do things about it,” she said. “That’s sort of how I’ve been for 30 years. Just putting it to one side. It still hasn’t sunk in for me. People have said to me: ‘Now you can move on’. But I can’t. Just because I’ve got justice, I can’t forget that. I need to work through it.”

What has helped enormously is the reaction from those who read about the case and shared supportive messages through the letters’ page of this paper and online.

Kim Chown, pictured with husband Jonathan, in the late 1990s.

Kim Chown, pictured with husband Jonathan, in the late 1990s.

“My daughter sent me some comments,” Kim said. “I thought I daren’t look, but the comments were amazing. There were hundreds of them.

“People were privately messaging me, women in their 70s saying ‘You’re an absolute inspiration. I’ve carried this every day for my life.’

“There’s hundreds and hundreds of people out there who’ve been abused and are still carrying that. Some people carry this secret to their graves, some people take their lives.”

It was the hope that speaking publicly about her own experiences might help other survivors which led Kim to wave her anonymity on the day of her father’s sentencing.

“I thought I’ve come this far and I want that lifting, I’ve got nothing to hide,” she said. “I have to see it through properly, not hiding behind everything like I’ve done for years.

“I wanted to come out from behind that secret and just show others in my position that you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. My father had got away with this for so long and he thrived on making me feel ashamed.”

Read more: Depraved Leeds lecturer raped daughter for years and forced her to have two abortions

Her 79-year-old father, of Brackenwood Green, Gledhow, Leeds, was found guilty at trial of five offences of rape between 1979 and 1985.

They were just a handful of the crimes committed against his young daughter in what the judge described as a “campaign of rape”, which began when the family lived in Kenya and continued on their return to Leeds.

Jurors were told how Beaumont, who later ran a fish and chip shop in the city, took Kim’s virginity at the age of 11 . He forced her to take the contraceptive pill but she twice became pregnant, resulting in traumatic abortions.

“I think I’ve rung the police so many times in the last 15 years,” Kim said. “They’d follow up and I’d say forget it. It’s not because I’m lying, it’s because it’s so difficult.”

It was only through the support of husband, Jonathan, and their children that she felt able to go to the police for what would be the final time in 2015.

She said: “I was really scared. I don’t know what I expected. They questioned dad and released him. I thought ‘What have I done? What have I done?’

“I didn’t want him to suffer. I wanted him to say sorry for what he had done.”

Pressure from her own siblings in the time between her father’s arrest and this year’s trial took its toll too, with a spell in rehab in February 2017 and doubts about proceeding.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic,” Kim said. “This could be a really trying time for me, the trial could have been, but not one of my siblings has contacted me to see how I am. I feel totally, utterly betrayed. I’m managing with that as well.”

Read more: Daughter raped by ‘depraved’ father since age of 11 speaks out about abuse

Twice Kim withdrew her statement to the police but her resolve gradually strengthened and ultimately she decided not to take up the court’s offer of special measures such as a screen to shield her from her father’s view.

“I said ‘I’m going to stand up there, I’m going to face him’,” she said. “On the day of the trial I felt sick. I didn’t know what was going to happen, how I was going to feel.

“I thought I’m just going to feel so sorry for him. How can I do this to an old man?’

“I was so scared about the cross-examination. I thought he’s going to make me out to be a liar, but then I thought I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m speaking the truth.

“It gave me strength to go up and face him. No matter what they said, I felt good that I was speaking the truth.”

With the truth now out, she has had other survivors making contact and wanting to talk to her about her experiences.

Kim said: “They’re going through what I’m going through. I’m not a counsellor but what I can say is what I did.

“What I want is to be a public figure in that I want people to see me, see what I’m like now, what I’ve done and to draw on that. For people to think there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

• Kim has set up Be Free – Break The Silence (For Survivors Of Childhood Sexual Abuse), a Facebook support group for abuse survivors.

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