Fife woman raped at the age of 10 speaks of lasting trauma and ‘lifesaving’ support which helped bring her abuser to justice

A Fife woman who was raped at the age of 10 has spoken of her lasting trauma and the “lifesaving” support she received to help bring her abuser to justice - in a brave bid to help other survivors come forward.

The woman, who we are calling ‘Jane,’ was told by her abuser James Kerr at the time that “I will find you and kill you if you ever tell anybody,” which left her living in fear of speaking to the authorities for the next 26 years.

But Jane, who is 38 and lives in Dunfermline, is now urging other historic abuse survivors to speak to a Kirkcaldy-based organisation called the Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (FRASAC) to get the help they need.

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She said: “I do not think I would be here today if it was not for the support I have received from them.

'Jane' hopes that other survivors will come forward.
'Jane' hopes that other survivors will come forward.

“I would say to anyone, don’t be scared to talk. It has helped me in so many ways to actually cope. Never let your abuser make you feel the way I felt over the last 28 years, living in fear - find that strength from somewhere.

“At the start I was a complete mess, I was just a shell, but they helped me to talk about things in a better way, as I had always been scared to do that.”

In July, vile Kerr was jailed for 13 and a half years at the High Court in Glasgow after admitting several appalling crimes including raping two schoolgirls, sexually abusing an eight-year-old boy and physically abusing two women at various addresses in Dunfermline between 1991 and 2019.

Lord Matthews also ordered Kerr to be monitored in the community for six years after his release from prison.

Detective Constable Ross French, of the Non-recent Child Abuse Investigation Unit based in Glenrothes.

Jane, who is satisfied with this sentence, said she was raped on “several occasions” over the course of one and a half years from the age of 10.

She says the trauma caused by her abuser’s actions contributed to difficulties in future relationships and that, in her early 20s, she often turned to alcohol and drugs to cope.

But in 2018, following a visit to her home by police concerning a missing person inquiry, she suddenly “broke down” and spent more than three hours telling officers about her childhood ordeal.

Abuse referrals rising

James Kerr was convicted for serious sexual assault offences.

Jane was referred to FRASAC, part of the Rape Crisis Scotland network, which provides a range of support services to recent and non-recent (typically more than a year) abuse survivors from the age of 12 upwards. They do this from the first point of contact throughout any subsequent investigation and court proceedings, including trials, as well as with future counselling.

Service coordinator, Mairi McAllister, said they received 36 referrals alone in November which is the busiest month the charity has ever had in its 16 years.

She said they have been receiving 30 referrals a month on average since July and that there has been a “steady rise” in the number of people coming forward over the last four years.

Mairi said it's not clear exactly why, but added: “More people have more time on their own and less ways to distract themselves from their feelings.”

It is worth noting that men using the service come from outside of Fife as specific support is not always available in other parts of Scotland, although the majority of sexual and physical assault survivors are women.

FRASAC also wants to make clear to survivors there are “no barriers” to how much time has passed since the abuse happened, and their specialist teams are able to deal with survivors of different ages with varying needs.

Mairi, who has been working for FRASAC for 15 years, said: “There has been a significant rise in the number of people reporting it (rape and sexual assault) to police.

“I think people realise more and more that rape and sexual assault exists and more people are feeling able to come forward and that the service and support provided has improved. We also have the #metoo campaign and a lot of media attention on this.

“We often see a rise in referrals if it’s on TV, for example Eastenders or Hollyoaks. I think it makes it more acceptable for people to realise it happens and it gives them courage to come forward or go to the police.”

‘Time is no barrier’

The Glenrothes-based Non-recent Child Abuse Investigation Unit - set up in 2017 as part of the Fife Public Protection Unit - investigates cases like Jane’s across the region and their officers work closely with FRASAC to keep survivors informed on developments and whether a prosecution will be made.

Detective Constable Ross French, who works in this unit and worked on Jane’s case, said: "Time is no barrier, we treat all reports of sexual crime with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity. Anyone who has been the victim of abuse should feel confident in coming forward, that we will believe you and we will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure you are fully supported throughout.

“When we do start to investigate cases, there are often a lot of positive lines of inquiry which can come from that, so no one should ever feel worried to come forward.”

Mairi also stressed that FRASAC provides a confidential space for abuse survivors to come and speak and be listened to by members of their team, or police, at any stage before or during the investigation process.

Jane, who is still receiving counselling from FRASAC, described the support provided to her by these organisations from start to finish as “amazing,” adding: “My life is 100 times better now than it was before, it’s improved so much and I no longer walk down the street having to look over my shoulder.”

Anyone who wants to get in touch to report sexual or physical abuse - recent or non-recent - can contact FRASAC on 01592 642336 or police via 101.

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