Jacque has spent all her life coping with the anxiety, self loathing and even guilt after suffering years of sexual abuse.
But now, having celebrated her 60th birthday, she says – enough is enough – and hopes that, by sharing her story, others will feel empowered to disclose the abuse they have suffered, come to terms with what has happened to them and move on with their lives as well.
Jacque and her family moved to Derby when she was three and her earliest memory was being raped and sexually abused by an uncle.
Regarded by everyone else as charismatic, loving and the life and soul of the party, he constantly told Jacque over the years that she was worthless, dirty and that it would rip the family apart if she told them what had been happening.
Life at school was not much better as, from the age of 13, she was groomed and repeatedly raped by a male teacher who equally convinced her that nobody would believe her if she spoke up.
At the age of 15, Jacque discovered she was pregnant and did not know which of her abusers was the father. She told her parents that she had had a one night stand with a boy and, although deeply disappointed in her, they agreed to her having an abortion.
Jacque explained: “I was always a daddy’s girl and I knew that he was really disappointed but he was supportive. I couldn’t bear to return to school and got a job at a local restaurant which I loved. I worked long hours until 3am so that I didn’t have to spend much time at home and could avoid my uncle.
“I stayed there until I was 19 and then my life plummeted into a downward spiral. I was sleeping around, drank far too much and had an evil temper. I hated myself and believed what I had been told all those years that I was a nobody and didn’t deserve anything better.
“I married the first bloke who came along when I was 22 and stayed for eight years despite being battered constantly from pillar to post.
“Again, I didn’t dare tell anyone as I was too ashamed and constantly made excuses for being covered in bruises, and worse. The final straw was when he came home from the pub one night, laid into me and then forced my 18-month-old son to kick me too – something he still remembers to this day.”
Jacque fled the house next day with her two babies and just 10p in her pocket to ring the Samaritans. They found her a place in a refuge where she spent five months before getting a house.
Although she found every day a struggle, she got a job running a pub which was a huge confidence boost and soon met her current partner of 34 years who has been an incredible support.
Jacque continues: “I didn’t tell anyone about my uncle or teacher until my parents died about 20 years ago. Then, after my dad’s wake, I lost it and it all came out.
“I could see in everyone’s eyes that they did not totally believe me. He was a much loved member of the wider family and it wasn’t until one of my older sisters also spoke up that he had done the same to her that everyone realised we were telling the truth.
“Although it was a relief to get everything out in the open, I did have a breakdown after my dad died and it was a struggle to recover but my family and friends were really supportive.
“I got a job supporting vulnerable young adults which was really cathartic and I started to feel that my life was getting better.
“Then, the menopause hit me for six and I spent the whole of my Fifties struggling both physically and mentally with a voice in my head all the time that this was what I deserved. My GP finally prescribed HRT which was my saviour and, again, I started to rebuild my life.
“I have always tried to put on a happy and confident for many years but it is only now that I like myself which is a great feeling. I am learning to let things go and truly enjoy life really for the first time ever.”
Jacque fears are now focused on the other people have not found their voice or sought the help and support they need to banish their demons.
“There is still far too much stigma around rape and sexual abuse. We have had it drilled into us that we are to blame and that no one would believe us. Also, when your abuser is a relative, you fear that speaking up will rip your family apart.
“I was silent for too long and that has ruined so many years of my life. Even now, I know from the reaction of some of my friends and even family that they would much rather brush it under the carpet and hope that it all goes away.
“For years I had a recurring dream that there was a hair in my mouth which I pulled and pulled but it would snap so I couldn’t get it out. Now that I feel free and empowered to tell my truth, that dream has gone and I think it’s because I have finally found my voice.
“I hope that, by sharing my story, it will empower others to get the help and support they need and start living again.”