“IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!”
Those are the words of a survivor of rape and assault who has this week seen her abuser jailed for nearly three decades.
And now she’s focusing her efforts on encouraging people to speak out and seek their own justice.
All victims of rape and sexual offences are automatically given life-long anonymity; therefore this brave survivor’s real name will not be shared and for the purposes of the story, she’ll be called Mrs Z.
Last week, Mrs Z was present at Newcastle Crown Court to see her childhood attacker, Trevor Cairns, of Washington, handed a 28-year-long prison sentence.
He previously pleaded guilty to a whopping 47 offences against three victims, including Mrs Z, when he appeared at court in February.
He had initially spent years denying his guilt and his case was sent for trial, but six days into court proceedings, as evidence began to mount, he changed his plea to guilty.
Mrs Z has welcomed the outcome – though in her eyes no sentence will ever be enough or could ever give her back her childhood.
Discussing her journey to justice, she said: “In the back of my mind I always knew that one day the call would come.”
Mrs Z was painstakingly tracked down by Northumbria Police Detective Colin Ramshaw after another victim disclosed they had been abused by Cairns.
Believing there were other victims, the seasoned detective quickly spotted a pattern of abuse and – determined to get justice – began contacting potential victims.
She added: “Some people knew about the abuse but not in detail, not even my family.
“I never told anyone of the extent of the brutal abuse I endured, or what I witnessed. It was, and is, too traumatic to even think about, never mind talk about.
“After the phone call, I felt overwhelming pain and apprehension of what was to come but my family and friends were very supportive and very proud that I have had the strength and resolve to go through such a traumatic trial.”
Once the initial shock of the phone call had worn off and with family and friends offering support in every way imaginable, Mrs Z began assisting officers.
She said: “It didn’t take any convincing to openly speak about it. After that call, I knew I had to do it, of course there was a period of apprehension as I didn’t know what to expect, or how long it would take to get to court.
“Making a video and verbal statements of my inner most feelings and horrific memories was very difficult, but I knew I needed to do this for me, my family, my friends and for all those out there that may have been victim to this predatorial monster.”
She added: “I was scared to appear in court, but knew I had nothing to hide and only had to tell the truth about what had happened.”
Mrs Z courageously spoke aloud in court on Friday, reading her victim impact statement to the judge, before he made his sentencing decision.
She said: “I wanted to show the true effect and reflection of what happened to me. He will never defeat me.
“He is a pathetic predator who preyed on the defenceless, a manipulator who is calculated and plays the system, who thought he could go through life with apparent impunity, slithering and creeping under the radar like the monstrous reptile he is, a life destroyer.
“I have some resolve in my mind that he will never get the opportunity of hurting anyone ever again.”
On why she chose to read her own statement and not have it read by someone else on her behalf, she said: “I do feel a sense of empowerment. My confidence has come a long way since the initial phone call from Detective Ramshaw.
“I just hope and pray that Cairns now spends the rest of his miserable life rotting in prison.”
And encouraging other people to speak out, she said: “My message to anyone who has been or is still currently a victim of such vile acts is to remember – IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
“Don’t think you will be judged, don’t think you deserved it, don’t fear not being believed.
“There is an amazing support network around you to guide you every step of the way, lots of people who really care.
“Police will keep everything completely confidential, and they permit you to lead the way.
“One day there will be guilt and another day there will be anger. It’s normal to feel this way, you are a survivor.”
She added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family and friends, police, legal representation and the court and support services that have helped all three of us through this very difficult period in our lives. They know who they are.
“Thank you for believing in us.
“And my message to Trevor Cairns is this – I speak for this little girl and all the other children you brutally raped and abused – you did not defeat us and I hope you suffer like we have.”