In many ways, we were an ordinary family – mum, dad, two kids, a Volvo in the drive. And in some ways we weren’t so ordinary. As a ship’s engineer, my husband Daniel worked away from home for up to four months at a time. But I never for a moment dreamt that we were extraordinary – until that day.
It started out fine, that Tuesday in December 1996. Our younger daughter, Claire, 13,was at school, and I was looking forward to spending some time with Tamsin, who had just broken up for the holidays. At 15, she was a weekly boarder at a specialist school for high-ability dyslexics.
The following evening, I was in the living room when she burst in, flung a piece of paper at me and stormed out. ‘I have to leave or he has to,’ she had written. ‘And you seem to need him. And f*** you, you probably won’t believe me anyway.’ She was talking about her father – telling me that he had been sexually abusing her for the past five years. In the seconds it took me to absorb her words, my world came tumbling down.
I found her down the road with her dog. ‘Come home and tell me about it,’ I begged. She looked into my eyes and must have been reassured by what she saw. ‘He won’t leave me alone,’ she cried. ‘He’s always feeling me up. He brushes against my breasts so I know it’s not accidental, but he could persuade someone else it was.’