Sexual abuse was taboo when I was a child, but children no longer have to suffer in silence, I tell myself. They’re told the difference between good touching and bad. They speak up.
The gentle stroking on my back was pleasant and a bit ticklish, but something about the intimacy of it scared me.
It was a summer evening in 1980 and I was sitting bolt upright on a leather sofa, trying to concentrate on Jackanory, while my best friend’s father, Kevin, massaged between my shoulder blades.
I heard him swallow and suck in his breath as he inched forward slightly. I felt his hand go under my T-shirt, deftly undo my trainer bra and cup my pre-pubescent breast. I was just 11 years old.
The moment lives with me still — more than 30 years later — as if frozen in time. Sitting there in that familiar room with the sun slanting in on the varnished floorboards, I should have felt safe and happy. Instead, I was paralysed with shock and fear.
I could hear my best friend and her sister running around upstairs. Even worse, my younger sister was lying on the floor in front of me watching the small black and white screen, oblivious of what was going on a few feet behind her.
It felt as if Kevin kneaded my breast for hours as I sat stiff and motionless as a mannequin, but it could only have been minutes.
The squeak of leather sandals signalled the arrival of his wife — who was my teacher at school — and he sat back and yawned as if nothing had happened. Only the loose straps of my bra remained as mute witness to what had gone on.
The same horrid scene would be repeated many more times. In fact, the abuse — which is what it would be called today — lasted for just over a year. Even to this day, I have never spoken of it to anyone, except my husband.
But then came the Jimmy Savile case and it all came flooding back. The Seventies and Eighties were the decades of my childhood, too. The man I fell prey to was every bit as charming, brazen and conniving as Savile.
‘I should have felt safe and happy. Instead, I was paralysed with shock and fear’
One of the striking things about Savile’s victims is how many of them thought that they were the only ones — that the abuse had happened to them as some kind of aberration.
That’s exactly what I always thought. That Kevin chose me and no other and never abused again. But is it possible that Kevin was a serial abuser and I was just one of many?
Should I have said something? Should I say something to the police now? I have known for some time that Kevin retrained as a teacher in the years after I knew him, but I always told myself he’d undergone a conversion of some sort and regretted what had happened with me.
But now I am haunted by the thought that Kevin’s new career might have been a ruse to get him close to vulnerable children.
The dilemma over whether I should report him to the police has been giving me sleepless nights. What if he is still abusing children and they all assume, like me, that they are the only ones?
But then, surely, he can’t have been abusing children for all these years without ever being caught, I reason. Times have changed, after all.
Sexual abuse was taboo when I was a child, but children no longer have to suffer in silence, I tell myself. They’re told the difference between good touching and bad. They speak up. Don’t they?
Then my mind drifts back to the moment when Kevin, the adored ‘uncle’ I had known since I was six years old, first touched me all those years ago.
Kevin was a big bear of a man who would pick me up in his arms and throw me into the air whenever he saw me, grinning as I giggled.
Unlike my own father, who was a rather proper professional lawyer, Kevin was a proud East End cockney who still lived in the house where he was born.
He had once been in the Merchant Navy — and had the home-made tattoos to prove it.
Scandal: Meghan said the abuse by her teacher’s husband has come ‘flooding back’ since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke
His wife was my favourite teacher at school. Of course, I was over the moon the first time they invited me home to tea, because of my blossoming friendship with their eldest daughter. My younger sister was exactly the same age as my friend’s younger sister and the four of us became as close as cousins.
It didn’t take long before we were regularly invited over to their house for sleepovers. My parents were pleased because they thought the world of my teacher, too. My sister and I loved the long bus journey across London from salubrious North London all the way to Whitechapel, where they lived.
It didn’t matter that their tiny back-to-back terrace didn’t have central heating and we slept two-in-a-bed. We liked the fact it was a world away from our five-storey townhouse, with radiators in every room, overlooking a park.
I remember ice-skating trips and excursions to the seaside in the back of an old Morris Minor.
I still have faded pictures of us grinning into a Kodak camera, long hair tangling together in the sea breeze. We are smiling at Kevin — big sunny adoring smiles. I was always Kevin’s favourite so I got to sit next to him when he told us bedtime stories, mostly about himself. But from that day he first touched my breast, he became a predator. I wanted to keep away from him, but I couldn’t explain to my parents why our lovely weekends away should stop. My sister had no idea, and positively insisted we go as often as possible.
Kevin was methodical. His modus operandi was to touch me intimately and pretend nothing was happening — in company if he felt like it. I remember one particularly awful evening when we were all playing cards – his wife, my sister, his daughters and me. He had insisted on being my partner and I was sat on his knee. Right in front of everyone, he put his hand under my jumper and stroked my breast while I felt him becoming aroused.
I can never forget the look on his wife’s face. She glanced at me with such a look of horror — and also, confusingly, hatred — then quickly dropped her eyes. Everyone carried on as if nothing was happening, including me. But she knew: I’m sure she knew.
Another time, my parents came to pick us up and were asked to stay for dinner. Afterwards, we walked into the garden for some fresh air.
As they chatted, Kevin fumbled against me in the darkness, putting his hand up my skirt and on my thigh. He seemed to enjoy the power he held over everyone and taking risks was part of it.
‘My silence will save him again, I know. But is it really worth destroying so many lives when there is no guarantee he will ever be punished?’
With hindsight, he had always been a domineering person with a cruel streak. His wife, who was kind, lively and charming at school, was a different person at home. Quiet and subdued, she did his bidding without question.
His two daughters behaved unnaturally around him, and were often nervous and cowed. They spoke a funny baby language when his temper was riled, which I thought odd at the time, but it signalled a submissiveness that probably made their lives easier.
My dance macabre with my abuser came to an end when I went to a new secondary school — a different school to my friend on the opposite side of London — and I dropped her. My parents thought me cruel, but I knew I had to sever ties once and for all. There was no question at that point of telling my parents or the authorities. He had never actually raped me, after all.
The after-effects were invisible to the outside world, but to me long- lasting and insidious. I was terrified of sex throughout my teens and suffered from a condition called vaginismus, where sex is physically impossible, until my mid-20s.
At university, I had lots of casual boyfriends, but the relationships never went anywhere — I was too scared to form an attachment that might lead to intimacy.
Looking back, I drank more alcohol than I should have to get the courage I needed to socialise with men.
Kevin had ‘got at’ me when I was just on the cusp of womanhood and his actions had left their imprint. Whenever I did meet a man I liked, I found myself playing a role that was submissive — not equal to equal.
After graduating, I got a job as a civil servant and turned my thoughts towards building a career. Then, ten years ago, I met the man who was to become my husband and trusted him enough to tell him everything.
Lonely: Meghan said she could not trust boys throughout her teenage and university years and could only confide in her eventual husband
At the end of a tearful confessional, he brushed the damp hair from my cheeks and told me to forget Kevin. Yes, he wanted to kill him with his bare hands, but it wouldn’t do any good now.
Kevin was a product of a time that had passed — one of the dirty old men who existed back then. We would move on together, bring up our lovely children and never mention him again.
Until recently, that’s exactly what we did. But since the Savile affair, I find myself racked with the most terrible guilt. What if I wasn’t the only one? What if he is still abusing others?
But even after all these years, I can’t bring myself to speak out. My elderly parents would blame themselves for letting me go into my molester’s arms time and time again. And his family will fall apart, particularly if, as I believe, they know deep down what happened. It must be a fragile mesh that keeps the whole edifice from crumbling.
Do I want to snap the delicate strands and wreak vengeance back through the mellowing prism of all these years?
In the end, social networking sites have finally helped me make a decision. Out of the blue, my former best friend’s sister recently invited me to her 40th birthday. I declined, but still accepted her request to become an online friend.
Through Facebook, I can see that Kevin is a grandfather — apparently a doting one — of five boys. He seems to be a respected member of his community and has recently retired as a special needs teacher.
His wife has stayed with him and beams out of family snapshots alongside her husband, children and grandchildren.
Theirs is no longer a nuclear family that will implode if I tell my story, but a whole dynasty.
Blame me if you like for being a coward, but I can’t take responsibility for destroying the lives of his innocent family.
My silence will save him again, I know. But is it really worth destroying so many lives when there is no guarantee he will ever be punished? I think not. I can only hope to God that I really was the only little girl to be subject to his revolting, wandering hands.
– Meghan Alexander is an alias. All of the names have been changed.