Cheryl Islip, 39, from Eastbourne was raped at 10 years old, but her abuser doesn't even have to sign the sex offenders register. She shares her harrowing story...
As my grandad Norman bounced me up and down on his knee, I was in fits of giggles.
He wasn’t my biological grandad – but he was as good as.
You see, he’d married my mum’s mum before I was born. He was the only grandad I’d ever known and I loved him to bits.
When I was around 3, Mum and Dad split up.
And as I got older, I spent a lot of my time with Nan and Norman. After school, I’d have dinner at their place.
But one afternoon when I was 9, something strange started to happen…
‘Come and sit on my knee,’ Norman grinned.
Then he started bouncing me up and down like he always did.
‘Horsey horsey don’t you stop…’ he began singing.
‘Just let your feet go clippity-clop,’ I joined in, giggling away.
Suddenly, I could feel him rubbing himself against me. It was horrible.
But mostly, I was confused.
I thought maybe that was just the way grandads always cuddled their grandchildren.
It continued to happen whenever Nan wasn’t looking.
‘Let’s play Horsey,’ he’d say, patting his lap.
Then, when I was 10, I stayed over one evening.
I couldn’t sleep. Nan was out, so I went to Norman’s bedside and woke him up.
Norman pulled back the covers.
‘Get in with me,’ he said.
As soon as I did, Norman started groping me. He pulled up my nightdress and climbed on top of me.
Then he raped me.
The pain was unimaginable. I was totally paralysed with fear and shock.
When Norman let me go, my face was drenched with tears.
Minutes later, he was sound asleep, snoring. Just like nothing had happened.
But I stayed wide awake all night, sobbing my heart out.
What Norman had done had hurt so much, I knew it was wrong. I thought about telling Mum or Nan, but Norman was a grown-up and I was just a child.
They’ll never believe me, I convinced myself.
Shortly after that, when I was 11, I was put into foster care as Mum wasn’t coping.
After that, I only ever saw Norman if I bumped into him in town.
I desperately tried to bury everything that’d happened. But the burden of my secret and the painful memories were bound to have an effect.
Over the years, I became withdrawn and depressed.
In June 2000, aged 22, I gave birth to my daughter.
Things didn’t work out with her dad. But I was determined to be a good mum and to always protect her.
She was so innocent. I’d sit and watch her and wonder how anyone could hurt a child.
I couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to her, and it brought everything Norman had done back to the surface.
I can’t let him hurt another child, I thought.
So in 2004, after building up the courage, I went to the police.
Then I told Nan about it over the phone. She was horrified and I later heard she and Norman had split up.
But, despite reporting Norman to the police, I was told there wasn’t enough evidence.
I was crushed, but I tried my best to move on.
In July 2009, I had my youngest daughter. I wasn’t with her dad, but we remained good friends.
A few years later, in 2011, I happened to bump into a relative of Norman’s.
And memories of what he’d done came rushing back once more.
Only this time I couldn’t bury them. I knew that the only way I could move on was to get justice.
Norman deserved to be punished for what he’d done. And if the police couldn’t find any evidence, I’d have to do it myself.
So I came up with a plan to catch Norman out.
‘I’ll record him confessing everything on my phone,’ I told a mate.
She came along with me for support.
As I knocked on Norman’s door, I was shaking.
Although I hadn’t seen him in years, he hadn’t changed one bit. The sight of him made my skin crawl.
He invited us in and I cut to the chase. I couldn’t bear being in his company a second longer than necessary.
With my phone secretly set to record in my pocket, I began.
‘I want to talk about what you did to me as a kid,’ I said.
Norman was quiet for a while, then he let out a long sigh…
My heart was hammering in my chest as I waited for him to continue.
If he confessed, it could be the evidence I needed to go back to the police.
‘You’re right, something did happen in the bed,’ he said.
Not a full confession but it was something.
I didn’t stick around much longer. And after I left, I went straight to the police.
Eventually, the case was reopened.
Another victim came forward, too, and a trial was set for 2014. But it kept being delayed due to Norman’s ill health.
‘He’s got dementia,’ a police officer told me.
A doctor ruled he was unfit to be tried, but the CPS ordered he was fit when their own doctor examined him.
It took until 2016 to get back to court. But, halfway through the case, Norman’s barrister asked for him to be seen by a doctor again.
And eventually he was ruled unfit to be tried.
So a trial of facts was heard at Lewes Crown Court.
It meant that rather than his guilt being decided, the truth of the allegations was determined instead.
Last November, a jury found Norman Askew, 88, did the acts charged against him, which were one count of rape and three counts of indecent assault on a female.
But the judge gave him an absolute discharge. It meant that although he was guilty, no conviction was registered.
So Norman was allowed to walk free and wasn’t even put on the sex offenders register.
I was appalled.
The man I called Grandad raped me when I was just a little girl. Yet he was a free man. Got no more than a slap on the wrist. Disgusting.
Now I’ve started a petition to stop this happening to others.
It’s so hard for victims to speak up. It took everything I had. Yet Norman got away with it because of a legal loophole.
All rapists and abusers should be put on the sex offenders register, regardless.
So I’m channelling all my energy into getting this law changed.
If I can spare just one victim the injustice, it’ll be worth it.
According to the Office for National Statistics, one in 14 adults in England and Wales was sexually abused as a child. If you need advice or support, contact the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.