Julie Higgs, 50, from Basildon, Essex, explains how her mum turned a blind eye to her dad's wicked abuse...
As other kids ran out of nursery into their mum’s arms, I shuffled out miserably.
‘Hurry up, Julie,’ my mum Veronica huffed, annoyed.
I was only 4, and loved nursery. But not because of the toys, and games and colouring… I just hated being at home.
Mum and my dad Frederick weren’t exactly loving parents. They’d never cuddle me, or read me bedtime stories. If I tried to sit on Mum’s lap, she’d push me away.
‘There’s some liquorice in the cupboard,’ she’d say, bribing me to leave her alone.
Then, when I was 5, things at home got worse.
One night, I was asleep in my bed when I awoke to Dad pulling at my arm. He unzipped his trousers and put my hand in his pants. I was too scared to move, so pretended to be asleep. I could hear Mum snoring just metres away in the next room.
Seconds later, Dad disappeared, then returned with some tissues. Wiping my hand clean, he sloped back to bed.
I was too young to understand what’d happened.
After, Dad began doing it more and more. I’d listen, frozen with fear, as his footsteps approached my bedroom door. And I’d pretend to be asleep as he reached for my arm.
Then, when I was 9, Dad and I were home alone. He was in bed, as I played downstairs.
‘Julie!’ he called out. ‘Bring me a cup of tea.’I did as I was told. But, when
I got into the bedroom, Dad pushed me towards the bed.
Pulling off my clothes, he climbed on top of me and raped me. Terrible pain tore through me, and I shook with fear.
‘Stop, you’re hurting me!’ I cried quietly to him. But Dad just ignored my whimpers of pain and terror.
Then he zipped up his trousers, pointed his finger into my face.
‘If you tell anyone, you won’t get any more pocket money,’ Dad warned me.
Just a kid, I didn’t understand what he was doing. But I knew that he terrified me.
I hoped if Mum knew about what he was doing, she’d make it stop so, one day, I told her everything while Dad was out.
‘Dad hurt me in your bed,’ I sobbed.
Mum turned pale with shock.
‘Nonsense,’ she gulped shakily, before changing the subject.
I was so upset and angry. I worried that if Mum didn’t believe me, nobody would. So I kept my mouth shut, and didn’t tell another soul.
As time went on, Dad would abuse me whenever he could, and even started taking me out of school to do so.
‘Julie has a dentist appointment,’ he lied to my teacher once. But Dad took me home, locked the front door and raped me.
Afterwards, he dropped me back at school as if nothing at all had happened.
Distraught, I tried again to tell Mum about the abuse. But she didn’t seem to care, still left me with Dad.
Why won’t she make it stop? I’d fret, confused. She was my Mum, she was supposed to protect me.
‘Any hanky panky today?’ she’d often ask me.
‘Yes,’ I’d tell her, honestly.
‘Well, we won’t tell anyone,’ she replied.
‘If you do, I won’t give you any money for nice new clothes and shoes.’
She referred to Dad’s abuse as if it was normal.
But as I got older, I realised it was anything but…
Aged 11, I had sex-education classes at school. While the other kids squirmed with disgust, I wasn’t fazed. Because of Dad, I already knew all about sex.
Then, around the same time, I collapsed at home one day with bad tummy pains.
My dad rushed me off to the hospital.
‘If you’re pregnant, tell them it was a boy from school who did this to you,’ he warned.
Pregnant?! I hadn’t even started having my periods.
After I’d had a few tests, the doctors confirmed that I’d suffered a bowel blockage. They prescribed some medicine for me to treat it.
But the thought of being pregnant had terrified me. It must’ve frightened Dad, as well, because, after that he started leaving me alone. Yet his vile abuse stayed with me…
When I was 15, I moved out of Mum and Dad’s, into my boyfriend’s place. And, in time, I had my daughter Kayleigh, now 30, shortly followed by Tarnia, 28.
It didn’t work out with their dad, but my girls were my world, and I doted on them.
As my parents got older, I felt a duty to visit them. I’d help with the shopping, a bit of housework.
I never left my girls alone with them, though. I was terrified Dad would hurt them.
So, whenever I visited, I’d watch him like a hawk.
And then, in 2012, I met up with an old friend for a coffee…
Meeting up with my friend was great – I hadn’t seen her in years. And, when the conversation turned to families, she asked me about my mum and dad.
‘They’re not as nice as you think they are,’ I told her. She looked at me in surprise, seemed confused.
Before I knew what was happening, I was blurting it all out to her…
‘Dad raped me, and Mum knew about it,’ I confessed.
After years of bottling it up, it all came tumbling from me.
She was horrified.‘You have to go to the police,’ she said to me encouragingly.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew that she was right. I couldn’t let my mum and dad – the people who should’ve loved me and protected me – get away with what they’d done.
So I spoke to a counsellor at my local rape and incest crisis centre. Then I found the courage to report the abuse to the police.
By now, Mum and Dad were frail and in their 70s. I didn’t care, though. Just like Dad never cared how young I was when he raped me. Or how Mum didn’t care when she turned a blind eye to his abuse. They made me sick.
‘You’ve done the right thing, Mum,’ Kayleigh and Tarnia said.
I’d told them years ago about the abuse. They’d been great, so supportive.
Finally, in July 2016, Veronica Higgs, aged 72, and Frederick Higgs, 74, appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
Dad admitted four counts of rape and four counts of indecency with a child. He was jailed for 12 years, with a further year on licence.
Mum pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to a person under 16. She was sentenced to 18 months, with a further three months supervision.
It felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
‘Now they can’t hurt anyone else,’ I told the girls.
What Dad did to me was horrific, and the fact Mum turned a blind eye makes her as bad. Unforgivable.
Now, I’m determined to help others who’ve been through what I have. My day in court wasn’t just for me, it was for all sexual-abuse victims. For a long time, I worried I wouldn’t be believed, that too much time had passed. But I’m proof it’s never too late to get justice. It’s time to speak up and be heard.
The National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) provides a range of services offering direct support to survivors of historic sex abuse. Call its free helpline on 0800 801 0331 or go to www.napac.org.uk.