IT took Cat Mackay months to draft the eight-page speech she read aloud to friends, family and complete strangers detailing how her innocence was cruelly taken from her at just 11-years-old.

In her own words, she was “subjected to horrific organised sexual abuse by numerous men of power, and women, and plunged into a dark world of repetitive, unimaginable violent sexual acts performed by paedophiles,” for about four years.

Then more than 40 years passed before she felt strong enough to reveal what she endured as a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Not even her husband knew it all.

But it was Darren who made her feel safe enough to stand on a donated stage in their back garden in Little Tey, at a private event to raise money for CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse).

This was the first event of many Cat, 58, will do under the title We Stand Together to effect tangible and systemic change for victims of abuse.

“I nearly didn’t do it at all. I don’t think I’ve shook so much in my entire life,” she said.

“But one of the things inspiring me to do this was how brilliant CARA had been for me and also I can show others, who have been through similar experiences, that we can come out the other side.

“Holding it in can really screw you up. Once you get it out, the only way I can describe it is a huge relief.

“When I went to the police and reported what happened, I just couldn’t stop, and I even tried to pull it back.

“I think I cried for days afterwards.”

Brentwood Live:

The 2017 Crime Survey for England and Wales states about five in six victims (83 per cent) did not report their experiences to the police.

Their reasons why are complex - fear of judgement, an insidious culture of victim shaming, guilt, a lack of mental health support, and distrust in the criminal justice system, which deems some victims to be unreliable witnesses because of their lifestyle choices, Cat explained.

After seven gruelling hours of questioning at a police station in the north of England, the police having located some of Cat’s abusers and other victims, she says the “system is too weak to ever prosecute”.

Her case remains open but is not active.

She said: “Lots of people who go through something like this will really struggle like I did.

“They can turn to drugs, alcohol, self-harm or end up in trouble with the police because they can’t cope with life so therefore, within the criminal justice system, they become unreliable witnesses, which is one of the biggest problems.

“But the emotional damage presents itself in so many different ways. There is a general stereotyping of victims which prevents many from coming forward, and I believe this affects the decisions made by the CPS to not take cases forward.

“The complex nature of such experiences affects us all in different ways but the damage lasts a lifetime.”

She added: “I had two dysfunctional marriages prior to Darren and never thought I’d find happiness.

“Having normal relationships was uncomfortable. I know that sounds weird but they were abnormal to me.

“I still get nightmares, although not as many since working with CARA.”


Brentwood Live:

The strength of a young person who had been groomed but “stood up” moved Cat to finally report her abuse.

Cat’s career within youth services and other youth and drug service provisions means she has helped save many children, but this one saved her.

“She said: “Before I knew it, I wasn’t allowed to leave the police station. I had to stay at my niece’s house overnight and was picked up by officers the next day to retrace my steps as a child.

“I wasn’t prepared for the flashbacks that followed, but I would ground myself with techniques I’d learnt over the years or would ring Tracey Vigor from CARA, who was a rock.

“For years I put what happened to me in a box but I have the key this time, and am opening it voluntarily now.”

Making herself so vulnerable is scary but necessary if Cat is to help remove the taboo from abuse and see that attitudes towards it change.

As far as she is concerned, she cannot change what happened to her but wants society to stop survivors from feeling afraid to speak out, and for the system to work in their favour.

Brentwood Live:

With help, Cat’s garden party raised an unexpected £1,000 for CARA.

The second event is on November 2 at the Boars Head pub in Braintree, featuring performances from bands Sound Better Naked, Lost Revelation and Black Water.

But Cat’s dream is to sell out a nearby venue next summer and is calling out to Eighties’ icon Suzi Quatro, who lives near Chelmsford, to perform as a headliner.

“I’m trying to get hold of her,” she said excitedly.

“If I can get a headliner like her on stage and a big sponsor on board,” - Cat’s eyes light up at the thought.

“It’s not just about the money for CARA, it’s about raising awareness so sexual abuse is no longer taboo to talk about, and music is a fantastic way to help do that.

“I’ve taken the biggest step of my life and if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it properly and do whatever it takes.”

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