David’s story

David first contacted Pace after he discovered his 15-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by her swimming coach on multiple occasions.

Initially, David was happy with how serious the coach took Emma’s training. He was so passionate about swimming and was very encouraging of Emma, increasing her training to three times per week to aid her progress.

Emma had been swimming for a few months when an accusation was made by another parent of a child in the same swimming group against the coach. She claimed her daughter had been sexually assaulted by the coach in a car after a swimming competition. David and his wife were in shock and disbelief, presuming that it must be a misunderstanding. Emma was steadfast in defending her coach, assuring her parents of his innocence.

Over the next few weeks, Emma’s behaviour became very erratic; having huge mood swings and being very angry towards her parents. David and his wife paid for Emma to have private counselling and after a number of sessions, Emma disclosed to them that her coach had sexually assaulted her but she didn’t want to involve the police.

David was absolutely devastated. As a father, he felt he had failed to protect her and he was responsible for letting his daughter suffer such horrendous pain and sadness. He listened to Emma crying herself to sleep and couldn’t find the right words to comfort her. David pleaded with Emma to go to the police, but she said if anything was said to them she would run away and never speak to him again.

Emma seemed to improve a little with counselling but when she turned 16, she moved in with her swimming coach, telling her parents that she was in love with him. Emma refused to see her parents and stopped answering their calls.

David knew the police must be involved and contacted them on a several occasions but because there was no evidence and Emma wouldn’t make a disclosure, there was nothing they could do. Emma had convinced social care services she was in a consenting adult relationship and so they couldn’t help either.

David couldn’t understand why Emma would move in with someone who had repeatedly sexually assaulted her. David was supported by a Pace worker who explained what was happening with Emma; how leaving sexual exploitation often isn’t a linear process, it is cyclical, and abusers will use every tool at their disposable to enforce a continuation or resumption of the abusive relationship.

Pace helped David understand how Emma was groomed and how the relationship her abuser had formed with her initially mimicked all of the positive relationships she has had in her life. Her abuser had told her he loved her, that he would protect her so that when the assault, shame and threats came it was mixed in with what she had been manipulated to believe was love. Pace helped David understand that it wasn’t his fault, that it was the offender’s abusive power that had driven a wedge between their family.

Months had passed when Emma called David in the early hours of the morning, begging for help. David and his wife helped Emma rebuild her life after a termination of pregnancy. Pace helped David understand how deep the impact trauma can have on people affected by sexual abuse. This helped their family show Emma love when she was angry, patience when she couldn’t leave the house and compassion when she wept out of sadness missing her abuser.