Abuse victim speaks out after her rapist stepfather jailed at last
A CHILD abuse victim who gave birth to two children fathered by her attacker has spoken out about failings in social services after her attacker was jailed for 25 years.
Cheryl Hall (not her real name) has spoken out to encourage other victims to come forward. Cheryl, now 34, had two children to her stepfather James Cooke who repeatedly raped her as her mother Angela Johnson looked on.
Cooke, 53, of Greenwood, Bamber Bridge, was found guilty of indecent assault, attempted rape, and three counts of raping the schoolgirl. He was jailed for 25 years.
Cooke’s former partner, Angela Johnson, 51, of Great Meadow, Chorley, was found guilty of ill treating her and jailed for 18 months.
The Evening Post can now reveal that she was taken into foster care at the age of four – only to be returned to her abusers when evidence was not ready to be presented at court.
In fact, the intervention made things worse.
When Cheryl returned to live with the pair, the physical abuse she had suffered got worse, and turned sexual, ending with her being repeatedly raped.
Aged five she would be punished for wetting the bed by Cooke and Johnson stripping her naked, binding her, pushing socks in her mouth and running her head under a cold tap.
She was also burned with a halogen light.
Today Cheryl, who has moved away from Lancashire, blasted the care system for failing her.
“Children’s services let me down badly,” she said.
“I was beaten black and blue. Neighbours and teachers had tried to step in.
“I remember being in hospital and the NSPCC and children’s services put me in foster care and an interim court order was in place.
“I was much happier, more confident and settled but at the court hearing for a permanent foster care placement the people who were due to give evidence, like a doctor, did not attend so vital evidence was missed.
“Because of that decision I got put back with them.
“Even when I was taken off the Child Protection register, teachers and neighbours were calling the children’s services.”
Her voice waivers as she adds: “I don’t think I’m strong, I class myself as weak and very emotional. When I talk about the past, though, I try to be void of emotion and feelings.”
When Cheryl was 14, Cooke’s depraved abuse turned sexual and she would be marched by her mother into his room and raped.
At other times he would attack her on holiday and while the family were in church.
Any chances of a normal childhood were ruled out – if Cheryl did go out she had to stay in sight of the lounge window.
At 16 she fell pregnant and despite the couple’s insistence she get an abortion she explains: “No matter how much they wanted me to have an abortion I was dead set - it was an innocent life.
“Throughout my life I had never been loved. My mum always said she should have aborted me. So I saw this little life as something I could love, and something that could love me in return.
“I immediately loved him, he was my little boy.”
Cheryl was studying her GCSEs and suffering morning sickness. Her parents spread the word the father was a local builder working at the Asda site at Clayton-le-Woods.
She adds: “I was too scared to tell anyone, there were always threats. It became the norm. I never knew anything different.
“He kept me isolated and made out I was a demon child – he always called me a problem child.”
She had another child to Cooke as a result of the abuse.
Cheryl, who is now married with four children, agreed to tell her story so that some of the horrific details of what the couple did could be revealed publicly.
She now wants to write a book about what she went through, in the hope that it will encourage other people who are suffering abuse to seek help.
She said: “I’m angry at Angela as a mother myself because I’ve got a conscience
“But a part of me feels sorry for her because I have witnessed the things he did to her, like stabbing her in head, holding guns to her, so even though I’m angry towards her for making me do these things, and cooperating with him, I think a part of her might have switched off – she saw me as a meal ticket for her not to suffer at his hands.”
In August 2004 Cheryl plucked up the courage to flee after a nasty assault in which he punched her and knocked her out cold.
She recalls: “Each time I came to he would punch me and do it again.
“I left with my children and went to a refuge but he found us.
“I moved to a different county but he found us again. He got my number and got in my head again. He said he had gone for counselling and had changed. I was very weak-minded and gullible and he persuaded me to go back, but within a week I saw the same old tricks and controlling behaviour.
“If I was ever going escape this man, get strong and fight him, I knew I had to do it alone.”
This time she did manage to escape and, over time, built a life for herself – getting work as a care assistant and eventually getting married and having two more children.
She confided in her husband about what had happened to her and in January 2015 she found the courage to tell the police about her ordeal.
She adds: “We love each other very much but since the court case has gone on I’ve not been able to sleep in the same bed.
“Things are only just starting to get back to normal.
“After I saw them again in court last summer I ended up in a mental hospital in August. I am suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and a personality disorder.
“I also suffered a massive seizure when I got off the train after that first hearing last year and smashed my head.
She adds: “I want to tell my story to help others. I’d like to write a book about it and dedicate it to other abuse victims all over the world and beg them to come forward, because it is never too late.”
If you are affected by this story call Lancashire Police on 101 or the National Association of People Abused in Childhood on 0808 801 0331