A BRAVE sex-abuse victim has urged other children not to suffer in silence after seeing her attacker jailed for 14 years.
The youngster was tormented by Paul Steele for seven years of her childhood. He began sexually abusing her when she was eight and went on to rape her when she was 11. When she first fully began to realise that what was happening was wrong, she tried to stop him. But he then began beating and threatening her.
The abuse ended only when she finally plucked up the courage to tell her mother. The teenager sat through 45-year-old Steele’s sentencing at Derby Crown Court but said she had been unable to look at him in the dock. She said: “He’s changed my whole life. No length of sentence given to him will satisfy me.” She said she wanted to send a message to other children who were being abused to tell someone – a parent, a teacher or another adult they trusted – about it.
“You shouldn’t keep it bottled up and there is hope that you can move on,” she said. The court was told Steele handed himself in to the police after hearing that the girl had told her mother about the abuse.
Steele, formerly of Belper but now of Reading, admitted three charges of indecent assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child and one of rape. His victim told no one about her years of torment until last year, when she told her best friend and then, on Boxing Day, her mother. The court heard that, prior to this, she had been too frightened to tell anyone because of Steele’s threats.
Mark Achurch, prosecuting, said Steele told her that if she told anyone, he would hurt her. “(These were) threats that she took as being very real – because of the physical violence she had suffered at his hands,” said Mr Achurch. As she got older, she started to stand up to Steele more “and when she did so, he would hit her”. Speaking to the Derby Telegraph after the case, the girl said: “I just bottled it up. It made me feel very lonely and I had very low self-confidence.
“I used to put it to the back of my mind, apart from when I went to bed. Some nights, I used to cry myself to sleep. I turned to comfort-eating and it’s only now that I’m starting to kick that habit. It’s affected my relationships and I find it hard to trust men.” She said she had wondered many times why he had assaulted her but had “no answers”. “I try to not think about it now. I have my high days and my low days.”
Roger Wilson, for Steele, told the court: “He handed himself into the police station. He says he feels absolutely disgusted with himself. “He cannot believe what he has done.”
Steele was banned from working with children and ordered to sign the Sexual Offenders’ Register for life.