Claire refuses to call the man who abused her a “brother”.
She’ll instead call him a male sibling because brother is a title he lost the right to when he sexually abused her.
Her then-age, the passage of time, and blocking the trauma out means she can’t remember everything that happened. She doesn’t know the exact dates but knows the sexual abuse she endured was inflicted on her “numerous” times.
Her abuser carried out his crimes when no-one else was around – when their parents were working or other were siblings out. It was kept entirely secret from other members of her family.
She can pinpoint the abuse to happening in a four-year period in the early 1970s, because she remembers the house in Swansea where it happened, but it had a much longer impact on her life.
Before the abuse Claire – not her real name – was an A-grade student and happy young girl, moving from primary school to secondary school and turning into a teenager.
The Claire after the abuse was deeply traumatised and ultimately tried to take her own life. As her life went on she was “angry” and overprotective of her own children.
Then, several decades after it happened, she told someone what had happened. But there was no instant relief.
“I was so ashamed that my secret was out,” says Claire, now in her mid-50s.
Having disclosed what happened she later attempted to take her own life.
“It was an absolute, I was out of here. I made all the necessary arrangements to not get found.
“For one reason or another my son had an inkling something wasn’t right, drove home at 140mph, and found his mum unconscious.
“I was taken to the hospital where I was revived. I was there for two days, had a psychiatric assessment, and was sent home.
“It took me another four weeks to disclose to the police. I couldn’t even say why. I had it written on a piece of paper that just said ‘historic abuse’.”
As she sat in that room, telling her story for the first time, it reopened a chapter of her life she had kept buried. “It was very difficult because of my age,” she said.
“I think that was because life was changing. The children had grown up and gone, I had more time on my hands.
“There were lots of things going on. There was too much time to think.”
She began counselling and was for the first time able to address what happened to her.
She has nothing but praise for the police forces that helped her and the charity which offered her the counselling that has transformed her life.
She chose to pursue legal action and the case was looked at by a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister. But it was decided there wasn’t enough evidence to take her allegations to court.
“Justice isn’t always about the truth, it’s about evidence, and sometimes it is there but I understand the constraints the system has,” says Claire. She adds that she knows the police officer that came to tell her the case wouldn’t be pursued was disappointed.
“There are still some people who think that because it didn’t go to court, they think you’re lying. The one piece of comfort I take is that at least my perpetrator never had the chance to be found not guilty.
“The CPS looked at it, and I know finding the evidence would be hard, but I feel very strongly that I have my truth and I know it’s true.”
One of the things looked at by the CPS were her school records.
“You could see my behaviour changing. There was a deterioration. I wasn’t going to school. There were big red circles on them saying: ‘Why isn’t Claire in school?’ I was acting out, I was misbehaving, I tried to commit suicide when I was 15. All looking for someone to say ‘Are you okay?’”
She believes the reason that didn’t happen was generational.
“My father said: ‘You’re your mother’s daughter, let her look after it’. I had one psychiatric assessment and a man turned up who looked like Columbo in a dirty mac and I was 15 years of age and I thought ‘I can’t relate to you’.
“My parents just thought: ‘That’s it, she’s better’.”
There were a list of medical complaints linked to stress. “But nobody ever looked at it. That was historical, it was hush hush, it was swept under the carpet. People then didn’t talk about it.”
She continued with her life, marrying and having a family, but the abuse continued to impact her. “I had nightmares, I acted out, I was angry,” she says.
Those nightmares were angry, vicious ones which her husband would have to wake her from.
“There’s one thing my husband has said now: ‘I was living with an angry woman for more than 20 years and I didn’t know why’.
“I drank too much – I barely drink now at all. I was self-soothing with alcohol. I was meticulous. The house had to be spick and span with the cushions in place, the towels right, the kids’ rooms had to be tidy. That was all about control.
“Having the counselling I had taught me it was all from the trauma I had and I’m free from it now. I’ve got better things to fill my time with now.”
Claire wants to empower fellow abuse survivors to seek help. “Even if you don’t want to disclose to police, come into a service to heal,” she says.
“You are damaged and I never recognised that what was done to me had caused me so much trauma and damaged me so badly – to the point of controlling my children as well. They weren’t allowed out, I was very, very protective of them for fear something would happen to them. I took them everywhere they had to go to and picked them up.
“Setting my trauma free has completely set me free.”
Her family now know what happened. Her abuser has never admitted what he did when asked directly by other members of her family.
“Yes I’ve been traumatised, yes I acted out, and yes I did things I was ashamed of but now I understand my trauma was the reason behind it and I can check in on myself and look after myself,” Claire adds.
She now volunteers for Horizons, a charity which helped her and helps others. It’s part of her own journey but also a way to support other survivors.
“You can grow and get better. You’ll never forget it. But it’s your history.
“Now I’m looking forward to my life, getting into my 90s. Three years ago I was looking at ending it.”
Anyone who has experienced sexual violence or any kind of abuse can call the free and confidential Live Fear Free helpline on 0808 8010 800 or visit livefearfree.gov.wales to message an adviser 24 hours a day, seven days a week.