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Old 03-12-2013, 03:34 AM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2009
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Default "My name is Rachel... and I am a survivor."
Daily Mail - 2 December 2013
For 25 years, Rachel was haunted by the teacher who sexually abused her at 13. Then she decided to make him pay for his crimes by taking him to court

The man standing in the dock of the crown court cut a pathetic figure.

Middle-aged with thinning hair and a paunch, he wore shabby clothes and cheap shoes. I didn’t recognise him at all.

‘That’s him,’ said my mother. But I couldn’t quite believe that the man sitting a few feet away was Graham Wilcock, the once-trusted teacher who had abused me for three years from the age of 13.

Glancing towards me, he bit his nails. It was then I felt a sick stab of recognition. Mr Wilcock used to bite his nails right down to the quick.

In my many nightmares, he’d always been a handsome, charismatic young man with blond hair.

Now I could see him for what he really was: an inadequate man and a paedophile.

Thankfully, it was time for him to face justice.

The abuse I experienced at his hands began only weeks after my father’s sudden death at the age of 48.

I’d returned home from school one afternoon in April 1984 to find a police car outside.

My dad, Peter, had collapsed and died from an epileptic fit, leaving me and my mother, Jean, who was a teacher, on our own.

I’d just turned 13 and was a bookish, rather naive teenager who, like most girls of that era, loved Duran Duran and Adam And The Ants.

Despite my grief, I woke up the very next morning, put on my uniform and headed to school, desperate for life to continue as if nothing had happened.

What I didn’t realise was that my school - the very place which should have provided a safe haven - was the place I was most at risk.

Mr Wilcock had become my teacher when I was nine. He was charismatic, funny and good-looking.

Like most of the girls at my school in Fleetwood, Lancashire, I harboured a small crush on him.

I had absolutely no idea of his intentions towards me when he offered me a shoulder to cry on in the aftermath of Dad’s death.

I respected and trusted him - as did my mother and the other teachers at the school.

If anything, they believed it would be helpful to have a male influence to guide me through the grieving process.

In the days before and after Dad’s funeral, I would often sit in Mr Wilcock’s small office pouring my heart out about how much I missed Dad.

I can see now just how easily I transferred all the love I’d had for my father onto this new male role model in my life.

Wilcock listened, gave me warm hugs, told me I was smarter than the other girls. He laughed at my lame jokes and made me feel special. Little did I realise that, far from being fatherly, his behaviour was part of a sordid grooming process.

A couple of weeks after my father’s death, as I was about to leave for the Easter holidays, he stopped me on my way out of his office and asked for a kiss.

I assumed he meant a goodbye peck on the cheek, so when he leaned forward and planted a kiss firmly on my mouth, I felt pure horror - but also a little excitement.

‘You really don’t know how to kiss, do you?’ he smiled. ‘We’re going to have to teach you.’

I blushed, feeling utterly humiliated, but also thrilled that I was somehow special in his eyes.

Of course, I knew kissing him was wrong, but I didn’t breathe a word to anyone. As a naive child, I believed that he loved me - and, what’s more, I loved him.

Back at school after Easter, it wasn’t long before Wilcock started inviting me to his house to play chess - a game I had played with my father.

It was a calculated move, playing on my yearning to feel close to my dad again.

It worked. I would go to his house every few days after school while his young wife was out shopping. That’s when the abuse began.

Although the notion of a male teacher inviting a pupil to his house sounds incredibly suspicious in today’s society, during the Eighties no one gave much thought to predatory paedophiles.

Yes, there had always been ‘dirty old men’ in raincoats - but child abusers just didn’t hold respectable jobs and seem happily married.

Like so many other parents, Mum trusted Mr Wilcock. He was intelligent, charming, funny, earnest and, seemingly, utterly believable. He was also married to a lovely young woman.

Everyone believed he had my best interests at heart. But the only thing Wilcock was interested in was manipulating and controlling me.

He sexually abused me in ways I cannot bear to remember - at his home and in shelters on the seafront near where we lived, as well as on waste ground near his home.

Even at the time I knew it was seedy, but I was both desperate to see him and terrified that we’d be caught. I found myself lying to friends and, worst of all, my lovely mother about where I was going.

It never occurred to me to tell anyone what was going on. It wasn’t that I thought people wouldn’t believe me, but Wilcock warned me we’d both get into ‘enormous trouble’ if we were discovered.

Undoubtedly the sexual abuse was vile and damaging, but, with hindsight, the emotional abuse had huge repercussions.

While privately he would tell me that he loved me, in public he’d bully me - calling me fat and ugly in front of other pupils.

It was classic, calculating abuse. I craved his approval and would often spend my pocket money on his favourite chocolate bar and newspaper, hoping that these little love tokens would make him happy.

I dieted drastically, in the hope he would stop making fun of me. Sadly, I became anorexic and have battled with body issues all my life.

The only upside to the whole revolting business was the fact that I sought his approval by studying hard.

While the abuse continued, I gained 12 O-levels - all grade As in the subjects he taught me. It was this that aided my eventual escape.

By the time I left to do A-levels at sixth-form college, my schoolgirl crush had long since disappeared and I’d begun to comprehend the sordid nature of our encounters.

I decided I didn’t want anything more to do with him, and now our paths no longer crossed I was able to start a ‘normal’ relationship with a boy of my own age.

After A-levels, I went to Oxford to study English, then moved to London where I went on to become a correspondent for GMTV.

It took me more than ten years to consider that what happened was actually ‘abuse’ and not just some slightly abnormal relationship, for which I’d been just as responsible.

It was around 1998, during a visit home, that I began to hear rumours from a number of people about Wilcock and other girls at school.

It was my wake-up call. I realised I was not ‘special’: this was not ‘one-off’ behaviour. He was a paedophile and could do to other girls what he’d done to me. He had to be stopped.

I confessed all to my mum - the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I can still see the look of shock and horror on her face.

I informed the school, and after Wilcock and I were both called, separately, to give evidence to the head and a panel of governors, he was sacked.

The school informed the Department for Education, but as it was my word against his, they wouldn’t take the matter any further. If I wanted to go to the police, I would be on my own.

To my regret, I didn’t. I just did not feel I had the strength to go through it again with the police.

Even then, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that somehow I was to blame. I even felt guilty that he’d lost his job.

In the years that followed, I tried to ‘get over it’ but, of course, I didn’t. I still hated myself and my body.

On the surface, I was a glamorous, blonde TV reporter - but underneath I was an emotional wreck, suffering nightmares and suicidal thoughts.

In 2008, after searching the internet for local counselling services, I came across Revival - which helps survivors of sexual abuse in Wiltshire - and finally turned a corner.

Once a week, I saw a counsellor who helped me to believe that I wasn’t to blame and confirmed that this ‘relationship’ was actually abuse by an adult in a position of responsibility, who should have known better.

I cried tears of self-hatred during our sessions, but I also began seeing the past from a different perspective and slowly found peace.

By then I had also met my future husband, Tom, an RAF officer, and for the first time realised what a truly happy relationship could involve.

It was in 2009 that I finally decided Wilcock should face justice. The catalyst was an extremely disturbing story I’d heard through an old school friend, which led me to suspect he’d used his position of trust to abuse other young girls.

I contacted Lancashire police and their investigation culminated in a case at Preston crown court.

That’s where I found myself facing the man who’d changed the course of my life. Because he had pleaded guilty to six counts of indecently assaulting me, I was spared giving evidence to a jury - but it was still a horrendous ordeal.

I’d given video evidence and been asked some very specific and graphic questions about what had been done to me and this was read out in court. Hearing these facts spoken aloud brought home the severity of what he’d done.

At one particularly graphic point, my aunt, who was sitting behind me, burst into tears. My mum simply squeezed my hand throughout.

Wilcock was sentenced to four years in prison - the maximum allowed under the law at the time the abuse took place - and put on the sex offenders register for life.

A Sexual Offences Prevention Order was made to restrict any contact with children under 16.

When I heard the sentence I didn’t cry. Instead, I felt as if I had been released. As I turned to look at this evil man standing in the dock, I thought: ‘This is how it feels to be powerless and to know that someone else has control over you.’

I had done something brave and powerful. Instead of feeling ashamed, for the first time in my life I felt extremely proud of myself.

Sentencing him, Judge Christopher Cornwall said: ‘This is a deeply distressing case.’

Later, my mum read in the local newspaper that Wilcock’s sentence was reduced on appeal to three years and four months. None of the appeal judges ever bothered to ask me what I thought.

I don’t know where Wilcock is now, and I don’t want to. What I do know is that he tried to make me a victim. Childhood abuse, like mental illness, is still a guilty secret.

Those who have been abused feel too ashamed to speak out and are afraid of the consequences.

Paedophiles cast a long shadow. Many victims eventually commit suicide to escape the deep feelings of guilt and self-hatred that have been instilled in them by their abuser.

But I refuse to be a victim.

Tom and I married in 2011 and last year we had a gorgeous little boy called Tanoa - a Fijian name, from his father’s side of the family.

Becoming a mother makes me realise even more how Wilcock abused the trust of everyone around him. If anyone did to my little boy what Wilcock did to me, I would want to kill them.

But now I am looking only forward. My name is Rachel Abigail Rounds and I am a survivor.

Revival-Wiltshire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre is available only to people living in Wiltshire. They can be contacted on 01225 358 568. For national inquiries, visit
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