A woman has urged all victims of non-recent sexual offences to report what happened to the police after the person who sexually abused her when she was a child received a custodial sentence.
David Matthews, 66, was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court today (Friday 2 June) after pleading guilty to three child sexual offences, all of which occurred in the 1970s while he was a teenage juvenile.
His crimes were reported to the police after the woman he sexually abused approximately 50 years ago read a story in a local newspaper in 2018 saying he had been jailed for 11 years and six months for a dozen similar offences he committed as an adult.
Judge Julian Lambert said the impact of Matthews’ offending had been ‘severe’
Matthews, formerly of Bath, was jailed for two years to be served consecutively after his previous sentence is completed. He will be on the sex offenders’ register too indefinitely.
‘I am no longer your victim’
Anyone who reports a sexual offence against them is legally entitled to remain anonymous, regardless of whether anyone is charged, appears in court or is convicted.
The woman who was abused by Matthews stood in court today and read a personal statement to explain how the abuse changed her life forever and ‘nowhere seemed safe’ as he was ‘manipulative’.
She said: “I was a child and yet I never felt comfortable in David Matthews’ presence. He was a very quiet man, he would stare at me and was not afraid to be touchy feely, sliding his hand up my skirt.
“I was an innocent child who should have been full of joy, yet inside I was screaming out for help, especially when things progressed.”
She went on to reveal that the abuse she was subjected to continues to affect her life.
She said: “Almost fifty years later and I remember the places where he abused me like photographs in my mind, I can remember his tobacco breath.
“He turned the bright, happy, and fun-loving little girl that I was into a secretive, introverted, stupidly submissive and very fearful girl. David Matthews stole my innocence and dignity; in fact, he stole my life and his actions have scarred me for life.
“Having discovered the article in the Bath Chronicle, I felt compelled to share my story and mentally I needed to do it to free myself of the baggage that I had been carrying around with me for most of my life.
“I plucked up the courage and made that phone call to the police and five years later here we are. Through my life I have been to hell and back, been mentally destroyed, but today is like finishing a bad book, I can finally close the last chapter, the end.”
And addressing Matthews directly, she added: “You may feel hard done by being incarcerated but I would take your place anytime; I would much rather serve your time in jail because you gave me a life sentence of terror, misery, and mental trauma.
“I would like him to tell me why he would want to do the things that he did to me and that if he realised how damaging, terrorising and cruel his actions were, would he still have done them? If he knew how his actions wrecked my life and destroyed my sense of self-worth, would he have thought twice or is he just pure evil and would have acted upon his urges regardless?
“However, my life starts today, I am no longer your victim.”
Reporting sexual abuse to police
The woman hopes her story will encourage other people who have been sexually abused to come forward.
She thanked her family and her Independent Sexual Violence Advisor for helping her throughout the court process.
She says the officer in her case, Detective Sergeant Ben Dallas, ‘supported me right the way through’ and words cannot do justice to how thankful she is for the work he carried out.
She said: “People have lost a lot of confidence in the police of late, however I have to say that especially given the nature of this case, the professionalism, patience, and support afforded to me throughout has been second to none.
“I would like something positive to come out of me having reported this to the police and if anyone is out there and worried about reporting sexual abuse of any kind, I would urge you to please not be afraid and to come forward. Don’t be a victim, be a happy survivor.
“I owe so much to so many people for helping me through this, I was a broken person and now I feel as though I finally have my life back.”
“I would like to commend her for having the courage to come forward and report her experiences to the police, and for the strength that she has displayed throughout the course of this investigation.
“This result illustrates the predatory nature of David Matthews whose sexual abuse of children spanned several decades.
“Today also marks a new chapter in the life of the woman he abused when she was a child, who has shown great humility in wishing for her experiences to act as a springboard for others who have experienced sexual abuse to feel supported in coming forward and reporting to her police.
“As she says, she is no longer ‘his victim’ but a ‘happy survivor ‘ and I wish her well for the future.”DS Ben Dallas
Victims of rape or sexual assault, recent or non-recent, can self-refer to The Bridge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre available 24/7 365 days a year. Visit their website at www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk or call 0117 342 6999.
You can also visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org for details of charities and organisations who are experts in supporting victims.
Details of how to report to the police are available here: www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report/rape-and-sexual-assault/