When Mum moved her new boyfriend in I hoped he’d be the father figure I so dearly wanted. But then things took a sinister turn…
By Jamie Cansdale, 26, from Harwich, Essex
I was just four years old when I met Hassan for the first time. My mum, Liza, 42, invited him over to meet me.
I was timid and shy – I wasn’t used to a man being around the house, most of the time it was just me and Mum. My biological dad had split with my mother when I was just one, and I had hardly seen him since.
But Hassan was kind and charming, and I soon grew to adore him. Whenever he came over, he would play with me for hours and he even gave me pocket money now and again.
So when Mum told me a year later that he was going to be moving in, I was over the moon.
At first, living with Hassan was fun – it was like having a friend over to play with all the time. But as time went on, Hassan would often return home in a grumpy mood, and would sometimes snap and shout and me and Mum.
He started finding fault in most things she did – like if she didn’t clean the house exactly the way he liked, and he started losing patience with me too.
He started to shout at me for little things, and would grab me by the ear and twist it hard if I did anything wrong.
When I was six, I woke up in the middle of the night to feel something heavy next to me in my bed. I opened my eyes in shock to see Hassan lying there, motioning for me to be quiet.
I blinked at him, confused as to why he was in my room, but then I felt his hands snake all over my tiny body. My blood ran cold as I realised what he was doing, and I froze in fear.
He touched me intimately for a few minutes, before leaving and getting back into bed with my mum in the next room.
Afterwards, I lay very still, confused and upset about what had just happened. I thought Hassan was a kind man who would take care of me, and I didn’t understand why he did what he did.
For the next few nights, I lay wide awake, scared he was going to come in. To my horror, he soon slipped into my room again.
I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, thinking that if I was sleeping maybe Hassan would leave me alone. But I had no such luck.
This time, as well as touching me, he climbed on top of me and forced himself inside me. Pain tore through me as he brutally raped me, but Hassan didn’t care.
“If you tell your mum she’ll never believe you. You’ll be put into care,” he snarled, as he clamped his hand over my mouth to stop me screaming for help.
I squeezed my eyes shut and willed for it to be over. The next day, I stood in the shower for what felt like hours.
I was in agony as I tried to wash away the blood and shame, but I knew that in that moment, my world had changed forever.
After that, Hassan raped me almost every night. Even when Mum went on to give birth to my half-brother, now 19, and sister, now 15, Hassan still sneaked into my bedroom at the dead of night once Mum was asleep.
I longed to tell her my sordid secret, but I was terrified she wouldn’t believe me and I’d be sent away from home. I lived in fear that I would be separated from her forever.
Then when I turned eight, Hassan’s abuse took a new, sinister turn. After raping me one night he rolled over and said something which made my blood turn cold.
“I love you Jamie,” he said. “One day, I’ll marry you and make you my wife. We can go back to Libya, where I’m from, and have a family of our own.”
I couldn’t hide the horror etched across my face. Marry that monster? I was just a child. It was almost too much to bear.
I was desperate for a way out but I felt trapped in this waking nightmare. I withdrew from my mum and siblings, convinced that nobody could ever help me.
My escape eventually came in November 2005, just before the birth of my baby sister, now 11.
“Hassan is moving out,” Mum declared to me one day. “He’s been having an affair and I’m kicking him out. He’ll be moving into a flat of his own.”
Mum wouldn’t tolerate cheating, so once she found out Hassan was having an affair with a family friend, she wouldn’t take him back and Hassan soon left.
Relief flooded through my body as I realised that finally, I was free. With Hassan gone for good, he couldn’t touch me anymore and my life could go back to normal.
It would just be me, Mum and my siblings, and I could go back to enjoying my childhood.
But my joy was short-lived. When my half-siblings went to visit their father on the weekends, Mum insisted I go along too. I tried to protest, but she was insistent.
“You need to look after your brother and sisters,” she said. “Plus, Hassan was like your dad for years, it’ll be good for you to see him too. No matter what he’s done to me, I won’t stand in the way of your relationship with him.”
Mum was just trying to do the right thing by her kids, but she didn’t know the depth of his depravity towards me.
To her, he was just a love rat – she had no idea he was a paedophile too. Still too scared to tell her anything, I reluctantly agreed to go to his flat with the other children.
Once we had eaten dinner, Hassan put my brother and sisters in front of the television and told me to go to his bedroom.
My heart sunk as I realised what he wanted. Once he had raped me, he carried on with the evening like nothing had even happened.
I sat on the sofa, shaking with fear and hatred towards him. Although he never laid a finger on his own children, I endured Hassan’s depraved attacks for a decade.
Then, when I turned 16, something inside me snapped. I went off the rails and started arguing with Mum a lot. As well as this, I’d begun drinking heavily to blot out the pain.
One night, I went around to a friend’s house and got drunk. I started telling her about Hassan and she held out my mobile phone.
“Phone your mum,” she urged. “Do it now – you need to tell her, whatever happens. This has got to stop.”
I grabbed the phone and dialled Mum’s number in tears. As soon as she answered, I blurted it out as quickly as I could.
“Mum, I have something I have to tell you. Hassan rapes me,’ I cried, my whole body heaving from my huge sobs. “He’s been doing it for years.”
At first, she hung up the phone in shock, but later that evening she phoned the police and told them what I had said to her.
After that, she supported me every step of the way. She’d had no idea about who Hassan really was, and she couldn’t believe she’d lived under the same roof as a predatory paedophile for so long, let alone have kids with him too.
The next morning, I gave officers an emotional statement. I told them everything about the last ten years of my life, and Hassan was arrested and charged. As I gave my statement, Mum held my hand tightly and quietly sobbed.
“I’m so sorry Jamie,” she wept. “I really didn’t know. I wish you had told me sooner, I could have stopped this happening to you for so long.”
“He told me you wouldn’t believe me,” I replied. “He said you would put me into care.”
Mum burst into tears and gave me a huge hug in response.
“I would have always believed you,” she cried. “You’re my daughter.”
In December 2009, Hassan appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court and was found guilty of indecent assault, sexual assault with a girl under 13 years, sexual assault and rape of a girl under 13. Mum was a witness in the trial and now, we are closer than ever.
Now, I’ve moved on with my life as best as I can. I still have nightmares about Hassan sneaking into my bedroom, but I know he’ll never be able to hurt me again.
That monster may have stolen a decade of my life, but I won’t let him take one moment more of my future.
Jamie knew that selling her story to the national press would help her raise awareness of sexual abuse and support other victims. We sold her story to That’s Life! magazine. If you want to speak out about something that’s happened to you, contact us on the form on the right and we’ll give you a ring for a confidential chat.