I was just 13 when I went to Steven’s wedding, but after saying ‘I do’ he gave me his phone number and begged me to call…
By Ashley Bullock, 20, from Newquay, Cornwall
I ran my straighteners through my shoulder-length dark hair and pouted into the mirror.
“Aren’t you ready yet, Ashley?” Mum bellowed up the stairs.
We were off to her cousin Kelly’s wedding, and I was making us late.
“Just one more minute” I yelled back, checking out my reflection for the final time.
I was only 13 but already I loved doing my hair and makeup. Like any teenager, looking older than my tender years was the goal.
The wedding was going to be a big family affair, so I wanted to look my best. I didn’t really know Kelly, the bride, that well though, and I’d never met her groom, Steven.
Still, I thought perhaps it would be fun. We’d travelled all the way down to London from Liverpool for the occasion.
Later that day Kelly glided down the aisle in her strapless white gown, and we all took photos as they signed the wedding register.
And, after all the formalities, the party got into full swing.
But after dancing the night away with my family, I began to feel a bit flushed. So, I popped outside alone for some fresh air.
“Hey, come over here,” a voice shouted across the car park.
I squinted to see who it was. It was Steven, the groom.
I wandered over to find him smoking in a car, alone.
“So how do you know Kelly then?” he asked, puffing on his cigarette.
“My mum’s her cousin, but I don’t know her myself really,” I admitted.
“And how old are you?” he probed.
“Only 13,” I said.
“No way! You look much older than that, you’re gorgeous,” Steven gawped.
I took it as a nice compliment. After all, I was always trying to look older. But then Steven stubbed out his cigarette and leaned in closer to me.
“Do you want to go somewhere quiet?” he leered.
I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, but I didn’t like his tone. It was like he was flirting with me… but he was in his 30s and I was only 13.
“I’d better get back to the party really,” I said, making my excuses as I edged back across the car park.
Back inside, I kept quiet about my conversation with Steven. He’d been a bit strange, and I didn’t know what Mum would make of it.
I didn’t want to make a big fuss over nothing on Kelly’s wedding day. Then, at the end of the night Steven came to find me.
“These are for you,” he said, pressing a packet of cigarettes into my hand.
“Erm, thanks,” I mumbled.
I thought perhaps it was his way of saying sorry for making me feel awkward earlier in the evening.
Then, a few weeks later, I was hanging out with my mate Louise* after school.
“Look, I’ve got these,” I said, pulling the cigarettes out of my bag. She grabbed them out of my hand, and started opening the packet.
“What’s this?” she asked, pulling out a card.
I shrugged, as she turned it over in her hand. “It’s a phone number, let’s call it,” she giggled.
The card simply had a number scribbled on it, with the words ‘text me’. I didn’t know who’d done it, so I took out my phone and sent a text to find out.
“It’s Steven,” came the reply, and I immediately twigged. He must have slipped the card in before he gave me the cigarettes at his wedding.
Later that evening, I started texting him.
Alone in my bedroom, I blushed as I read what Steven was writing.
“I haven’t stopped thinking about you,” he typed. “I think you’re gorgeous.”
And, over the next few days, his messages became even more intense. He told me he loved me, and that he wanted to be with me instead of his new wife.
The ink was barely dry on his marriage certificate and already he was planning to leave Kelly. But Steven really got to me. It was like he knew exactly how to flatter me.
He made me feel special, and grown up.
And when Steven told me that we had to keep our flirtation between ourselves, I blushed with delight. It was our little secret.
Then, six weeks after the wedding in London, Steven told me he was coming up to St Helens for the weekend.
Kelly was planning a second wedding celebration up north, for all the family and friends who couldn’t make it down to the capital for their official do.
“I can sneak off for a while in the afternoon,” Steven told me. “Please meet me?”
I said yes, but I was nervous. It was the first time I’d seen Steven since he told me how he felt about me.
He picked me up in his car, and gave me a big grin. Immediately I felt at ease.
“Come on, let’s go for a drive,” he said.
Steven took us to a deserted industrial estate, and parked up in a quiet corner.
“So, are you looking forward to your party,” I innocently asked.
“I don’t care about that, it’s you I’m interested in,” Steven replied.
I froze as he leaned across and kissed me on the lips.
My mind was spinning. I hadn’t really thought about what would happen when we met up. But then again, Steven had made his intentions perfectly clear in his flirty text messages.
And he didn’t stop at just a kiss.
Soon his hands were all over my body, and he was trying to reach inside my knickers. I was too scared to tell him to stop.
“I want to have sex with you,” he leered at me.
I didn’t want to be there anymore. It was all happening too fast. Steven didn’t seem to care though. He sexually assaulted me, right there in his car.
Afterwards, he dropped me off so he could head back to his wedding party. He made sure his secret was safe first though.
“Don’t forget, this has to be just between us,” he said with a smile. “Other people won’t understand.”
I was shaking with shock as I went straight up to my bedroom. I wanted to tell Mum, but I was scared of her reaction.
This would break up Steven and Kelly’s marriage, and I wasn’t ready to handle that.
Instead I plastered on a weak smile, and told Mum I was feeling too tired to go with her to the wedding party.
The next day, Steven’s messages continued as normal.
He promised we’d tell everyone about us, but we’d have to wait until I was 18.
“Don’t worry, it’s the right thing to do,” he reassured me.
But in time, I met a boy my own age. He helped me to see that Steven’s infatuation with me wasn’t true love. It was wrong.
Instead of thinking of our romance as our special secret, remembering how Steven treated me that night in his car made my skin crawl.
I told Steven I’d met someone else, and his reaction was furious.
He threatened to tell my mum that I had a boyfriend, knowing that she wouldn’t approve. I had to change my number to escape his nasty, vindictive messages.
Then, with a clean break, I tried to get on with my life. I only saw Kelly and Steven occasionally at family events, and I always steered clear of them.
I was determined to put it all in my past. For five years I avoided what I’d been through.
Then, last year, I got a message from Steven on Facebook. It was completely out of the blue.
He started feeding me the same lines that he had all those years before. He told me how he had never stopped thinking about me, and it was still me that he wanted to be with.
At first his compliments turned my stomach, but soon he had got into my head. It was like I was 13 again.
“No-one else will want you,” Steven typed. “You should be with me.”
Soon we started seeing each other behind Kelly’s back. Steven would sneak over to my flat to have sex, feeding Kelly any cover story he could think of.
There he plied me with alcohol and cannabis – just like he’d given me the cigarettes all those years before.
I was too woozy to ever stop and consider whether what we were doing was wrong. So, for a month it was like we were having a sordid affair.
Then, one afternoon I had been checking my Facebook account round at Mum’s house. As usual, there was a string of flirty messages from Steven.
Back home later that day my mum called me, absolutely furious.
“What’s going on between you and Steven?” she raged. “I’ve seen your messages.”
“Nothing, you’ve got it wrong,” I tried to explain.
“Don’t lie. You left your Facebook logged in and I’ve seen it all,” Mum pressed me.
“It’s not like that. I don’t know what I’m doing, he’s been after me for years,” I sobbed.
Then I broke down and told Mum everything, going right back to how Steven tried to woo me on his wedding day.
Soon she was comforting me, as she realised how manipulative Steven had been. Not long after, we contacted the police and I relayed the whole story for a video interview.
“He made me believe he wanted me, but I was only 13,” I explained.
Then Steven was arrested. On November 12 2015 Steven Anthony Ball was found guilty of five sexual offences at Liverpool Crown Court.
He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Now, I’m rebuilding my life, with the help of counsellors. The trauma of what I’ve been through has left me on antidepressants, and I suffer from terrible nightmares.
The only comfort is that Steven is finally in jail, where he belongs.
I still can’t believe that perverted paedophile groomed me on his wedding day. I’m just glad I’m finally free of his clutches.
Ashley wanted to reach a wide audience of women with her story, raising awareness of grooming and sexual abuse. She knew that telling her story to the national press would make a difference. We helped Ashley sell her story to That’s Life! magazine and The Sun newspaper, as well as the Mail Online. If you want to speak out about something that’s happened to you, contact us on the form on the right and we’ll talk you through the process.