I fell head over heels for heartthrob Sean – it was true teen romance. But there was something more sinister behind his intentions…
By Toni Aron, 20, from Morecambe in Lancashire
Giggling in my friend Emma’s bedroom, I fiddled with her make-up collection. She was chatting away on the phone to a boy she knew, Sean.
At 17 he was a bit older than us. We were only 14 then. But there was nothing going on between the two of them. I’d tease her about it, but she’d always swear they were just friends.
“Here, talk to Sean,” she said, thrusting her mobile into my hands.
“Erm, no you’re alright,” I said, backing away. I was shy with strangers. “Go on,” Emma insisted. “He wants to talk to you.”
Reluctantly I took the phone from her.
“H-h-hello?” I stammered into the handset. “You must be Toni, I’ve heard all about you,” Sean teased.
We started chatting, and within minutes he had me splitting my sides with laughter. He was so easy to talk to.
Soon Emma was gesturing for me to hand the phone back to her.
“I’ve got to go,” I told Sean. “Add me on Facebook though, yeah?” he made me promise.
So, back home that night I found his profile and clicked the little button to send him a friend request.
My heart leapt when I got the notification to say he’d accepted. And soon a message popped into my inbox.
“Hello again,” he typed.
We chatted about anything and everything. I’d tell him about school, and share stories about my mates.
And true to my first impression, Sean was always making me laugh. In time I fell for him. What girl doesn’t love a sense of humour?
I felt safe with him. So, when he suggested we should meet up, one weekend I got the bus over to his village.
That day we shared our first kiss. It was an innocent teenage romance, no more.
Right from the start I was very clear with Sean about that. Being a bit older, I was worried he might expect more from the relationship.
I was a virgin, and I knew I wanted to wait until I was ready. When I explained this to Sean his reaction surprised me, in a good way.
“I understand. I’ll wait as long as you want,” he reassured me, wrapping his arms around me for a warm hug.
So, Sean became my world. I’d always be over at his house, laughing and flirting.
I felt so special that he was my boyfriend. He was older and gorgeous, and could have any girl he wanted. But when I remembered it was me he’d chosen, I glowed inside.
I was sure I’d choose to lose my virginity with him. I just wanted to wait until the time was right. And Sean always respected that.
“I can’t wait to be your first,” he told me. It was so romantic.
Then one night, six or seven months later, Sean text me.
My parents are away this weekend, so I’m having a party, he typed. You will come won’t you? he asked.
I promised that of course I would be there. I’ll have to catch the last bus home though, I texted.
Sean had a plan though, to make sure the transport problems didn’t ruin my night. He told me I should stay over, as his parents weren’t there.
So, that weekend I packed my bag with my PJs and a toothbrush and set off to his house. By the time I arrived, the party was already in full swing.
Music was pumping through his parents’ sound system, and crowds of his mates milled around inside.
I made a beeline to the kitchen, where I found Sean. He was already a bit unsteady on his feet, with a can of lager sloshing around in his hand.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he grinned at me, giving me a boozy kiss on the lips. We had a quick chat but I ended up leaving him to mess around with the lads.
Sean had some female friends at the party too, so I spent most of the evening getting to know them instead. I particularly clicked with one girl, Katie.
By the end of the night we’d swapped numbers, and had talked about hanging out together again another time. Then, in the early hours of the morning, everyone headed home to bed.
Downstairs alone, me and Sean started clearing up, shoving empty drink cans into black binliners.
Sean was really drunk by this point. I’d lost count of how many lagers he’d gulped down.
I had never seen him like this before. So, when he lurched towards me, my stomach flipped in fear.
“I can’t wait to get you in bed,” he leered at me.
“We’ve talked about this, I’m not ready,” I insisted.
“I’m sick of waiting though, it’s not fair,” he snarled.
It was like he’d had a personality transplant. Where was my sweet and respectful boyfriend?
He wasn’t going to let it go though. “If you don’t have sex with me, it’s over,” Sean threatened.
I turned my back on him, and headed upstairs.
There’s no point reasoning with him when he’s that drunk, I told myself, as I slipped off my clothes and buttoned up my pyjamas.
Downstairs, I heard Sean locking up the house. But my blood ran cold when his footsteps came charging upstairs.
I could tell he hadn’t calmed down. What is he going to do to me?
Without pausing for breath, Sean shoved me down onto his bed, pinning me against the duvet with his body.
“Get off me,” I struggled.
It was no use though. He was bigger and stronger than me, I had no chance.
I tried to kick my legs as he tore off my pyjama bottoms. That just made him more angry. I sobbed when his clenched fist smashed down in my face.
Tears were rolling down my face as he raped me. He didn’t care that it was hurting me, or that it wasn’t what I wanted.
He satisfied himself, then rolled off me and passed out. For ages I didn’t dare to move, in case I woke Sean.
Then, inch by inch, I slid off the bed, and shoved my clothes back into my bag. With a glance to make sure he was still sleeping, I crept downstairs.
All my instincts were screaming at me to get out of the house. But Sean had locked the doors, and I couldn’t find a key.
Panicked, I looked for an alternative escape. I tried the living room windows.
They were open… but they were hinged from the top and I couldn’t safely climb out on my own.
That’s when I remembered Katie’s number saved in my phone. I couldn’t call my family or friends, I didn’t want to panic them.
But she’d understand. My hands were shaking as I called her.
“I know you don’t know me properly, but I’m trapped in Sean’s house and I need help,” I whispered.
At first Katie was confused. “He’s hurt me, I need to get out and I don’t know how,” I sobbed, tears welling up in my eyes again.
“Stay there, I’ll sort something out,” Katie promised me. Soon a car pulled up outside. Katie had woken up her mum and they’d come to rescue me.
I passed my bag out of the window, then Katie helped me climb through. They dropped me off at my house, and I cried myself to sleep.
My perfect teen romance had turned into a nightmare.
When Katie called to check I was all right, I told her the whole story. In fact, the only people I ever talked to about that night were her and her friends.
I didn’t want my parents or even my own mates to know. Sean tried to contact me, but his attitude made me sick to my stomach.
“Did you have a good night?” he asked.
How could he say that? He knew he’d raped me. Eventually I blocked him online and changed my number.
I was heartbroken, but my pain went deeper than any usual teenage breakup. Yet I knew I couldn’t tell the police.
What if they thought I’d wanted it to happen?
Over the next few years I struggled to form relationships with boys, afraid I’d be hurt again. My friends would gossip about what they got up to with their boyfriends. But I couldn’t join in.
All I could think about was Sean’s hands viciously mauling me that night.
Then, in 2012 I got a Facebook message out of the blue from Paige, one of Katie’s friends.
I’ve never forgotten what you told us about Sean, she typed. You need to tell the police, he’s done it to another girl.
I was stunned – but I realised they were right. If I ever wanted to move on from the pain Sean caused me, he needed to be punished.
So I phoned the police, and soon I was sitting down to make an official statement in front of a video camera.
As soon as word got out, I started getting threatening messages from Sean’s mates, accusing me of lying. But I knew I was doing the right thing.
I wasn’t a 14 year old girl anymore. He couldn’t intimidate me.
In time, the case went to Preston Crown Court. He denied raping me and the other victim, but our video statements were used in the trial and the jury found him guilty.
On July 12 2013 Sean Ralph, 22, was jailed for 13 years for the two attacks – six and a half years each.
The judge, Christopher Cornwall, told him: “You treated each girl as an object or a vehicle, by which you could obtain sexual satisfaction that you sought.”
I wish he’d been jailed for longer, but with him behind bars I’ve finally found peace.
I’ve got a two year old son, and I’m going to make sure he grows up respecting women.
Teen romance should be a fond memory, but Sean’s sick rape ruined mine.
As told to Helen O’Brien Google