A BRAVE sex abuse survivor says she was raped by her big brother weekly from the age of seven – and told to call the sick violence a "game".
Maria, now 39, was bribed with sweets to keep quiet about older sibling John.
But after an ordeal that lasted for years, she spoke to police – and John, 46, is finally behind bars.
Maria, who has courageously waived her anonymity to speak out, said that as a child she "loved" playing with her brother.
But in 1988, when she was just seven and John 14, the sick abuser raped her in the bathroom of the family's home.
"He always called me his special girl," she said.
"While I was off school and in the bath, John snuck into the bathroom.
"Suddenly, he lifted me out of the water and placed me on the bathroom floor. Then he raped me."
Maria said she wept in agony during the attack.
"I cried in pain," she said.
"Afterwards, John told me to keep it our little secret.
"I was terrified he’d hurt me again, so I didn’t tell anyone."
But six months later, John awoke Maria in the middle of the night and attacked her again.
"This time, he kept whispering that I was his special girl," she said.
"I was petrified."
During the next few years, John raped Maria every week in her bedroom while her parents slept in the next room.
She said: "Every time John attacked me, he gave me sweets afterwards.
"He always told me it was our game.
"I was so young, I just thought it was what brothers did to their sisters.
"I was too afraid to tell my parents."
Even when John moved out of the family home to get married, his abuse continued.
Maria said: "He still came over every few weeks and attacked me.
"My life was hell.
"It was carried until I was 15 when John moved away with his wife."
Maria finally reported her brother to police in 2000 – but it took 20 years to see justice.
John was convicted of assault and rape to injury, one count of assault and rape, one count of indecent assault, and two counts of indecent conduct in October 2020.
He was also found guilty of multiple sexual offences against two other victims.
A judge jailed him for seven years for the attacks.
"It took 20 years to convict him as other victims came forward, but I have my justice," Maria said.
"John was my big brother. He was supposed to protect me.
"Instead, he ruined my childhood.
"But I'm a survivor."
How you can get help if you’re a victim of domestic violence
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
- Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected]
Women’s Aid provides a live chat service, available from 10am to noon.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
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