Sexual abuse victim waives right to anonymity to urge others to speak out

By Ben Fitzgerald - 8 April 2019

Crime

A woman who was sexually abused by her step-father when she was a teenager has waived her right to anonymity to urge other victims of abuse to come forward and speak to police.

  • Abuser: Ian Dallow

    Abuser: Ian Dallow

  • Survivor: Stephanie Lawson

    Survivor: Stephanie Lawson

Stephanie Lawson, who grew up in Swindon and now lives in Bristol, was 15 years old when she was sexually assaulted by her step-father Ian Dallow.

The abuse happened on a daily basis for around 18 months and only stopped when Stephanie plucked up the courage to reveal to her mother what had been happening.

In January last year, 18 years after the abuse began, Stephanie took the brave decision of speaking to police about what had happened to her.

Stephanie, who is now 34, said the support of her fiancee Rachael had encouraged her to report the abuse to police officers and follow the case through to court.

She said: "I have made the huge decision to speak publicly about what happened to me because I hope it gives hope to other victims of abuse, that they will be believed and they can get justice - no matter how long ago it happened.
"The abuse began when I first came out about my sexuality, and that has had a huge added impact on me. I believe this is why I was abused and because of this it made me feel there was something wrong with me.

"Ian was a father figure to me from the age of eight to 15 when the abuse started. His abuse destroyed my trust and belief in the world. My lack of trust in people has affected my friendships and relationships all my life.
"Ian was someone I loved as a father, trusted and looked up to. I will never be able to fully trust anyone again. He should have protected me from bad things and now I never truly feel ok or safe.
"Each day is a struggle for me and I feel like I have lived in a prison in my mind since I was 15 years old."

Throughout the investigation Stephanie has been supported by Wiltshire Police's victim and witness support service Horizon, as well as Victim Support.

You can find out more about this service online https://horizon.wiltshire.police.uk/

Ian Dallow, 55, of Northbourne Road, St Andrew's Ridge, Swindon, was sentenced to four years and two months in prison during a hearing at Swindon Crown Court on Friday (5/4/19).

He had previously pleaded guilty to ten charges of indecent assault.

PC Laura Barwood, from Central CID, paid tribute to Stephanie for her bravery.

She said: "Stephanie did a hugely brave thing in reporting this abuse to us, and I hope she feels she has been listened to and believed by everyone at Wiltshire Police who has handled this case. Her story proves that no matter how long abuse has taken place, it is always worth reporting it to someone you trust - whether that is the police, a friend or family member, or a charity. Please speak to someone."

Wiltshire Police takes all reports of sexual abuse extremely seriously and we will always seek to obtain justice for victims and ensure they are provided with the support they need.

Victims are encouraged to contact police on 101, or call 999 in an emergency, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Alternatively, you can call the First Light Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 01793 781916 or by visiting https://www.firstlight.org.uk/contact-us/

You can also find out more about how to get support via our website https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/1134/Rape-and-sexual-assault

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