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Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 16:29 UK
Maidstone woman's poem of sex abuse during childhood

Sophie Barnwell talks to BBC South East's Katherine Downes

A woman from Maidstone has written a poem about being a victim of sexual abuse during her childhood.

Sophie Barnwell, now 25 years old, was 10 when the abuse started.

Sophie waived her right to anonymity to promote her poem which was used at the trial of her abuser who was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Titled Real Life Play, Sophie hopes her poem will encourage other victims who have not told anyone about their abuse to end their silence.

According to a report commissioned by the NSPCC, three-quarters of sexually abused children did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time, and around a third still had not told anyone about their experience by early adulthood.

First words

Sophie wrote the poem after taking up a creative writing course in 2007 while at university. She told BBC Kent she wrote the eight long stanzas within 20 minutes.

She said, looking at what she had written: "I was surprised at what I had put on the page and amazed at how much I had repressed."

This was the first time Sophie had written about the abuse she had suffered 15 years ago and until this point she had not told anyone about it.

The poem uses the metaphor of theatre, the first stanza ends with:

all is dark around, except,
spotlight shining right on me.
No audience applauding
this most grotesque of acts,
that has no half time reprieve
or final curtain call.

Helping others

Sophie took her poem to the police who were already carrying out an investigation into the man who abused her, Michael Taylor from West Street in Hunton, outside Maidstone.

Child on stairs
Three-quarters of sexually abused children did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time.

Taylor was found guilty of a series of sex crimes against two young girls, one of whom was Sophie. He was sentenced on the 27 August 2010 to nine years in prison. He will have to sign on the sex offenders register for life and is prohibited from working with children.

Sophie hopes her poem will encourage other people who have suffered sexual abuse to report what has happened to them, however long ago the abuse happened.

The penultimate stanza includes:

How many acts these days
can go on, this unnoticed?
All around they're advertised
yet blind eyes are cast
to me the fellow victims.

'Sheer bravery'

Detective Inspector Paula Howe from Maidstone Public Prosecution said: "This inquiry [into Michael Taylor] has been a long and difficult one but it would not have been possible without the sheer bravery of the victims...without the courage shown by the victims, this case nay never have come to court."

The final stanza of Real Life Play starts with:

I can't keep up this pretence
returning home falsely gay
about my unknown rehearsals.
Parents blissfully unaware
of the circus I'm dragged into.
For once I need their beaks
to peck their way into my life.
Uncover the mystery that's abducted me
my playful childhood persona.

Free information and confidential support for anyone affected by rape are provided by Rape Crisis and Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre.

Rape Crisis
www.rapecrisis.co.uk email: info@rapecrisis.org.uk

Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASAC)
www.rasasc.org.uk email: info@rasasc.org.uk tel: 08451 221 331


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