Terri Dark remembers the moment she saw her abuser’s face in the local newspaper after a court heard how he took pictures of himself abusing another young girl.
In May 2018 she read about how her uncle Graham Rogers was found guilty of abusing a young girl and saw similarities of what happened to her over 20 years ago when she was just 14.
Terri, who has waived her legal right to lifelong anonymity to speak, said the sentence that stood out most was her uncle’s defence barrister saying that he had no previous convictions and that this was his first offence.
“My stomach dropped, I felt sick. I couldn’t believe this was how I was finding out,” said Terri.
In 1994, Terri, then 14, was babysitting at her uncle’s home in Burry Port. When he returned home he abused her. He sat on the bed with her and after a short while began to touch her.
“I was only 14 at the time and was immature but I knew this was wrong,” said Terri who is now 41.
“I just remember thinking: ‘Oh my God, is this happening’ and closing my eyes trying not to cry.
“He went out of the room and I covered myself with the blanket and pretended I was asleep and after what seemed like hours but was only about 10 minutes later he came back in and was stroking my hair.”
Terri kept what happened that night to herself for a number of weeks but refused to set foot inside her uncle’s house again. Some 26 years later, she still hasn’t been back inside.
“I’d grown up with him and trusted him but now I look back at things like him picking me up when we were swimming and see things differently and wonder what was going through his head,” she said.
A number of weeks after she was abused Terri was asked to Rogers’ home again but refused.
“I remember my parents came to pick me up from school because I had a hospital appointment and I had been really quiet. They knew something was wrong,” said Terri.
The teenager then told her parents what had happened to her and her parents reported it to the police.
“It was just the most awful thing and it was like I had to go through it all again,” she said.
“One of the worst parts was explaining to the police what happened in front of my mother. It was horrible.
“I only told them that he touched me and didn’t want to go into all the details. I suppose I was protecting myself a bit and I was only young. I really didn’t want to be examined and I was really worried about how angry my parents were going to be especially my father.”
The case was taken to the Crown Prosecution Service who decided not to charge Rogers due to a lack of corroborating evidence.
“When I heard that it wasn’t going to court I was gutted because I think people believed me but it was my word against his.
“I lost that whole side of the family,” said Terri.
The 41-year-old mum tried to move on with her life and put what happened to her as a teenager out of her mind until she saw Rogers’ face in the newspaper in May 2018.
“I had seen him around Llanelli a couple of times which made me feel sick. It was crazy that he was out and about and after seeing him I would feel sick to my stomach and cry my eyes out. Then I saw him in the Llanelli Star and felt sick.”
Terri went back to the police and Rogers was taken back to court.
“As soon as I read that the court said it was ‘his first offence’ I couldn’t believe it and knew I would gladly go to court. It wasn’t about revenge. It was about putting him behind bars so people would be safer,” she said.
Graham Harry John Rogers of Tirgof, Llangennech appeared in Swansea Crown Court a few weeks ago and was sentenced to a total of five and a half years in prison.
The 66-year-old had just been released from prison a couple of months earlier after pleading guilty to five counts of sexually assaulting another girl under 13 and two counts of making indecent images of a child in 2018.
In 2018 police uncovered a total of 34 indecent images of the abuse of a girl from his HTC phone – 26 of category C, and eight of the more extreme category B.
In that case the young girl’s ordeal lasted for 18 months and only stopped when she told her mum about what had happened. In an impact statement read to the court the girl’s mum described the events as “like a nightmare” from which she could not wake up.
The mother said her daughter used to be a “happy, smiling child” who now wakes up in the middle of the night in tears, having relived the abuse in her dreams.
Another victim also came forward to the police for the first time after seeing Rogers’ face in the local paper and wanting to protect others.
The woman, who wanted to retain her legal right to anonymity, said: “I remember I was sat in a café – I can remember which exact seat I was in and who I was with. When I opened the paper and saw his face there and my stomach dropped.
“I read that it was his first offence and just felt physically sick.”
Swansea Crown Court heard how the second victim was abused by Rogers in the 1990s.
“Even at that age I knew it was wrong but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t repeat it to anyone for years and just completely blocked it out of my memory. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was worried about how angry people would be and I didn’t want to look like an attention seeker,” she said.
She said the abuse left her with mental struggles that changed her as a person.
“I shut down and went off the rails. I was really wary of men and cautious around them.
“Because I was so young I think it blurred what was wrong and what was right. It made me really protective of myself and fully aware of the things that could happen.
“I felt a lot of guilt after I read about what happened to another one of his victims because I thought that maybe if I had come forward years ago then I could have protected her.”
“It might not have happened if I spoke to someone sooner.”
In their victim impact statements which were read to the court last month the victims described how the abuse had blighted their lives leaving them withdrawn and distrustful of men.
Rogers pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault of a child.
Judge Huw Rees said it was clear Rogers had an “enduring sexual interest in children” and had “selfish, degenerate and deviate sexual needs”. He said he had “slyly” taken his opportunities to abuse the girls and they were actions which displayed the hallmarks of a paedophile.
Rogers was sentenced to five and a half years in prison and will be on the sexual offenders list for the rest of his life.
The woman said: “It’s a bit of a weight off my chest and makes me feel like I can breathe a little bit and that people are safer.”
Terri said she was glad to see her abuser behind bars but admits that the scars from what happened to her as a teenager have had a big impact on her life.
“I have no trust in people at all. I’ve kept my distance from people and haven’t often got too close with people.”
The mum said that it has also affected her as a parent and the way she dresses. “I’ve never worn make-up or shorts. I wear long clothing that covers me up even in really warm weather. Anything that makes me less approachable and not stand out and it’s all stemmed from what happened.”
“I was afraid around men, especially older men. I’ve been angry, I’ve been depressed, and it made me really protective over my children.”
Terri added: “I was ashamed of myself when I was younger and really cared about what people thought about me but now I don’t. I live for myself and for my children.”
Terri said that although the sentence offers her some closure she was robbed of a normal childhood she will never get back.
“It completely ruined my teenage years, affected my relationships, friendships and my whole family. I have nothing to ever say to him but I hope he stays behind bars to protect other people.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk