A West Norfolk woman is calling on other victims to come forward after a Lynn man was convicted rape.
Paul Reed, 54, of Brockley Green, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of indecent assault and three charges of rape by a jury at Norwich Crown Court on Tuesday.
His victim, a 27-year-old woman, who we have called Zoe to protect her legal right to anonymity, was abused by Reed until the age of 15. She does not know how old she was when her ordeal started but it could have been younger than seven.
She reported the abuse in 2013. Zoe, who is now a mother, said: “For me it was much harder to live with as an adult than a child. As a child you get on with it, it’s life and you deal with it. As a mum it ate me up.
“When you are in that situation, you make excuses for them, I did for him. You make very excuse: ‘he only did it because he cared for me’ or “it’s the price to pay to have one person look out for you’.
“But there is no excuse, there’s no justification.”
Reed had been a friend of the family and moved into their Essex home for six months. He continued to be part of the family and lived quite close by.
When the family later moved to Norfolk, Reed followed.
Zoe said: “He had got it into my family in a way that divided us up. He made me believe that my parents did not want me and made them believe that I was disappearing when I was in fact with him.”
Like many youngsters in that situation, Zoe did not talk of what happened.
But slowly it came out.
She said: “I started to speak out in 2009 but then gradually it got bigger and I confronted him in 2013. I wanted to know how old I was when it started in the hope that I could go back to ignoring it.”
Zoe says this has caused a rift in the family and she has not spoken to her mother in a year. Her family believed Zoe and gave evidence during the trial. She said: “I lost my family because I didn’t know who to trust.”
Zoe feels that she had been let down by the system as Reed had an earlier conviction and was allowed to change his name. Her parents knew of the conviction.
She said: “I don’t think sex offenders should be allowed to change their name.”
Zoe has advised parents to look out for changes in their children’s behaviour and to question them.
She also has this message for youngsters undergoing a similar experience: “Confide in someone you trust who will help even if you are not ready to report it.”
Zoe has also praised Norfolk police and the witness service for its support during this process.
Now she is looking forward to moving on. She said: “I’m keen to get the sentencing out the way. I would encourage any other victims to come forward. I hope they see now that he has been shown for what he is. There is more chance of being believed and the system is better. There is also more support.”
Det Con Aneliese Bray, from the Child Abuse Investigation Unit, welcomed the conviction.
She said: “Reed systematically abused his victim over many years and it is credit to her bravery in coming forward that justice has been done.
“Every allegation of abuse is fully investigated by Norfolk Police, with specialist officers guiding victims through the process. Support and advice is available from a range of agencies and police work closely with partners to work towards the successful prosecution of offenders.”