Growing up, our house always seemed pretty normal.
Mum and Dad would take us on regular holidays and my sister, *Lorraine, and I would always grumble about sticking to the rules.
Dad was pretty strict and liked things to be just so but Mum was suffering with MS and, during her relapses, she would be in bed constantly.
Mum had a terrible temper and my sister was always her favourite but Dad always made sure he had time for me.
Our house in Lincoln was full of books and I found a love of sci-fi and horror novels but they used to give me nightmares.
Every time I woke up with a start, I’d climb into my mum and dad’s bed for comfort.
But, when I was 10 and clinging to my dad after a bad dream, he took advantage of me for the first time.
Mum was in the bed too but she was on so many tablets I don’t think she knew.
He told me that he was teaching me, helping me to learn what love was.
From then on, he would touch me and abuse me around three times a week, sometimes even in the same bed as my mother.
I didn’t know any different and assumed it was part of his strict rules.
When I turned 12 I was sent away to boarding school, but after six weeks I ran home. I hated it.
My father continued to abuse me and I would subconciously do anything I could to get away from him. I even set up a make shift bedroom in the kitchen for six months.
But at 15 something inside me changed.
Suddenly, something started to seem wrong. I realised the relationship I had with my father wasn’t normal.
Around this time my sister confirmed my suspicions.
“I always feel like someone is spying on me, Nicky, like someone is watching me in the bathroom,” she confided when Mum and Dad were out one day.
Heading upstairs, we went to investigate and, sure enough, we found the loose carpet.
Dad had drilled a hole in the ceiling, right above the bathroom.
I felt sick. I had no idea how long he had been spying on us.
This was when I began to fight back. I told Dad that I didn’t want him to touch me anymore but he found the perfect way to persuade me.
Dad had always protected me from Mum’s alcoholic rages, but unless I gave into his demands I had to face the brunt of her fury.
Finally, at 17, I found a way out. My grandmother got me a job as a nanny in Southern Ireland.
Although she lived in England and had no idea of the secrets in our house, she knew something wasn’t right.
But I hated the job and felt very uncomfortable around the father. He was a lovely family man, but he was the same age as Dad and, like all men at that time, he gave me the creeps.
I went to live with my grandmother back in England and that’s when Mum came to visit.
My sister had told her that Dad came into her bedroom at night.
She was terrified he was going to do the same thing he did to me, to her.
“I would like you to write a statement, Nicky, explaining everything that has happened between you and your father. I need to protect your sister and this is the only way.”
Straight away I went through all the times I could remember. It had happened so regularly half of the memories were a blur of confusion and pain.
I went back to Ireland to get away and, with the help of drinking and partying, pushed everything to the back of my mind.
For a while, it worked.
But soon my life seemed to be consumed by darkness. I wrote to Mum asking if I could come home and her answer shook me to my core.
She had used my statement to convince Dad to get psychiatric help and they were giving their marriage another go.
Reaching for the vodka and aspirin, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no other way out.
But after a few hours a friend found me collapsed on the floor and rushed me to hospital.
I spent a week in hospital recovering but it wasn’t long before I was back using my fast and fun lifestyle as a shield from the painful memories.
When I turned 21 I moved back to England and began to work on a local radio station.
One day, as I was having a cup of tea and getting ready for work, a news report on the TV caught my eye. They were running a feature on child abuse.
I stopped dead. I had never heard of it before and didn’t even realise it was illegal.
Everything started to fall into place – they were talking about me.
“That’s it. I will not be one of them. I will never be a victim,” I said adamantly to myself as I switched off the TV.
I buried the truth and tried to carry on with my life, but I couldn’t sustain long relationships and struggled to trust anyone.
But it was as if my dad knew that.
He started to phone the house and before I knew it he was back in my life.
“I am really sorry for what I did to you. I nearly killed myself last night because of it. Please let me come round, Nicky.”
Dad was pleading down the phone, crying for my forgiveness.
And before I knew it he was in my house having breakfast.
Although I knew it was wrong, I still didn’t realise I could do anything about it.
Sitting opposite him made my skin crawl but I still loved him as a father and told him it was OK.
For months he plagued me, begging me to forgive him and showering me in guilt.
After three years, I moved away to Portsmouth with a boyfriend and tried to see a counsellor.
My secrets were starting to have an effect on our relationship and I could no longer keep it hidden.
Every time I would travel back to Lincoln for special occasions the painful memories would take over.
I hated to be near Dad but I had dealt with it for so long, I didn’t realise the affect it was having on me until I had a drink.
Suddenly, I would blackout and the pain began to leak out. I was angry and couldn’t hide it anymore.
In 1986 I met James* in a nightclub. He was perfect and I finally felt like I had found a man I could completely trust. Within a year I had told him everything.
For a long time James battled to come to terms with it, but six months later he proposed and we were stronger than ever. At last I had someone on my side.
In 1988 we got married and, like the dutiful daughter I was, I invited Dad.
Again, I had fallen into the trap of just accepting my past.
In 1990 James decided enough was enough. He couldn’t bear to see me so distressed for weeks on end so stopped me going to Lincoln.
“It’s not worth it, Nicky, and it’s too hard to watch”, he said.
We carried on with normal family life; raising our son, Ian, now 21, and watching him go off to university and celebrating his engagement.
But in 2009 I started the menopause and I don’t know if it was my hormones but everything began to twist and turn in my mind again, like an emotional tornado.
As much as I tried, I couldn’t blank out my past anymore.
Over the past year me and *Lorraine had been sharing brief messages on Facebook and one evening I was checking my messages when I saw something that made my blood boil.
It was a picture of my dad with my niece. It was like he suddenly had a window into my world again.
The threat was suddenly as big as it had been in my childhood and it shattered me.
I broke down and rang my friend in hysterics. She came round and, after a bottle of wine, I found the courage to phone the police.
After a brief interview, the police invited me to a specialist family unit in Lancaster to give evidence.
For hours I dredged up everything I could remember and instantly I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
The painful secret that I had carried around for decades was finally out in the open.
Within four months, on January 17th 2012, the police visited Dad and invited him to the station.
“I have been expecting you. I always knew that this day was come.” Straight away Dad confessed what he had done and admitted to four counts of sexual assault.
But before the trial could get to court Dad killed himself.
On Friday ***DATE*** Dad was found dead in a caravan with a plastic bag over his head. As soon as I found out I was hysterical.
It was my fault he was dead. I had killed him and was racked with guilt.
But then I got told about the note. Dad had left suicide notes to me, my police officer, sister and his girlfriend.
“Dear Nicola, I’m sorry about what happened between us…I thought that if I stayed out of your life it would be better, but obviously you were not up to that agreement.”
Instantly, the guilt disappeared.
He wasn’t sorry, he was a coward and a pervert and he had never truly understood what he had done.
Through the support of James and the Sexual Assault Referral Centre, in Lincolnshire, I have finally put Dad and his sick ghosts to rest.
It took years to get to this day and I would urge anyone in my position to go to the police and get help- they were amazing.
I never wanted to be labelled a victim or a survivor and after the support of SARC I have found a way to put this all behind me.
If I had known back then what I do now, I would have gone a lot sooner.