My terrible secret made life hell . . .

JOHN Dodson s victim has a recurring nightmare that a man is trying to attack her young daughter and there is nothing she can do to stop him because she can t move. The woman was six when she was first raped by Dodson. The attacks, which occurred in Hunti

JOHN Dodson's victim has a recurring nightmare that a man is trying to attack her young daughter and there is nothing she can do to stop him because she can't move.

The woman was six when she was first raped by Dodson. The attacks, which occurred in Huntingdon, went on until she was nine.

She said: "I didn't know that this was wrong. I thought this was normal and I was told it was a secret."

After two years, the attacks stopped because her home circumstances changed and she was no longer alone with Dodson at any time.


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Claire (not her real name) kept the secret for nearly 20 years. She says: "I was always a troubled child. Now they know why."

As a teenager, she drank heavily to block out what had happened to her.

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By the time she was 18, she started having panic attacks and these continued for 10 years, getting worse when she became a mother.

To see her child approaching school age brought back to her the memories she had blocked out.

She says: "They were bad panic attacks. I couldn't breathe and I had flashbacks. I couldn't sleep at night.

"They happened everywhere, in the house, in the street. In the end, I was afraid to go out in case I had a panic attack."

Five years ago, she reached the point where she was unable to function.

She was suffering panic attacks so frequently her husband had to give up work to look after her and she was on tablets for depression.

Desperate, she went for counselling.

"At first this made it worse. I'd get more flashbacks. I'd get them sitting on a bus. I'd be sitting there with sweaty palms and I'd close my eyes and I could visualise what he did, and I was told it would get worse before it got better."

The attacks were so bad that twice she collapsed and had to be taken to hospital, having lost all feeling in her limbs on one side.

She decided to face up to the past because she wanted the "Hell" to stop, and she felt that she was living a lie.

She told her mother and her grandmother what had happened all those years ago, which took a lot of courage. They were shocked, she says, but begged her not to say anything to anyone.

So, for four more years, she kept the secret to herself.

"I tried to live without doing anything about it, but I couldn't. I thought I was going to go out of my mind," she says.

"People would unwittingly bring it up by saying what a nice man he was, so I could never move on. I just wanted to scream out to them what he was really like."

Eventually, she called the police. She says: "It took me eight months before I could give them a full statement. I couldn't speak. I had to keep stopping because my whole body was shaking."

When he was arrested, Dodson told the police he knew why they had come. He was charged with 18 sex offences, six rapes, six cases of indecent assault and six of gross indecency. He admitted the indecent assault and gross indecency but denied the rapes.

For 10 months, Claire had the case looming over her. She would be the only witness and she was going to have to describe what had happened to her in open court.

She said: "I was sick with nerves, on the day of the trial. I was crying in the court and I felt hysterical."

Then, on the day of the hearing at Peterborough Crown Court on March 7, Dodson changed his plea.

He admitted the rapes, sparing her the ordeal of giving evidence.

In the meantime, the panic attacks had become so bad over the years that Claire's husband had taken voluntary redundancy to look after her. Being afraid to be alone is part of the syndrome of panic attacks.

The legacy of Dodson's crimes has ensnared Claire's husband, too.

He suffers depression because he says he cannot get out of his mind what Dodson did to his wife.

She had to tell the details to someone and she told him.

Now that Dodson has been sentenced, Claire says they will try to put the past behind them and face life as an ordinary family.

She says: "I needed him to go to prison and be punished for what he has done.

"He has, and now I want to say that finally, it's over.

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