Posted on Monday 9 January 2023
“I thought I was crazy the thoughts I had, the way I felt, but the police and the support team all made me realise I wasn't alone.”
Like so many sex offenders, Colin White made his victim feel isolated and banked on her thinking no one would believe her.
He plied the teenager, who we’re calling Sarah, with alcohol and groomed her to perform depraved sexual acts in his home in the early 2000s.
The abuse left Sarah so traumatised that at one point she wanted to take her own life.
But when she saw a Facebook post by Durham Constabulary of a similar case, Sarah knew she had to speak out.
“At the time that Colin abused me I think it affected me most because he subjected me to my first sexual experiences, he took my choice away from me,” Sarah said. “I remember feeling guilty about what was happening to me, like I was the one in the wrong or that it was my fault.”
“I did know what he was doing was bad, but the way that he did it was so manipulative – with alcohol, kindness and compliments – so I never fully understood at the time that had essentially groomed me for his own gratification.”
“I was depressed because of what Colin did to me, to the point that I even tried to take my own life,” Sarah added. “I assumed that everyone would think I was a liar.”
But Sarah did manage to reach out, and Safeguarding Detective Constable Helen Towns was there to listen, gather evidence and push for a conviction.
And after a trial at Durham Crown Court last month, the 60-year-old, of Fewston Close, Newton Aycliffe, was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault, one of which reflected him abusing Sarah on more than ten occasions.
He was jailed for a total of seven years for both offences and ordered to sign on the sex offenders’ register for life along with an indefinite restraining order being issued for Sarah.
DC Towns said: “Cases such as this are sadly not uncommon.
“Perpetrators of such offences are very often in a position of trust, known to the complainant and commit their abuse behind closed doors with no other witnesses by design.
“This is both in the hope that their survivor will not complain, or that they fear there is no point making a report.”
She added: “Results such as these show that it is possible to bring a perpetrator to justice, even after significant periods of time have passed, thanks to the strength of survivors.
“Whilst I cannot promise all cases will get to court, I can promise that Durham Constabulary will take reports seriously and investigate them thoroughly, so that justice can be pursued and achieved where possible. Both police and partner agencies will work to support survivors of sexual abuse, regardless of outcome.”
Speaking about White’s conviction, Sarah added: “The police in general and everyone involved were kind understanding and very patient with me.
“DC Towns is amazing, I honestly can't thank her enough. She has kept me up-to-date on the progress throughout the investigation and been completely transparent from the get-go.
“She has the ability to make someone feel completely at ease in extremely uncomfortable situations, even made me laugh at times. She has truly found her calling, I cannot praise her enough.”
Speaking to any other victims who might be seeing this type of post, like she did, Sarah said: “To anyone else in that situation, come forward, report it.
“You will be taken seriously; you will be believed and most importantly you will be understood. I thought I was crazy the thoughts I had, the way I felt, but the police and the support team all made me realise I wasn't alone; my thoughts and feelings were similar to many other people in my shoes and that alone made it worthwhile.”
Officers like DC Towns will always be there to listen. No matter how long has passed or whether criminals like White made you feel like you wouldn’t be believed, please know you will be taken seriously and help is waiting.
Call us on 101 or alternatively The Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 03333 448 283 or Harbour on 0300 020 2525.
You can also visit www.themeadowsdurham.org.uk or The Meadows (themeadowsdurham.org.uk)