On Tina Southern's wedding day, the man who had abused her for years walked her down the aisle
'W￼e’re getting married,’ Mum said.
I was 14, and while most daughters might have been pleased to see their mum find happiness again, I didn’t want Mum to marry her fiancé Brian Fairchild.
She was unaware he’d been destroying my life...
I was eight when Mum and my dad Roy split.
I didn’t really know what was going on.
Two of my brothers went to live with Dad while my brother Ron*, then 11, and I lived with Mum.
Soon, Brian moved in too. He was a fireman who was well known in our area – everyone liked him.
‘It’s going to be fun,’ I giggled to Ron.
And on the face of it, it was.
Brian treated us with sweets, toys and trips to the coast.
But one day things changed.
‘Where did you get this?’ Brian said when he saw I was using a school ruler at home.
‘You know what we do with rulers,’ he said, unzipping his trousers.
Then he told me to measure his penis.
Confused, I did what I was told.
I thought it was because I’d been naughty, so I returned the ruler to school next day and didn’t say anything to anyone.
It must be my fault, I kept telling myself
But months later, something else happened.
I was sitting on the lounge ready to watch TV when Brian made me touch him between his legs.
‘This is between me and you,’ he said and he gave me some sweets.
Soon, Brian started coming into my room in the mornings and abusing me.
I didn’t understand.
It must be my fault, I kept telling myself.
Hating every minute, in my head I’d sing the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to try to block it out.
Then when I was 12, I was at home having lunch when Brian appeared.
Without warning he climbed on top of me. Then he raped me.
Shell-shocked, I wanted to scream out in pain, but I was too stunned.
Brian didn’t say a thing and afterwards he carried on as if nothing had happened.
In tears, I ran to the park, my mind in turmoil.
I was too petrified to tell anyone, thinking I’d be taken into care.
Who would believe me? Brian was a fireman, known as a hero who saved lives.
But he was destroying mine and I prayed that Mum would leave him.
Instead when I was 14 – with no idea about my ordeal – Mum told me she and Brian were getting married.
Afterwards, Brian officially adopted me.
I felt trapped.
There was no escape from my stepdad.
In time, Ron moved out and when I was 20 I met a lovely man Martin, then 24.
A sales rep, he was kind and made me feel safe. Soon our friendship grew into love.
But there was one thing I kept secret.
The abuse I’d suffered at the hands of Brian.
Even when I found the courage to seek support, it was a year before I revealed my ordeal to my counsellor.
Even then, I couldn’t find the words to tell Martin.
Until finally, at 26, just before we were married, I sat him down. ‘Brain abused me,’ I told him.
Martin gasped. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he replied, hugging me.
He came from a loving family and couldn’t believe anyone would be so sick.
But still I felt I couldn’t ban Brian from our wedding.
To everyone else he was a hero.
It was torture for Martin having to watch as Brian walked me up the aisle and gave me away on our big day.
Sickeningly Brian loved every minute of it.
He was all smiles, and squeezed my waist tightly as we posed for photos – acting like he was the groom.
Later it was time for Martin and I to share our first dance.
As the ballad I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner started, Martin held me and we began to sway.
Suddenly Brian was at my side. ‘May I?’ he grinned.
Before I had the chance to reply he’d muscled in.
Martin looked on horrified as Brian led me around the dance floor, our other guests completely oblivious.
Seething with hate I put on a false smile, just wishing the day to be over.
Brian led me around the dance floor. Our other guests were completely oblivious
In time Martin and I had a daughter, Anne*, now 19, followed by twin boys, now 12.
Unfortunately our marriage didn’t last but we remained good friends.
Meanwhile Mum – who still had no idea what had happened – remained with Brian and sometimes they’d visit.
One day when Anne was 13 they came round and we spent the day in the garden.
Later, I could tell there was something on Anne’s mind.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
She replied that her hug goodbye from Brian felt odd.
Nothing untoward had happened, but what she said next shocked me.
‘Did he ever do anything to you Mum?’
My mind whirred.
How could I possibly tell her?
For years I’d tried to bury it all.
But I didn’t believe in lying to my kids.
‘Yes,’ I replied slowly. ‘He did.’
Anne was devastated and I struggled too as my demons resurfaced.
But it was another two years before I could summon the courage to go to the police.
In March 2012, I gave a statement and a year later Brian was arrested.
Sadly, it was deemed there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with a prosecution.
‘Where’s the justice in that?’ I sobbed.
I broke down at the thought my abuser had got away with it.
But as days passed I grew angry and I decided to appeal.
In time, Brian was re-arrested and charged with one count of rape and six counts of indecent assault.
And in November 2014 I stood in the witness box at Southend Crown Court in the UK petrified, but determined to see justice as I spoke of all the things Brian had done.
My knees buckled several times and I shook like a leaf.
After five days, the trial ended in a hung jury. I was devastated.
Thankfully, at the end of April 2015, Brian Fairchild, then 77, stood trial for a second time at Basildon Crown Court.
This time he was found guilty of one count of rape and six counts of indecent assault.
I burst into tears. After all these years my abuser had finally been unmasked.
Brian was sentenced to 14 and a half years in jail.
The judge said he had never shown any remorse and was still deemed to be dangerous.
It’s been a long fight for justice but finally it came.
That monster destroyed my life and blighted my wedding but now he’s behind bars where he belongs.
* Name has been changed
Originally published in that's life! issue 20, 2016