A 38-year-old Chesterfield man has been sentenced to six years, nine months in prison after being found guilty of raping a child under the age of ten.
Matthew Howell was 15 when he committed the assault on his victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The woman, who is now in her 20s, first spoke to counsellors before then contacting the police.
The abuse, which took place in the mid-90s in the north east of Derbyshire, began with Howell giving his victims sweets and compliments before moving on to committing incidents of gross indecency and sexual assaults – before finally raping her.
Howell denied the charges, however, after a trial at Derby Crown Court he was found guilty of one count of rape of a child under the age of 16, two counts of gross indecency with a child under 14 and two counts of indecent assault of a girl under the age of 14.
The 38-year-old must also sign the Sex Offenders Register for life and will also be the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order until a further order is made under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The woman has now bravely spoken out following the trial – telling others who have been victims to come forward and not suffer in silence.
She said: “Telling my mum was a massive relief because it was something that I had carried on my own for many, many years.
“I did worry that she wouldn’t believe me but she did, of course she did. You just have to bite the bullet and do it because you don’t want to live the rest of your life thinking what if and if you found out he had done it to somebody else, even though you aren’t the guilty party, you just have to bite the bullet and do it, definitely.
“The same goes for reporting to the police. It has been quite testing at times.
“The first time I really opened up about what happened was during my police statement. But they were really good. It is a very intense situation but they do what they can to make you feel comfortable.
“Most importantly people should know that they will believe you and will do everything they can to launch an investigation and hopefully get you the justice you deserve.”
Howell, of Mountcastle Walk, Newbold, Chesterfield, led his victim to believe that they were in a relationship and that she could not tell anyone because they would stop them.
The abuse took place over more than a year – but the emotional impact has lasted much longer.
Still under the age of ten she began drawing explicit images, watching pornography and speaking explicitly towards her peers.
She said: “But as I got older – and people of my age were learning about normal sexual relationships – I found it really hard and I was repulsed by the thought. I couldn’t bear anyone touching me, couldn’t bear being around boys and eventually I began to self-harm. I just couldn’t understand why I had had it all when I was so young.
“It still affects me now as an adult. I still have night terrors, I’m very wary of men, have had very few sexual partners and it has taken me a long time to trust anyone.
“I suffer with anxiety attacks, constant flashbacks and nightmares about what happened and it affects what I do with my own children. I quiz them all the time about where they have been, who they have been around – even at school.
“I know every parent worries but not to the extent that I do – it just affects everything.”
His victim, who bravely gave evidence at his trial, was not at court when the verdict came back – but remembers vividly her emotions when she was told the news.
She said: “It was a bit surreal – I wanted to scream as loud as I could. It felt like the battles I had through all those years had come to an end.
“It was a unanimous verdict and it was a wonderful feeling to know that 12 people had found him guilty of the things he had done to me.
“It was a massive relief and I slept the best I had in years that night.
“Today’s sentencing will hopefully mean that I can shut this door, finally move on and get my life back together. He’s stole enough – it’s time to have my life back.”