Babysitter from hell: Mum speaks of how she was abused at age of six
Woman hopes to give victims courage to speak out
A brave mum has spoken out about the sick babysitter and one-time family friend who began abusing her when she was only six years old.
Leanne Truesdale (37) waived her right to anonymity after her attacker George Oliver (68) admitted indecently assaulting her when she was a child.
Newtownards man Oliver had been a drinking buddy of Leanne's dad and began molesting her after gaining the family's trust in the late 1980s.
Oliver sat shamed-faced with his head bowed in the dock of Newtownards Crown Court last week as Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said he had attacked the child not just in her own home but in her own bed where she was entitled to feel safe.
He also referred to harm it had caused Leanne and the "ripple effect this had" on her life.
Afterwards, Leanne opened up to Sunday Life about how the attacks shaped her life in the hope it would give other victims of abuse the courage to speak out.
She said: "I used to cling to my mummy when George would come over to babysit, I would beg her not to go out.
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"My first memory of it is George coming up the stairs and he was going to go to the bathroom but he didn't.
"He detoured into my bedroom, knelt down beside my bed and touched me. He told me he wasn't going to hurt me, that was where it started.
"I never told anyone at the time because he used to tell me something bad would happen to parents if I told anybody, he told me they wouldn't be coming home.
"I would go to my bed at night hoping and praying that he wouldn't come into my room. There were a number of further incidents which I tried to block out for years afterwards.
"At the time I knew something bad had happened but I wasn't sure what, after getting out of the shower one day I just fell onto my bed, all these emotions just hit me, it was like being hit by a bus.
"From that moment on I wasn't the same. I was very withdrawn and very fearful as a child. For years after that it affected me. In my teenage years I got in with the wrong crowd and began to rebel."
The Newtownards woman said: "In my 20s I began to drink a lot. I had managed to get married and have a child but I was drinking really heavily and eventually at the age of 33, I had to go into AA.
"I was harming myself through a number of ways. I was basically killing myself, all to block out the memories of what had happened. I really hit the self-destruct button but nobody realised why. There were times when I tried to take my own life.
"After I was able to stop drinking, my memories came flooding back and I had mental health issues. I was isolating myself and just couldn't handle everyday life, I couldn't even look after my daughter properly.
"I was having flashbacks and nightmares and was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I saw a woman on the news who had been through a similar experience and decided to tell her story, she urged others to speak out and I just knew at that moment that's what I needed to do to find closure in my life and enable me to move on. That's when I went to the police.
"It's only since getting sober I've realised what a massive impact the trauma has had on me.
"I have an inability to form meaningful relationships and spent a lot of time in and out of abusive relationships because I never had any self-worth. I hated myself because of what happened, it shaped my thinking for years."
After speaking to cops in 2018 about what happened to her, Oliver was charged with three counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency against Leanne.
He initially denied all the charges but later agreed to enter a guilty plea to one count of indecent assault between May 1985 and May 1989 with the other charges to be left on the books.
The court heard that Oliver of Dicksonia Drive is suffering from bowel cancer and is in very poor health.
He was handed a 14-month jail sentence suspended for three years as Leanne watched on from the public gallery.
"Seeing him in court I felt like that scared six-year-old child again. It made me feel physically dirty to see his face.
"I'm not angry at him, I'm not out for vengeance. I've only ever been out for the truth. I don't think I'll ever understand why he did it. I can't understand why somebody would ever think of doing such a thing to a child.
"The fact that he finally pleaded guilty has given me a wee bit of closure. He said he can't remember but he's using that as an excuse. My message is that people don't have to suffer and stay silent. There is hope and recovery. There is light there, you don't have to live in your darkness. You don't have to let it ruin your life.
"He doesn't have any power over me anymore. I would like to say one day I might be able to forgive him but I'll never be able to forget. The people who didn't believe me I'll never be able to forgive.
"I came out about the abuse to a number of friends and family members over the years but not everybody believed me or was supportive. I wasn't believed by a lot of people.
"I can accept that George pleaded guilty but what I can't accept is how some people turned their backs on me and called me a liar. I find it difficult to forgive that and let it go. I am so, so proud of my aunt Susan, my uncle Robert and my dad for standing by me every step of the way, those friends who are close to me also. I would not be where I am today without you. I feel justice has prevailed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Passing sentence, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said: "One can only sympathise with the complainant about the harm this has caused her and the ripple effect this has had.
"This was an exploitative act and the child victim was between five and seven years old at the time. The age disparity was considerable and the offence occurred not just in her own home but in her own bed where she was entitled to feel safe."
Leanne's uncle Robert Simpson (54) spoke of the pride he felt in his niece following the sentencing. He said: "This has damaged her life in some shape or form since she was a child and I have tried to offer her as much support as I can since I became aware of it.
"See with this sentence and speaking out about what happened I am hoping that Leanne can stand up tall.
"Leanne won the day he changed his plea to guilty. It doesn't matter the sentence he was given, he's guilty.
"I'm proud of her. Shame on him and shame on anyone who doubted what Leanne said had happened to her. Justice was done."
Oliver was also ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years and issued with a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.