A daughter today told how her mum stripped her naked and watched on as her stepfather sexually assaulted her.
Waiving her anonymity, Kelly Whitfield broke decades of silence and heartache to reveal how her mother allowed her to be horrifically abused as an innocent seven-year-old.
“I remember it all. I remember being taken out of my bedroom, looking at her for reassurance, and her telling me it would be all right.
“A mum is supposed to protect you, to look after you, to make sure this never happens. But she gave me to him.”
Kelly, now 41, suffered in silence for years as she tried to come terms, not only with the sexual abuse, but also the knowledge her mother permitted it.
Finally, after years of therapy, she felt strong enough to report what had happened all those years ago in the family’s Hendon home.
Kelly’s mother, Martha Owens, 63, admitted four charges of indecent assault when she was arrested last year. Her stepfather, Frederick Dixon, denied the allegations and killed himself on New Year’s Eve.
Speaking exclusively to the Echo, Kelly, now a mother herself, described Dixon as a “devious and manipulative” man who controlled every aspect of her life.
“Growing up, I couldn’t wear certain clothes, no make-up, no perfume,” she recalled. “It was his way of making sure no one else would look at me.
“When I asked my mother about what he was doing to me, she’d just says “he’s doing it because he loves you”, and I believed her.
“I know it was him who abused me, who did all this stuff, but it would never have happened if it wasn’t for her.”
Newcastle Crown Court was told Owens did not carry out the offences for her own sexual gratification, but a desire “not to cross” Dixon.
Judge Paul Sloan QC sentenced Owens, of Goodwood Road, Grindon, to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
It was a sentence Kelly, of Washington, can’t quite grasp.
“I was hoping for 10 years, five at least,” she said. “Is that all I’m worth, a suspended sentence?
“When I found out he’d killed himself, I was angry, it just felt like it was his way of still controlling things to the very end.”
Sentencing Owens, the judge told her: “His influence explains your involvement in the commission of these offences and I accept, as is evident, you are truly remorseful and truly ashamed of what you did.”
The judge said he accepted Owens herself suffered abuse at Dixon’s hands and that he was “manipulative and controlling”.
Defending Owens, Tony Hawks said: “The guilt and shame is something she will never get over.”
Now trying to move on with her life, Kelly, who works for Halifax bank, is hopeful about the future.
“I’m a bit scared,” she added. “I’ve come such a long way to get to this point. It’s been hard. It’s been difficult forming relationships and trusting people again.
“I’m a mum now and that’s made a big difference, just knowing how important that bond is. I’ll never get over this, but I’m learning to live with it.”