Hackney Wick entrepreneur Krista Brown speaks out to break the stigma of child sex abuse
- Credit: Georgia Owen / Truth Project
Having a mini-stroke two years ago led award-winning entrepreneur Krista Brown to confide in the Truth Project about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
"Something had happened which retriggered all these Pandora's boxes in my head, and they then became Jack-in-the-boxes," remembers Krista, 46, of Hackney Wick, who has worked as a bodyguard to Jade Goody and Justin Timberlake.
After being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, her counsellor recommended she speak to the Truth Project which is part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
It has now heard from more than 1,000 victims and survivors in London to provide a better picture of the past to help create a safer place for children in the future.
"I was worried about how emotional I was going to get, but I found it very cathartic," said Krista.
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"I'd never told anyone the whole story. No one showed any interest in listening before."
It is heartbreaking to hear, and it's no wonder that, as a child, Krista felt totally alone, as if everything were out of her control.
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"From the outside, you would have thought I was a lucky child," she told the Gazette.
"My family were well-respected in the community with professional and academic careers.
"It's fitting, really, that for people who seemed to have everything, I was always something they had but really didn't want."
Abandoned by her mother as a baby, she was shunted between her dad and his parents for several years.
Sometimes she spent weekends with her maternal grandmother, who made her feel as though she was cared for - until she experienced abuse from her great-grandfather.
"One day, when I was staying with my nan at their home, he suddenly put his hand up my skirt, and shoved his tongue into my mouth," said Krista.
"I can still taste it now.
"Before I could get my head around what had happened, my grandma burst into the room.
"The next thing I remember was an almighty row, and grandmother telling me she'd never leave me alone again.
"One thing I couldn't understand was why she told me not to tell anyone about what had happened.
"Later on, when I did speak to dad and his mum about the abuse, they couldn't care less, telling me that I should be so lucky."
Feeling even more isolated than ever, she was soon sent to a school in the countryside.
"Looking back, the school was like something out of a horror storybook that my dad's mum had sold to me as a dream, telling me how lucky I was to go there," she said.
"The matron regularly held me in a room next to her office, ostracised and away from everyone else.
"She told me I wasn't like anyone else, that I could never fit in and regularly sold me by the hour to men who further abused me.
"I had never felt more alone."
She was expelled and ended up in the care system.
"The abuse I experienced throughout my childhood will always be there," she said.
"I was impregnated in the care system, but I didn't even bother trying to prosecute - I just used the opportunity to get out as fast as possible.
"When you go through things like that as a child, it changes you forever.
"It shows you what the world can be capable of at a very young, impressionable age."
Krista went on to found the Persona HR Agency, and has given hundreds of youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds their first taste of business and employment.
"I never thought my childhood abuse is something to be proud of," she said, "but taking part in the Truth Project made me realise that if I hadn't been through that I wouldn't be able to do job I do as well as I do.
"Even though I can never erase what happened to me, I can help preventing it happening to others.
"I hope I'm one of the people to make a change."
If you believe a child is in immediate danger of abuse, call police on 999 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
You can also contact the NSPCC on the same number for support and advice about child abuse you have suffered in the past, or visit the NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) website at napac.org.uk. If you wish to share your experience with the Truth Project, to feed into the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, visit truthproject.org.uk/i-will-be-heard or call 0800 917 1000 between 8am and 8pm on weekdays (10am to midday on Saturdays). Calls are free.