5 Lessons I learned from taking my abuser to court

Dawn Walton
4 min readApr 27, 2021

**Trigger warning** This article is about child abuse. Please don’t read if you think it might trigger you

I picked up the phone and called the NSPCC. “I want to report a case of historical abuse” I said. I was terrified. I had been shaking for days just thinking about making that phonecall.

For years I had wanted to do this. I didn’t even know if he was still alive. What I was almost positive about was that he’d abused others. What I was really worried about was that he still was, and would be in the future.

But up until a few years ago, I couldn’t even tell anyone what had happened, let alone publicly admit it. I always felt guilty for that. When I blogged about my Cognitive Hypnotherapy journey, I never said what had happened. Although most people could read between the lines and guess.

But I’ve come a long way in the last few years.

I was ready.

In May 2015 I travelled to North Wales for a trial that I was told would last 2–3 days. It spanned 4 days in the end. It was the culmination of 2 years of hell as the police gathered evidence, submitted through the CPS, got court dates and moved things forward.

He was found Not Guilty.

No one expected that. He even turned up in court, on the day of the verdict, with a large suitcase.

I had failed in everything I set out to achieve. It was not high enough profile to get publicity. Nobody except him knew what went on in court. He is free to continue whatever he wants to do, unchecked and un-monitored.

It was a horrendous process, but I changed a lot because of it — often, believe it or not, in a good way. I would like to share with you 5 key lessons I learnt from taking him to court.

  1. It takes a lot for an abuse case to get to court.

It took 2 years, and in total about 6 hours of interviews with me — one of which was a 3 hour video of me talking about the abuse in detail. It’s only thanks to the therapy I had that I was able to do this in such detail. In fact, the CPS were amazed and were 95% sure of getting a guilty verdict because of it.

2. We need a better jury system.

Court is like a sales battle between the defense and prosecution. It’s not about facts. Whoever does the best sales pitch to the jury wins. Of the 12 jurors, supposedly made up of my peers, only 2 of them were over 30. Most were students. Each day at least one juror overslept. Only one of the jurors made eye contact with me when I was talking. In the end, the defense barrister said it wasn’t him, but another family member that did what I described. The jury didn’t have to say it didn’t happen, just that they weren’t certain it was him. How is Joe Bloggs off the street supposed to weigh up evidence and make a decision like that?

3. I was believed.

As with many people who have been abused as a child, I didn’t feel that anyone would believe me. I had good evidence of this. When I told my mother about the abuse at 12 years old, she lost her temper with me and told me never to talk about it again. Going through a trial, having a voice, and being believed by those involved was liberating. I got 100% criminal injuries compensation, because it was blatantly obvious I was abused, even if the defense barrister did a clever sales pitch!

4. Your story does not have to haunt you forever.

Using my voice and telling my story means I no longer have to carry it with me. I have spoken. It has been told. Now it’s just a part of my timeline, in the same way the time I found a £5 note and bough ice creams for everyone, only to have the top of mine fall off. It was just one of those things that happened

5. It’s not about what you have in your life, it’s about who

A friend came with me and sat with me on the day I gave evidence. She sat through the rest of the trial while I hid in the Snowdonia mountains. Another friend that lived locally met me for dinner in the evening to help with distraction. My husband looked after my daughter back home even though he desperately wanted to be there. He had my back 100%. I spoke to countless other friends before and after. I may not be rich in material things but I am rich in friendships

And so…

It was, by a million miles, one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I wanted to be the voice for others he’d abused, because I could be. I wanted to save others from his abuse in the future. Because the verdict was Not Guilty, it meant that I achieved nothing I set out to achieve.

I should have been permanently damaged by the experience.

But the opposite was true.

I was freed up by the experience.

I stood up for myself and others.

I was believed.

I was loved.

I am free of my story.



Dawn Walton

Therapist and brain reprogrammer. If 1 in 4 people in the UK has a mental heatlh problem, then 3 in 4 don’t. Not True!