Feature: child sexual assault victim speaks out against St Albans attacker
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“I still have flashbacks, I still have nightmares. It’s just something I have to learn to deal with.”
Those are the chilling words of a defiant child sexual abuse victim who endured hell for more than a decade, after she was forced into a very adult world at just six years old.
Robert John Boden, 58, was found guilty of eight separate indecent assault charges at Winchester Crown Court on March 15, and given a maximum sentence of 12 years - eight years with four on licence, plus two concurrent years - in prison for his crimes.
This man lived in St Albans, on Trumpington Drive, and his victim is speaking out for the first time since the court case as a warning to the community for when he returns.
It all started for the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, in Wiltshire in late 1980s, and as a family friend the child and her mother often visited Boden’s house.
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Boden was a farmer and most of the abuse happened when he took her aside to help milk cows.
She told only a therapist of her ordeal and even her husband did not learn the full extent of the abuse until it came out in court - the crimes happened throughout her entire childhood, until she was 15, even after both her family and Boden’s had moved away.
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Numerous times the victim tried to tell the police but struggled to force the words out, until one day about two years ago she went to the station for a separate reason and broke down.
Now the trial is over, she said: “It was horrible, absolutely horrible.
“I didn’t tell anybody, I was too scared, even as an adult, I was too scared of him. It put me in a childlike state even as an adult.”
Threats that he would come and live at home with her if she told anyone hung over the victim her entire life.
As his sentence was read out, she described the moment when her mother broke down, blaming herself for not knowing: “I told her, ‘it’s not your fault at all, it’s his fault.’” The trial was difficult for her, and hurtful when the defence questioned what she knew to be true.
Boden did not turn up for the original court date, something which caused great distress for her, as a key witness she was terrified and worried about where he was and what he was doing.
“Now, to be honest, I don’t know how I feel, I am pleased, I am so pleased, but I don’t know how to feel.
“I can’t just brush it off, I can’t - a lot of people say ‘well done you, you have protected other children’, and I am proud of myself for that.
“But you don’t realise how vulnerable you feel always, and now I am so protective of my children. I am not about to let that happen to them.”
It still has a monumental impact on her adult life - she says an ingrained fear of men has damaged her schooling and job prospects, and caused her to balk at simple things like doctors appointments.
She is still nervous and jumpy, years later, at home: “It’s affected my whole life, it’s affected everything - even to the fact that when sleeping with my husband, he can’t put his arm around me from behind, I can’t do it.
“If he comes up behind me I jump out of my skin.”
Boden used to tell the victim that he always wanted a daughter of his own, but the victim is thankful that never happened.
Detective Sergeant Catherine Kirkham from Wiltshire police, commended the victim’s bravery: “Nothing will erase the awful memories and the long lasting affects his abuse has no doubt had on his victim, I hope that it gives her some form of closure and enables her to move on with her life knowing justice has been done.” Abuse should be reported to the police on 101, or support for victims can be found at Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 0808 168 0024.