Stories

I'll never be free

Why should I be punished for the crime against me?


Published by: Laura Hinton and Claire Dunwell
Published on: 5 July 2012


The house was hectic, but happy as my kids ran loops in the garden while I cooked dinner. Soon, my hubby Mark, 36, would be home from work. I was already thinking about what we could do at the weekend. We were lucky enough to live in Paphos, Cyprus, so a trip to the beach was top of my list...  
‘Calm down,' I chuckled, as my eldest, Ryan, seven, ran past while I reached to grab the ringing phone.
‘Lisa Metcalfe?' asked a man down the line.
‘Yes,' I frowned.
‘I'm calling from North Yorkshire Police,' he went on. His words took me back to when I'd been seven months pregnant with Ryan, giving evidence to a court via video link. It'd been such a terrible time but, as I'd rubbed my hands across my swollen tummy, I'd been able to see justice done.
‘W-what is it?' I stuttered.
‘Your dad's appealed against his sentence. It's highly likely that he'll be released early.'
My chest tightened. For a moment, I could still feel my dad's sweaty palms on my skin, hear him panting in my ear...
I thought I'd throw up.
Taking a few deep breaths, I called Mark. ‘Come home,'
I croaked. ‘It's Dad.' He didn't need to hear any more.
Mark was my rock. In fact, it was only when we'd met, when I was 17, that I'd realised what real love was, that sex meant intimacy, closeness... trust.
You see, I'd been abused and raped between the ages of nine and 16 by my dad David Rookes.
‘I don't understand how you've coped,' Mark had whispered, holding me so close.
Together, we'd gone to the police station and Dad had been arrested afterwards.
So now, when Mark walked in the door, I went straight to him and crumpled in his arms.
‘I wanted to go home to see Mum, but I can't now,' I sobbed.
My mum had been stunned when Dad was arrested. ‘I didn't know,' she'd sobbed, inconsolable. ‘Forgive me.'
‘There's nothing to forgive,' I'd assured her. Still, I'd been relieved when she'd left Dad.
After the court case, I'd felt like I needed to escape. So when Mark's job had moved to Europe, we'd welcomed the fresh start. Seven years on, we'd completed our family with Kayleigh, four, Liam, two, and baby Aimee.
And it'd only been recently I'd started to remember some things fondly again. Memories of hanging out at the park with my school pals and taking the family holidays to Scarborough were slowly edging out the ones of Dad.
‘I really miss your roasts,' I'd told Mum when we'd chatted on the phone recently. ‘There's always a place for you at the table,' she'd said softly.
‘I know,' I'd sighed. ‘I do miss you. It's just been too hard to think about visiting. Maybe one day soon, though.'
Despite everything, me and Mum had stayed close. We hadn't seen each other for years, but spoke and text every day. She'd twitter on about old school friends of mine she'd bumped into, and I'd feel a pang of nostalgia. But more than anything, I just wanted to give her a big hug, or sit and watch Corrie together. The kids had no relationship with her either, which was heartbreaking.
‘Why don't we ever see Nanny?' Ryan had asked me numerous times.
‘She can't afford to come here,' I'd tell him. To my relief, he never questioned why we never went back to Selby. He knew nothing except Cyprus.
But I'd been almost ready to face going back to the place I'd once called home, show them where I'd grown up. Now this had thrown everything up in the air.
‘He hasn't been released yet,' Mark tried to reassure me, as I cried in his arms. I nodded. Inside, though, I felt beaten. After everything I'd been through with the court case, I just couldn't believe it.
‘Dad was convicted of raping and indecently assaulting me over a seven-year period, and given a 12-year prison sentence,' I gasped. ‘How can he get out after just seven years?'
I was furious. Especially now I was so desperate to go back to see Mum. That night, I cried myself to sleep. But I woke gasping for breath after a nightmare. ‘You're safe,' Mark soothed, stroking my hair.
Even though I knew he was right, that Dad would never climb into my bed again,
I couldn't help remembering. I was just nine when it had started. I'd been lining my Barbies up in my bedroom when he'd asked for a kiss. I'd popped one on his cheek, but he'd leant back. ‘On the lips,' he'd laughed, mouth lingering over mine.
After that, things had gradually changed. One night, I'd felt him beside my bed. ‘Daddy?' I'd whispered, rubbing my eyes.
Without a word, he'd peeled back the duvet and slipped his hand under my nightie. ‘This is Daddy and Lisa's little secret,' he'd whispered. ‘If you tell anyone, they'll take you away from us.' I'd not known what he was doing - just that it made me feel dirty.
To escape, I'd started camping out in the garden at weekends. ‘You must be freezing out there,' Mum would chuckle. She'd thought it was a phase.
But then there'd been a story in the paper about a kid who'd been attacked in her garden. Dad had jumped at the chance to come and sleep outside with me. That's when he'd taken my innocence completely and raped me. Through the pain, I'd thought about happy things, like climbing trees with my friends... anything to block out what was happening.
I was good at blocking things out. That's what I had to do now. But the next morning, the kids picked up on my lack of sleep straight away.
‘Are you okay, Mummy?' Ryan asked, reaching in for a hug. ‘You look sad.'
‘I'm fine,' I lied. ‘What do you want to wear today?'
He pointed to his Thomas the Tank Engine t-shirt.
Pulling it over his head brought back memories. I'd started wearing boys' clothes in a bid to put my dad off. Cut my hair short too, had thrown away all my Barbies, and started behaving like a tomboy. But it hadn't stopped Dad.
For the next few days, I was overwhelmed by everything I was remembering. It was like reliving the past. Then Mum called.
‘Your dad's been released early,' she confirmed. ‘I'm so sorry about this.'
Tears slid down my cheeks. ‘I'm so angry,' I cried. ‘I can't come home now.' I'd been putting the demons of the past behind me, was even considering the idea of bringing the kids back to Britain. They'd have a better education, get to know Mum...
‘Come back,' Mum urged. ‘Just for a visit. I'd love to meet my grandchildren.' My heart broke for her.
‘I can't risk it. What if I bumped into him?' I whispered. ‘I wouldn't feel safe knowing he was out there.'
Dad is free to come and go as he pleases - the complete opposite of me.
It's been nine years since I've seen my family and friends, but I can't make that journey home now. I feel like even though I'm the victim of the crime, I'm the one who is serving the sentence. I'm not sure I'll ever be set free.
Lisa Metcalfe, 28, Paphos, Cyprus