‘We weren’t intimate, you raped me’: Woman whose brother abused her three times a week for four years aged 7 confronts him in front of their family for the first time in harrowing footage

  • Kath, 33, from the Midlands, was repeatedly raped by brother Robert as a child 
  • Didn’t tell anyone for 25 years because she was scared no one would believe her 
  • Decided to tell family after becoming a mother aged 32, which ‘shattered’ unit
  • Despite going to police, Robert was never prosecuted due to his young age
  • Kath met him through restorative justice scheme alongside her mother Andrea   
  • They appear in ‘The  Family Secret’, which aired tonight at 9pm on Channel 4  

A woman has bravely confronted her brother who raped her throughout their childhood in a harrowing new Channel 4 documentary The Family Secret.

Kath, 33, from the Midlands, was sexually abused by her older brother Robert, then 11, from the age of 7, and was raped ‘three times a week’ for four years.

She didn’t tell anyone for 25 years for fear that no one would believe her, but ultimately decided to open up to her family after becoming a mother herself at the age of 32. 

Kath and her mother Andrea sat down with Robert, 37, for a restorative justice meeting in tonight’s programme, which aired at 9pm, bravely correcting him when he calls the rapes ‘intimate’ experiences. 

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Kath (pictured), 33, from the Midlands, was sexually abused by her older brother Robert, then 11, from the age of 7, and was raped ‘three times a week’ for four years

Kath (pictured as a child) revealed she had been raped throughout her childhood by her older brother Robert, with the two sitting down for a restorative justice meeting in new Channel 4 programme ‘The Family Secret’ 

At the start of the programme, Kath discussed her motivation for the restorative justice meeting with her brother: ‘I have been living with this secret for 25 years which is a long time. It eats away with you, and it’s like you’re living a double life.

‘Only the victim and the perpetrator know what happened. I can’t go on and live this lie anymore. I need to face him and look in in the eye.’

Meanwhile Andrea said: ‘Katherine was a very happy child, very bright and bubbly.’ 

Kath explained she had always been close with her middle brother Graeme, while eldest brother Robert had ‘never been a part of that.’

Andrea revealed: ‘Robert seemed very separate, he would have friends but not many, he would stand back and watch a lot of what was going on. More sober, more watchful.’ 

Kath explained she had always been close with her middle brother Graeme, while eldest brother Robert (pictured) had ‘never been a part of that.’

Kath (pictured) didn’t tell anyone for 25 years for fear that no one would believe her, but ultimately decided to open up to her family after becoming a mother herself at the age of 32

Discussing what they hoped to get out of meeting with Robert, Kath revealed: ‘On paper, it’s just about him understanding he is the one who destroyed all this. He is the root of the one of everything that is broken now.’

Meanwhile Andrea said: ‘It’s about getting some type of closure, because it’s something that happened that shouldn’t have happened and the impact of that is tremendous. We need that ending.’ 

Kate, a restorative justice practitioner, revealed: ‘For some victims they need the opportunity to ask questions and only the perpetrator can answer those questions.’ 

Kate went on to reveal that she has been working with both parties for six months ahead of the meeting, and says it will likely be ‘life changing’ for both of them.  

What is restorative justice? 

Restorative justice brings those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.

Restorative justice can make a real difference to victims of sexual abuse, helping victims to put the crime behind them and move on. 

Robert entered the room, and was invited to sit down opposite Andrea and Kath, before Kate went on to chair the meeting.  

She started by acknowledging the meeting would be ‘really difficult for everyone’ but asked the family to ‘be honest and listen’ to one another.  

With Robert invited to speak first, he admitted to being ‘really nervous’, before he began to speak about the beginning of the abuse.  

He said: ‘It all started one night at Granddad’s. The first time that Kath stopped over at all, I think, and definitely the first time she’d stopped over with me there.’

‘We were sharing a bed. It started just me asking Kath if she wanted to lie on top of me like adults do, and sort of cuddled like that I think.’

He went on: ‘And I got excited physically about it. I don’t think it went much further than that that night but I honestly can’t remember.’

But Kath remembered the start of the abuse a little differently, saying it began when she was 7 and Robert had been 11. 

Kath revealed that Robert (not pictured) would sneak out of the room he shared with his brother Graeme (pictured) into her bedroom ‘two or three times a week’

She said: ‘When he came to bed, he said, “Do you want to cuddle like mummies and daddies?” and then he asked me to get on top of him.

‘And that is when he had an erection and he was trying to get inside me. When he couldn’t, he put me on my back and forced himself on me.’

She went on: ‘I don’t remember at the time whether it was physically painful when he was raping me but when I went for a wee it really hurt.’ 

She said: ‘I just think that f***** poor little girl, she didn’t deserve that, nobody deserves that, let alone to be getting it from your brother.

‘I had this brother who was meant to look after me and protect me and all these things and he did that to me. Everything that was safe in the world was not safe anymore.’

Kath went on to explain that the next day, things resumed as if nothing had happened, but she called it ‘the start of the nightmare.’ 

She revealed that Robert would sneak out of the room he shared with his brother Graeme into her bedroom ‘two or three times a week or whenever he had the urge.’

Kate (pictured), a restorative justice practitioner, revealed: ‘For some victims they need the opportunity to ask questions and only the perpetrator can answer those questions’

She said: ‘He’d want me to go on top and breathe really heavy and make noises and stuff.  He’d ask me to do that and I can remember his breath and the quiver of his voice and the smell of body odor. His breath smelt.’

She went on: ‘It was just awful because he was so overpowering. He was so much bigger than me. He was a big lad and I was tiny.

‘I felt like he was an octopus on top of me, putting his hands in all my private places and parts and I’d be crying my eyes out and begging him to stop because I was just petrified but he was so sinister and so evil.

‘Sometimes it was just easier not to fight and just to let him do what he wanted to do.’

Discussing how the abuse continued, Robert went on: ‘I think from there it was just excitement I felt, that caused the escalation.’ 

He said: ‘Visiting Kath at night when everyone else was asleep, climbing into bed with her, touching her, rubbing up against her and I suppose getting myself off with it. 

Discussing how the abuse continued, Robert (pictured) went on: ‘I think from there it was just excitement I felt, that caused the escalation.’

‘Then it got more intimate, asking Kath to touch me, and it went further than that to actual sex and penetration.’  

Inviting Kath to speak, she spoke to him flatly, saying: ‘So I think to use the word intimate… it wasn’t intimate. 

‘What you did was rape. There was no enjoyment from my part at any point, regardless of what you thought.’ 

Robert went on to tell Kath he ‘didn’t know’ why he had abused her, saying: ‘It was more about the release that I felt afterwards. And that high… it was all selfish desire and the euphoria of all of it – I enjoyed that.’ 

They also disagreed about how long the abuse had gone on for, and when Robert guessing ‘two and a half years’, Kath said it had happened for four years.  

She suggested she had been 11, while he was 14, when the abuse ended, saying: ‘Something in my gut told me I’m ready for him, because I thought I don’t want him to do that to me in my new bedroom. 

‘So when he came I just started punching him and fighting him and after that he never came back.’

But Kath went on to say that just because abuse ends, doesn’t mean it goes away.

Inviting Kath (pictured with her mother and Kate) to speak, she spoke to him flatly, saying: ‘So I think to use the word intimate… it wasn’t intimate’

She recalled: ‘The computer used to be down the bottom of the hall and I couldn’t do something and I just went “Oh f*** me.

‘And he turned to me really sinister and he said, ‘”Oh I would but you won’t let me.’

Kath said she had never told her parents because she knew it would break her mother’s heart.  

She said she tried to tell her mother what had happened ‘as though it was a story’ and asked, “What would you do if Robert did that?’ but her mother told her that he never would. 

Andrea said: ‘She firmly believed we could believe Robert above her. I do think, what did we miss?

‘We did catch him on the landing once but he said Kath was crying and he went to see her. 

Kath (pictured on the documentary) said she had never told her parents because she knew it would break her mother’s heart

‘As a mother you believe that, because it’s your eldest son looking after your youngest one.’

She continued: ‘We should have known but we didn’t. That is very, very hard to come to terms with.’

Kath said she grew up with the usual teenage distractions before going to university and getting a job.

But when she welcomed her son Jackson, she said: ‘For everyone and the outside it looked like I was doing really well but on the inside I was crumbling away because I was keeping his secret.’

Kath revealed the tipping point was seeing her brother with her son, saying: ‘I knew where his hands had been, and I didn’t want him to do that to my little boy.

She invited her parents and brother Graeme to her home, recalling: ‘I just said, “The reason me and Robert don’t get on is because when we were kids he sexually abused me”.’ 

‘If you could hear a heart break, you would have heard my mum’s heart break.’ 

What is the age of criminal responsibility?  

The age of criminal responsibility – the age below which a child is deemed not to have the capacity to commit a crime – is currently set at 10 years in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. 

Until 1998, there was also a legal presumption (known as ‘doli incapax’) that children aged under 14 did not know the difference between right and wrong and were therefore incapable of committing an offence. 

This presumption was rebuttable if the prosecution could satisfy the court that the child knew that what he was doing was seriously wrong, not merely naughty or mischievous.

However, the doli incapax presumption was abolished by section 34 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and so is no longer in operation.

Criminal law therefore now treats children aged 10 to 13 in the same way as those aged 14 or over. 

The UN Committee Rights of the Child has repeatedly expressed the view that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be 12 years 

Andrea said: ‘It was in slow motion. surreal really, as a parents its your worst nightmare. I gave her a hug and I said “I believe you”, and Chris just put his head down.’

Andrea, who was a trained social worker, was ‘adamant’ that Kath go to the police and report what Robert had done. 

Andrea said: ‘I said we don’t want to think that he could do something like this again and we hoped he would be charged.’

But Chris disagreed, saying: ‘I’ve never been in trouble with the police and I didn’t want my son to be in trouble with the police.’

Andrea recalled: ‘Chris said that Robert was being picked on by the family, basically.’

Kath went to the police, and when the whole family were questioned Robert admitted everything.

Kath (pictured as a child) went to the police, and when the whole family were questioned Robert admitted everything

But because she stopped the abuse in 1997, the age of criminal responsibility was 14, and the case ‘didn’t go any further.’

Chris said: ‘Because they were both juvenile, it was chucked out. It was a good bit of pressure off me.’

Meanwhile Kath said: ‘Just got let down again. I couldn’t tell anyone when I was 7, I tell someone aged 32 and they say to me, “There’s nothing you can do”.’

Robert went on to admit that he never would have told anyone about the abuse because he ‘didn’t want to awaken memories in Kath’.   

And Andrea admitted the revelation had left her devastated, saying: ‘I don’t believe in myself anymore, the judgement I made because I didn’t know what was going on. and that has damaged me.’

Kath revealed: ‘The damage that you’ve caused, its not just about 26 years ago. It’s  about right now. How do I know you’re not going to do this to somebody else?’

Robert promised Kath that he had never abused anyone else, saying: ‘I’m never going to let it happen again.’

But she warned that if he ever had children, she would involve the police again, saying: ‘You’re dangerous to me, and i need you to understand that.’

But because Kath (pictured in her childhood bedroom) stopped the abuse in 1997, the age of criminal responsibility was 14, and the case ‘didn’t go any further.’

Andrea said it had ‘torn the family apart’, and that her marriage had been destroyed over what had happened.

She said: ‘I could no longer stay [with your father] because of some of the things he said about Kath in response to what you’ve done to her.’ 

Finishing the restorative justice meeting, Kath told Robert: ‘I will not have you in my life now, I can’t forgive you. You’ll always be my brother, but you’re still the rapist who came into my bedroom and did those things.’ 

She played the song ‘Warrior’ by Demi Lovato, and asked her brother to listen carefully to the words before leaving the room. 

Meanwhile Andrea admitted she didn’t know what the future held for her and her son, she said: ‘There would have to be a lot of work done for me to have some relationship with Robert, and I’m not sure that’s possible because there’s so much anger and hurt inside me.’

And Graeme said he had ‘no relationship’ with his elder brother, explaining: ‘I never want to see him again. I don’t know what I’d do if I saw him and I don’t want to go down that route.’ 

But their father said he saw things differently, saying: ‘You must understand for a parent, I can’t stop loving my son.’  

He went on: ‘In a lot of ways I feel sorry for Robert. I’m not sure how many times people are going to keep Robert in punishment land. Enough is enough punishment.’

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