GROOMED by her stepfather from the age of 13, Shannon felt forced into keeping the abuse he carried out as a dark secret known only to them.
Such was Alan Stanhope’s perverted influence on Shannon, now 21, he insisted that she call him dad and legally change her surname to his.
For years she was too scared to speak out to anyone.
But today she is planning for the future after bravely telling her mum, police and ultimately facing her abuser in court at a trial.
Alan Stanhope, who had threatened her, was jailed for 10 years after being convicted of nine charges of sexual activity with a child.
Now with him behind bars Shannon is much happier – she has a boyfriend and is pregnant expecting a girl.
Speaking to The News after waiving her anonymity, she said: ‘The reason I came forward and reported the crime, as well as protecting my family and myself, was that I had to fight for my life.
‘The life I knew deep down I was supposed to have – happiness without judgement.
‘And the feeling of “walking on eggshells” to go away as soon as I walk through the door. The future, of being married with children – that was never going to happen because Alan never accepted me moving on, or living. He wanted to run away with me.’
For years Shannon was bombarded with sexually explicit messages from her stepfather, who tried to find reasons to be alone with her and carry out the abuse.
He got together with Shannon’s mum when Shannon was just 13 – and spent years ingratiating himself into the Portsmouth family.
‘I felt I couldn’t live life any more and I got really down,’ Shannon said.
‘I was screaming out for help but nobody could.
‘It wasn’t until November 2016 when my mum found out, she became suspicious.
‘I just told her to look at his phone and see what he’s been sending me and she saw everything, all of the messages saying that he loved me and he wanted to do stuff with me.’
Stanhope, 39, of Spenlow Close, Buckland, denied all the charges, claiming his phone sent messages by mistake, but was found guilty.
Shannon added: ‘I want to get this out there, not to be malicious, but to raise awareness.
‘Even though I am still embarrassed over what happened to me for during the seven years he was in my life,
‘I do not want this to happen to another child.
‘What I experienced was horrific, and it was against my will to keep it “our little secret” and make everything seem fine between us to family and friends.’
Predator talked his way into family life
SICK Alan Stanhope told young Shannon the abuse he carried out was just ‘us time’.
The 39-year-old spent years taking advantage of the trust he had been given when he met Shannon’s mum.
But while portraying himself as the ‘perfect stepfather’ he was secretly stealing his stepdaughter’s childhood.
Shannon said: ‘It became an evening thing, every now and again when my mum went up to the bath and that left us alone – he called it “us time”.
‘The first time it happened, it happened so quick I couldn’t believe it. All he said was “did you enjoy it?” and I said “no”.
‘After that time it was on a weekly basis, up until I was 19, and more towards the end.
‘He said that he was in love with me.’
The pervert would message Shannon while she was out with friends and tried stopping her from going out.
‘He was pestering me to do sexual things – and he didn’t like it when I said no, and there were times he would even when I said no,’ she said.
‘It got to the point where I felt I wasn’t being left alone, I felt like I was just being harassed and I couldn’t move forward with me life.’
But now Shannon has relief that Stanhope was jailed.
She faced her abuser in court, giving evidence to jurors who returned unanimous guilty verdicts.
She said: ‘I do feel better now he’s in jail – I feel much safer. I feel like I got justice although it was nerve-wracking, before I went to the stand I was having a panic attack.’
Gilian Finch, from charity CISters, said: ‘Abusers are skilled manipulators which is how they stay undiscovered for so many years. They manipulate not only their child victims but also adults around the child too.’
She added: ‘I would urge anyone (male or female) who lives in the Portsmouth area and has experienced sexual abuse to reach out for help.’
n Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service on the women’s helpline on (023) 9266 9511 or the men’s helpline on (023) 9266 9516. Lines open Monday 1pm-3pm; Wednesday and Friday 7pm-10pm.
n Treetops Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Cosham 24 hours a day on 0300 123 6616.
n Women in Hampshire who are over 18 and were abused as children by immediate or extended family can call CISters on (023) 8033 8080 email@example.com
‘There is plenty of support available for abuse victims’
NEVER feel unable to report sex abuse that took place years ago.
That is Shannon Stanhope’s message to others who may be suffering in silence. She said: ‘I waited too long to report this. I have missed out on my childhood. I would urge anyone who is in a situation like this, to disclose it. I have come out on the other side now. I am now 21 and I am with an amazing partner and we have a baby girl on the way. My life has completely turned around and it was worth it 100 per cent. There is plenty of support.’
Det Con Nicola Cupper said: ‘These non-recent cases are really damaging to people. Even though it hasn’t happened yesterday what they say is taken seriously, no matter how long ago something happened – it’s never too late to report it.’