A grandparent should be a person who offers love, support and protection to a grandchild. But for Melissa Fox, that was most definitely not the case.
From the age of about seven to 13, she was sexually abused by her grandfather, Edwin Gallienne.
Sickeningly, he would offer to babysit her and even targeted her while attending family parties.
Like so many victims of such horrific abuse, Melissa didn’t tell anybody.
Instead she tried to block it out, blaming herself for what had happened.
But when Gallienne was called in for questioning by police, he admitted abusing her.
He pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault and rape on a child under 13 and was sentenced to 12 years in jail.
But the traumatic ordeal of the court case brought it all back and Melissa says she ‘shut down’.
Today, following the death of Gallienne, 76, while still behind bars, the 20-year-old has bravely decided to waive her right to anonymity and urge other victims to come forward and report any abuse.
She says now that pretending it never occurred is the wrong approach as that means abusers remain free to try to target other people.
As she attempts to move on with the rest of her life, Melissa is urging others to speak out, saying: ‘Even if people don’t want to talk to a parent or a friend, there is always someone who will listen, whether that someone is a teacher or Childline.’
We applaud Melissa for having the courage to be identified in order to get her powerful message across – and for trying to remove the taboo that surrounds sexual abuse.
She is absolutely right when she says silence merely protects abusers.
But she also knows from personal experience how hard it can be to admit that abuse has taken place.
We hope that other victims out there read her story and decide to confide in somebody, whether the abuse is current or historic.
Because that is the only way perverted perpetrators will be brought to justice.