AN ECCLESHILL woman who suffered an ‘horrific’ childhood at the hands of her brother has received help from a campaign aimed at supporting sibling sexual abuse sufferers.

Barbara, which is not her real name, said she has become good friends with Zoe Cunningham, from Milton Keynes, who has started the Willow Project which provides support and resources for survivors of sibling sexual abuse.

Its founder was abused by her brother who later hanged himself. She has family from Yorkshire and has been contacted by people from Bradford for help. She aims to turn her campaign into a charity.

“The project is a great thing and will help so many people who think they are alone in this sort of abuse,” said Barbara.

Now in her 50s, Barbara recounts the horror she went through from the age of six to 13 by her older brother.

“My brother sexually abused me and my older sisters,” she said bluntly.

“What’s more, I thought it was normal at first because I knew of other girls who were being abused at the same time - mostly by their fathers.

“My dad wasn’t abusing me, but he was abusing my sisters and, I suspect, my brother as well because of the things my brother did to me.

“It only stopped when dad was arrested and sent to prison for the abuse and that was where he died.

“Somehow I managed to block those seven years out of my mind. I had two beautiful daughters who I protected like mad.

“Then one day, when my elder daughter was about nine and had a friend round to play, the awful memories came back.

“I asked the little girl what time she was going home and she said she didn’t want to go because of what her brother was doing to her.

“I took her to one side and asked her to explain.

“She described what he was doing and I felt sick. I didn’t know her mum very well but I got in touch and told her. She passed it off as rubbish, which was what the little girl had said.

“She said she had told her mum that her brother was abusing her and her sister lots of times but she didn’t believe her.

“I was the one who phoned the police and sat with the little girl through the interview.

“The police did investigate but the boy had learning difficulties and they didn’t prosecute.

“After that I realised I had to try and sort out my past life. I went to the police about my brother but because my sisters would not testify he was never charged through a lack of evidence.

“Even though the younger of my sisters agreed with me in front of our mother that this had gone on, my mum never accepted it. My brother went abroad for a few years and my mum never forgave me. We haven’t spoken properly in 20 years.”

Barbara said she tried to bring charges against her brother on two occasions and each time she failed. Each time he would attack her or her home and drove her to seek refuge with her children.

Today he lives in the same area with a family of his own, but they never speak.

“I just try and get on with my life,” she said. “I have lovely grandchildren now and although I have problems with anxiety I know I have to keep strong.

“To be honest, I think this sort of thing happened more in the past that it does today, simply because children are much more aware at a younger age these days.

“When I was young there was a small group of us who would not go to one another’s houses because of the ‘bad’ fathers. It became a secret among the few of us, but really, I suppose, we thought it was normal. I certainly did until my father got taken away. I think there were more brothers doing things to their sisters too, but it was never spoken about.

“Nowadays there is more aware-ness of child sexual exploitation but not much awareness of what can happen between siblings, and it does go on.

“Sometimes you can look at a child and see something in their eyes.

“They look different, almost distant. That’s when you should start asking questions, or ask the child if they want to go and talk to someone, perhaps a teacher or the police, or someone they know.”

Barbara says she is getting on with her life, but is keen to help children who are suffering this sort of abuse and is making inquiries about becoming a foster carer for abused children.

“I would love to foster children who have suffered this because I have been there,” she said. “I would also like to help support them through court cases.

“This is just a fraction of the horror I suffered as a child, but it has given me the knowledge to help others.”

Details of the Willow Project with case studies can be found at The campaign also has a Facebook page.