"He took everything from me": Brave victim of Blackpool paedophile speaks out as 'monster' is jailed
A Thornton mum has made the incredibly brave decision to waive her right to anonymity and speak out in support of other sexual abuse victims as the man who molested her as a child is jailed.
Leanne Hilton, 33, was sexually abused by her former stepdad, Jemiah Rose, from the ages of 12 to 15.
After her childhood cries for help were ignored and dismissed as lies brought on by typical teenage rebellion, she hid the truth for years until she finally gathered the courage to report what happened to police in 2018.
More than two decades after the horror began, Leanne took the stand in Burnley Combined Court to speak out about what Rose had done to her.
She said: "He was an opportunistic monster. For years I questioned why me. Then I thought - why not? I was off the rails. Who would believe me? He saw a child who had already been through enough and took everything from her. He took every single bit of me without a second thought. He took everything, and he didn't give a damn about anybody else."
Leanne met Rose when she was 12-years-old and coming out of care. He was her mother's new boyfriend. Immediately, he established himself as the head of the household, and Leanne was expected to obey his every command - or face the consequences.
She said: "I came out of care at 12, and the abuse started almost straight away. He put me in a bed next to his and my mum's bed, and he would say the reason was because I was running away from him.
"At night when he was abusing me I would self harm, or I would end up clinging to the wall, or I'd run away the next day to get away from him.
"When everyone was around, he was very strict. He would always cover me up with a shawl and make sure I had shorts on under my skirt. When it was just us, he would make me wear a nightie and sit on his knee. He was very controlling."
Leanne accused Rose of molesting her during a family argument when she was 13. But she was seen as a troubled child, a frequent runaway recently out of care, who was jealous of her mother's relationship with Rose and wanted to sabotage it.
"After that it carried on happening, and because nobody believed me I kept quiet about it," Leanne said. "At the time I felt because I wasn't believed, that nobody would ever believe me. I felt like my family was taken away from me by smeone who was abusing me. I was out of care, but I was still alone.
"Because I was off the rails because of everything that was happening to me, everybody believed I was a bad child. My mum was going through some health troubles at the time and he took advantage of that. I was stealing, I was smoking, I was going through a rough time with my friends. He made me look like scum, while he was the good guy who was looking after my mum.
"The abuse and the fact that I was made to look like a liar made me more and more angry, and that in turn made things even worse."
She spiralled into depression and eventually tried to kill herself with an overdose. After this, she was temporarily placed back into care.
The abuse only stopped for good when she became pregnant with her first child when she was 15, and moved out of the family home.
Leanne said: "I was lashing out, doing whatever I could to get away from him. When I got pregnant I saw it as my chance to escape."
Three years later, she once again tried to tell her mum what Rose had subjected her to. "She laughed at me," Leanne said. "She said 'he said you would say this again'. It was very much out in the open by that point."
Not long after this, she was visited by police, who told her Rose had accused her of slander.
It would be 12 more years before she decided to report him after being encouraged by her uncle.
"I had held it for too long. I got the number for (Rose) and texted him what he had done to me and he replied 'I'm sorry'. I asked him why - why me? He said 'do whatever you have got to do to ruin my life'. He disgusted me."
Jemiah Rose, 56, of Brisbane Place, Blackpool, pleaded not guilty to all charges at Burnley Combined Court last month. But the jury saw through his lies and convicted him of two counts of indecent assault, and two counts of indecent assault of a child.
Leanne said: "I left my soul in that courtroom that day, but I did stand up and face him, and that was scary, but I'm so proud that I did. It wasn't easy and it crushed me, but I never felt stronger in my life, or more accomplished."
All victims of sexual offences have a legal, life-long right to remain anonymous. However, Leanne has chosen to waive that right in the hope of inspiring other abuse victims to come forward.
The mum of two now works for a charity for abused women, providing emergency shelter, helping them into housing, and supporting them through any legal proceedings.
She said: "I really, genuinely believe I am stronger now. I'm quite proud of the way I have become and the job that I do.
"My own experiences and the training that I've already had has led me to being the best that I can be to help other women with any struggle they are going through. If by sharing my story I can inspire even one other woman to come forward, then it will have been worth it.
"All it takes is for one person to reach out. I was very, very scared to report what happened to me. But instead of my family believing me, I believed in myself. The police officer dealing with my case and my uncle were the backbone of it all because they believed me, and I felt empowered by them.
"Anyone can be a victim of abuse, from a millionaire to someone on the streets. They're all different, and they all deserve to be treated equally."
Jemiah Rose was found guilty of two counts of indecent assault and two counts of indecent assault of a child, and not guilty of a further two charges of indecent assault and two charges of indecent assault of a child, at Burnley on May 26. He was sentenced at Preston Crown Court the following day to eight years in prison, and was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.
If you live in Blackpool, Fylde or Wyre and are struggling due to sexual or domestic abuse, Fylde Coast Women's Aid can be reached on (01253) 396699.
A list of charities and helplines for all victims, including men, LGBT+ people and children, can be found on Mind, the mental health charity website.