'Not taking action could lead to a tragedy': child abuse survivor's plea

Emma Frost, 32, has spoken out about child abuse. Inset: A picture of Emma as a child.

Emma Frost, 32, has spoken out about the need for people to be more vigilant for child abuse. Inset: A picture of Emma as a child. - Credit: NSPCC

A woman who was raped and abused by her dad has called on the public to be more vigilant for signs of child abuse.

Emma Frost, from Clacton-on-Sea, is the eldest of seven children and was abused by her father when growing up.

She said: "I experienced emotional abuse ever since I could remember – it was normal.

"One time I got told off for leaving a bathroom light on. The punishment was getting whacked with a plimsoll or a belt on the bare bum – they'd call it ten of the best.

"Other times, I'd be going without food or I'd have my hair shaved, or be put in a room without a mattress or be made to sleep in a car. Things like that.

"And then the sexual abuse started from my dad, I think, from like the age of six or seven. I was quite young.

"The emotional abuse and sexual abuse continued until I got into care at the age of 11."

Emma Frost as an adult.

Emma Frost as an adult. - Credit: NSPCC

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When she was 15, Emma's parents split up and her dad pressured her into coming to live with him.

"He kept saying he was going to kill himself. And then he asked me to move in with him, so I left care. And he promised me this really great life. But after a few days, things just really changed," she said.

"He wouldn't let me go out and then that's when he first raped me."

Police started investigating her father, Christopher Frost, when she was 19 after her sister and a friend persuaded her to go to the police.

Two-and-a-half years later, he was found guilty of raping and sexually assaulting her. He was jailed for life, but the sentence was later overturned at London's Appeal Court and Frost was told he would have to serve at least 10 years before being eligible for parole.

This was not an easy process.

She said: "It wasn't a great experience for many reasons. But at the same time, I do feel like I was believed. I took a voice recording of my dad basically admitting it all in a phone call conversation.

"Without that, I don't feel like there would have been enough evidence to prosecute.

"To go to trial was quite a long process. But I guess that's what it's like, I don't think you really know that until you go through it."

Now 32, she has two children and is studying for a PhD in how child abuse affects victims throughout the course of their lives.

She said: "I just want to give other people a voice. A lot of people didn't get that criminal justice, and they still want to be heard.

"I want to give people a platform to be believed. I'd like to use my research to improve services make them more trauma-informed.

"Like, I don't like the words, historical sexual abuse or non-recent, because I think it sort of diminishes the long-term harm imposed on victims as an adult."

She said: "I've had to learn how to parent. I've had to learn how to discipline. I'm a single mum of two daughters.

"And I've found that really hard, because I didn't have a normal childhood at all. Not any part of my childhood was normal.

"My degree and my master's degree in psychology – in a way I was trying to learn what's normal and what's not."

Emma says people need to do more to tackle child abuse.

She said: "If you see something that's not right – whether you're a neighbour or a teacher – you might think 'that has got nothing to do with me, I better not say anything' or 'someone else will report it'.

"But actually not taking action could lead to a tragedy. People should take action no matter what. You shouldn't feel guilty or anything like that.

"You should look at it from the child's perspective at all times.

"It can't just lie with schools. It has got to fall on the public as well."

Emma, who has bravely waived her legal right to anonymity to raise awareness of child abuse, said that if she could send a message to young people currently suffering abuse it would be: "Find someone you can trust – someone that you feel like you will be believed – and speak out because it does change your life. 

"Even if you don't want to go to the police – you don't want to go through that right now – I think it's still important to speak out and share that burden.

"The NSPCC, Childline, they're trained for things like that. If you don't feel like you have anyone in your life that you could trust, then they're really good – just as someone who can sit there and listen to what you have to say."

Anyone with concerns about a child, even if they’re unsure, can contact the NSPCC helpline to speak to one of the charity’s professionals. People can call 0808 800 5000, email help@nspcc.org.uk or fill in the online form.