WARNING: Confronting content.
A British woman who was sexually abused as a young child for five years by her stepfather has detailed the moment she confronted her rapist years later, eventually resulting in his conviction.
Michelle Sallis was subjected to horrific sexual abuse at the hands of David Sallis, a man her mother met when she was six years old, who then began raping her two years later.
For years, the now 27-year-old kept his abuse a secret, revealing as a young girl she had “no idea what it [the abuse] was”, but knowing she was terrified of what would happen if she spoke out.
Eventually, after learning about consent and realising she had been raped, Michelle found the courage to confront Sallis in front of her mother where he admitted: “I just wanted to know what it felt like to have sex with someone else.”
Sallis is now beginning a 14-year jail term after admitting five counts of rape, and assault by penetration, at Preston Crown Court in northern England, according to local reports.
UK laws protect victims of sexual assault being identified, but Michelle has waived her anonymity to encourage other victims of the crime to come forward and get help.
“My stepfather raped me in my own bed, in my bedroom, as a little girl. It was the one place I should have felt safe,” she said.
“From the moment I met him, I was wary of him and anxious around him. Perhaps I had a sense, even as a little girl, that he was a monster.
“It was only aged 16, when I learned about consent at school, that I realised it was so wrong. “It took me years to pluck up courage to confront him and he just admitted it, as though it was no big deal.”
Sallis began abusing Michelle, an auxiliary nurse, not long after she was a bridesmaid at his nuptials to her mum.
“He assumed the role of my dad and was very strict, sending me to bed earlier than usual, not allowing me to have a night-light. He did the school run too,” she explained.
“He worked as a cleaner in a pub and would take me to work with him on Saturdays, saying my mum ‘needed a break.’
“My own dad wasn’t around, and I had no relationship with him. I was wary of strangers, and of men in particular. I didn’t even feel comfortable in the same room as him.
“In the evenings, he’d leave my mum watching TV downstairs, and come up to watch a film with me in my room.”
Michelle said her new stepfather began sexually assaulting her when she was just 8.
“It started with touching, and it progressed until he raped me,” she said.
“I had no idea what it was, but I knew I hated it. Because I wasn’t used to having a dad, I presumed maybe this was what all dads did.”
Sallis continued attacking Michelle as often as three times a week, often in her bedroom, but sometimes at other locations.
“It happened a lot in my bedroom. He’d pitch a tent in the garden and abuse me there, or he’d get in the paddling pool with me,” Michelle said.
“Once, he took me camping, and he raped me in a field.
“He even abused me in mum’s bed when she was flat out with sleeping tablets.”
Michelle said Sallis “made me promise not to tell” which resulted in her living in fear she would be “taken away if I ever confided in anyone”.
She also became “very withdrawn, confused and sad”, she explained.
Aged 12, Michelle began staying with a schoolfriend to avoid the abuse, and gradually it petered out.
“It could be that the abuse stopped because I’d hit puberty. But I think probably he just didn’t get the opportunity anymore,” she said.
“I spent so little time at home and in my teens, I moved in with a pal from school.”
But it was only as a teenager, aged 16, during a lesson at school about consent, Michelle finally realised what had truly occurred at home.
“I had always thought of rape as a violent act – an attack by stranger down a dark alleyway. I didn’t associate this with what had happened to me,” she said.
“Yet I also slowly realised that it was the worst betrayal of all to be raped by my stepdad, in my own room, in my own bed.”
The gravity of this realisation took its toll, with Michelle stating she tried everything to try and put the horrors of what happened behind her.
“It was a lot to deal with. I tried all sorts of new starts, moving house, getting a new job, meeting a new partner, but nothing helped,” she revealed.
“I drank a lot, to blot out the memory. I felt like I was constantly running, constantly fleeing the memory of the abuse.”
Eventually, Michelle felt like she couldn’t take it anymore and confronted Sallis in front of her mother and other family members.
She was stunned when he admitted it immediately, saying: “I just wanted to see what it was like to have sex with someone else.”
In sentencing, Recorder Michael Maher praised Micelle for her bravery, and said Sallis “robbed” her of a normal life.
“Your sexual deviancy robbed her of her formative years and damaged her adolescent and adult life,” he said.
“I have listened in total to her victim personal statement and the profound impact it has had upon her.
“While you have pleaded guilty I don’t accept that you have any remorse.
“I believe you are dangerous as defined by statute and you do pose a risk of significant harm.”
Michelle, who has a partner, James, said she felt the sentencing was probably about right, given the guidelines but stressed “he can never be adequately punished for what he did”.
“Apart from the officer in my case, who was brilliant, I had no support,” she revealed.
“It’s been a hard journey, but I feel as though the burden has been lifted.
“I would encourage all other victims of abuse to speak out and to get help. Staying silent is what enables perpetrators.
“The shame belongs to the abusers, and not to the survivors.”
— With Focus Features