THE first time Siobhan Pyburn’s father sexually assaulted her she was too young to realise he was doing anything wrong. Looking back she thinks she was six or seven years old.

“I was young and he was my father, so I trusted him,” says the 19-year-old from Southampton.

Siobhan’s father – William Pyburn – began abusing her on a regular basis, around once a week, although over the years it increased in both frequency and severity.

“It was a while before I realised it wasn’t normal. For years I thought all dads did that to their little girls.”

It took years and a chance conversation for Siobhan to speak out about what was happening to her.

Her father had made her believe she was complicit in the abuse and that everyone she loved would reject her if she spoke out.

This is why she has chosen to take the unusual and brave step of going public about her abuse – because she wants other victims of child abuse to see her and realise they, too, can speak out and make it stop.

Siobhan lived between two households, spending the week with her stepmother and the weekends with her father and one of her brothers.

There were huge amounts of time when the lack of another adult made her easy prey for him.

Pyburn created a system that made it more difficult for Siobhan to speak out about the abuse.

“Afterwards he would buy me a treat – fish and chips, a book or a CD I wanted. As time went on I learnt the only way to get what I wanted was to let him ‘itch’ me – that’s what he called the abuse.

“He used to tell me not to tell anyone. He said everybody would hate me and I believed him. He said my mum would disown me. My stepmum would be furious and kick me out. My brothers would drop me and he would commit suicide. He said ‘it will incriminate us both’. He used to say that a lot and I believed it.”

The trade system Pyburn set up – rewarding his daughter for not resisting or reporting his abuse – contributed to her feeling guilty for what he was doing to her.

Pyburn developed cancer and also used this to justify the abuse to Siobhan, saying it would help him recover.

“When I was younger I cared about him because I was a kid and he was my dad,” she says.

“But some time between being aged nine and 12 I developed a real deep-seated hatred for him because I knew by that point it was wrong and I didn’t want to do it anymore.

“I still struggle to deal with the sense that I had a choice because he made me trade. Looking back now it seems too silly to compromise something like that for fish and chips but at the same time I was a kid. By the time I was old enough to know it was wrong my mentality was ‘he’s done it so many times, what difference does it make now?’.

“It’s not difficult to manipulate a child, especially your own child.”

Although Siobhan had become very shy and withdrawn, at the age of 13 she started dating her first boyfriend.

But while this offered her some happiness and escape, it also escalated the abuse.

“My dad would only let me see my boyfriend if I let him abuse me first. It was a vicious circle: the more I was abused the more I was needy for my boyfriend and the more I saw him the more I got abused.

“There was my dad on one end of the scale who I just hated and my boyfriend on the other end who I couldn’t be without and a huge guilt factor. I felt like I was cheating on my boyfriend.”

The abuse finally came to a halt when Siobhan was almost 15 and a chance conversation led to her telling her mother what had happened.

It was on December 23, 2005 and she and two of her brothers were staying at her mother’s house for Christmas. Her mother was talking about a case of child abuse and Siobhan wouldn’t let the conversation move away from it.

“Eventually she said ‘why are you asking me so many questions about this, your dad isn’t doing anything to you, is he?’ I just nodded and that was it. That was the turning point of my life.

“I wasn’t planning on telling. I still don’t know where it came from but I’m glad I did. If I’d thought about it for a second I wouldn’t have done it so I just let it out and immediately wished I hadn’t.

Once I realised I’d said it my normal responses kicked in – ‘oh no, everyone’s going to hate me, it’s too late, it’s over, I’m done for’. My mum was so shocked she didn’t know what to say.”

The police were called and Pyburn was arrested.

In May 2007, Pyburn, then 74, of Hampshire, was given a three-year jail sentence having been convicted of indecent assault.

He was convicted on 11 specimen charges of indecent assault, having sexual activity with a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity. He denied the allegations.


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Siobhan was in the public gallery to see the verdict.

“I felt a massive sense of triumph. It was good to see my dad quivering in fear awaiting the sentence. He looked like what he is – a weak, dirty old man as opposed to the big scary entity that I’d seen him as up until that point.”

Although Siobhan was pleased her father was convicted of abusing her she was disappointed at the sentence and even more by the fact that he was released early.

“I saw the other day that the man who threw a shoe at George Bush got four years!” she laughs cynically.

“I feel he should never have been let out of prison. It should have been life, life, life. He nearly ruined mine so it would be fair.”

Siobhan knows there is a good chance her father is living in the area again but says she tries not to think about him.

I realise the importance of not letting myself have an all-consuming hatred of him,” she says.

“That’s what he deserves but why risk further damage to myself? There are times every now and again that remind me – a song he likes – and I’ll have a down episode but that doesn’t happen very often.

“Since he was convicted my life has been an upward spiral with some down bits. I’m much better now. I’d even say almost normal. I don’t really relate to myself as I was back then. Then I was introverted and anti-social and a sorry case.”

Siobhan is now doing well in her studies – she is working towards an International Baccalaureate – and is set to study law at university in September.

And she recently won an award from v, the national young volunteers’ service for a website she created with ITV Fixers, as part of a project to empower young people by sharing her experiences of sexual abuse.

Because she was under 18 when the website was set up she was anonymous on it, but she has since been able to waive her anonymity in a bid to connect with those who hear her story.

“I didn’t want to be anonymous because I feel there’s a more direct link to the audience this way. It reinforces that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Why should I have my face blacked out? I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

Siobhan has an important message to anyone who is being abused and she hopes telling her story will help get it across.

“No matter who, what, how it happens, if you’re a child and the person abusing you is an adult or in another position of power it is 100 per cent their fault and not yours. The only thing that was stopping me from telling was guilt and that’s how it is for a lot of people. No matter how scared you might be tell someone immediately – a family member, a teacher or the police, because you owe it to yourself to get out of that situation no matter what.

“I think there should be more information at schools about child abuse and there need to be more campaigns telling young people to come forward if it’s happening to them.

“I want anyone who is going through it to look at me and say ‘well, if she can get through it and not just get through it but win national awards connected to it then why can’t I?’ I want them to realise there is life after abuse. You can still have just as much as anyone else. You’re not somehow less of a person. I want people to look at me and think ‘so it is possible then’.”

• Visit Siobhan’s website at For more information about ITV Fixers visit