A KILWINNING woman who says she was sexually abused by her stepdad for 10 years has been left devastated after being told he will not be prosecuted.

The 38-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has spoken out after decades of silence drove her to attempt suicide four times, writes Lisa Hodge.

The victim finally went to police in September 2012 after living with her trauma for more than 20 years - only to be told last week that her abuser will not be prosecuted because of a loophole.

Speaking to the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, the woman told how her stepdad began grooming her from the age of six, before physically abusing her shortly afterwards.

She said: “I was six years old when he came into my life and 16 when he finally went out of it.

"We had nothing.

"My mum was a single parent really struggling, working three jobs to make ends meet.

"He came into our lives and he just gave, gave and gave all the time.

“He would treat me all the time, so from the very beginning he was grooming me, but obviously I didn’t know that at the time.” The grooming lasted for just over a year before the abuse started but she says her abuser would always wait until her mother was working at one of her three jobs, before he would pounce.

She said: “The first time it happened my mum was working late and we were watching a film that scared and upset me and that was the first time he took me to bed with him.

"I was seven years old.

“I thought it was normal.

"I didn’t like it, but I had never had a dad or a papa so I didn’t know any different.

“At first it was touching on top of his trousers then he would put my hand inside his clothes, then it progressed to him touching me on top of my nighty then under it until eventually it developed into full rape when I was about eight.

"Then he started to ply me with alcohol and then take me to bed and abuse me.” “He would treat me like an adult, but I was a child.

"When I was in primary seven we were in the car and passed some girls from secondary school and he said “Look at the legs on those girls, you have great legs too you know.” "It made me feel weird but I just thought that’s how all dads behaved."

By the time she was 13 years old, her abuser and her mother finally split up and he had moved out of the family home – but the abuse went on.

She said: “He was still a prominent figure in my life.

"I still called him dad.

"He told my mum he was keen to keep being in my life and she knew nothing of what had been happening so she asked him to ‘keep an eye’ on me while she was at work, or away for the night.

"That meant he would come to the house and rape me when he knew I was home alone.” The victim’s mother – who also cannot be named for legal reasons – said: “I had no idea what he was doing.

"I thought, even though our relationship was a disaster, that he was a positive influence in my daughter’s life.

"My daughter and I are now closer than ever but I have to live with that guilt for the rest of my life.” When she was 18, the victim finally opened up to her aunt about what had happened to her at the hands of her stepdad.

Horrified, she told her mother and the two women convinced her she had to tell police.

She said: “The police came to the house and interviewed me and basically told me it would be my word against his and it would be a 70/30 chance of conviction.

"I was devastated and just wished I hadn’t bothered saying anything.” But almost 20 years later and now a mother herself, she found the strength to speak up and once again went to police in 2012 to tell her story.

This time she says they took her more seriously and proceeded to interview her stepdad who was now living with another woman and her children.

Two years after the investigation began, however, the victim was devastated to learn that no charges were being brought against her abuser – because there was not enough corroborating evidence to prove her claims.

She said: “This is the thing with Scot’s Law, there has to be at least two pieces of evidence ‘proving’ the person is guilty.

"But how can that apply in my case?

"He always made sure we were alone and obviously it’s not something he would shout about, so he’s never gong to admit what he’s done.

"I feel so helpless.

"Campaigners tell you to come forward and break the silence, but if this is what happens when you do, how is that going to encourage anyone to speak out?” A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “After full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the report, Crown Counsel concluded that there is insufficient evidence to raise proceedings at this time.

"The Crown reserves the right to raise proceedings in future.

“The Procurator Fiscal has met with the complainer in this case to explain the reasoning behind this decision.” CORROBORATION – the need for at least two independent sources of evidence before a criminal case can proceed to trial – has underpinned the Scottish legal system for hundreds of years and is unique to Scotland, writes Douglas Coulter.

For prosecutors, corroboration is a problem – especially in criminal acts committed in private such as sexual abuse, or in rape cases where the accused claims that sex was consensual.

Recent reliable statistics are sparse but campaigners from Rape Crisis Scotland claim the rate of rape convictions in Scotland was as low as 4.6 per cent in 2009/10.

The Scottish Government has controversially proposed scrapping the need for corroboration as part of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and last February commissioned a judicial review of the implications.

Proposing the bill, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “Too many compelling cases, ones often committed in private, often cannot make it to our courts because of this outdated rule.

"We cannot have a whole category of victims who are continually denied access to justice.” However, the bill met with a barrage of criticism from Scotland’s legal establishment and opposition parties.

In April, an opposition proposal to defer Stage 2 of the Bill was accepted by the Scottish Government.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, Scottish Women’s Aid welcomed the move to abolish the need for corroboration.

Rape Crisis Scotland told the Herald: "Corroboration has long been a barrier to rape survivors being able to access justice and get their case to court.

"Rape Crisis Scotland holds the view that survivors of sexual violence have been denied access to justice for too long, and that the Government was right to take steps to remove it."