December 2016

Mum of schoolgirl tells how rapist stole 12-year-old’s innocence

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A distraught mum told of her family’s “two-year hell” after discovering her 12-year-old daughter had been raped .

Del Harris, now 21, stole the schoolgirl’s virginity in a terrifying sexual assault after grooming her on Facebook .

Two years on from the attack, his victim is still living a nightmare her desperate mother fears she will never recover from.

Harris was caged for four years and four months at the High Court in Glasgow last week after admitting to raping a minor and sexually assaulting another underage girl at his home in the Village, East Kilbride.

Following his conviction, one of his victims has bravely spoken out about her ordeal in a bid to help other abuse victims suffering in silence come forward.

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The police mugshot of child rapist Del Harris

The girl, now 14, told how she had to drop out of school after suffering horrendous bullying, receiving online threats and being regularly beaten up because no one believed her.

Her mum said: “She’s been through hell. In the two years since it happened she’s been bullied, she’s been beaten up, even so-called friends thought it would be funny to put her name and address on sex sites – it’s been horrendous.

“She took two years of abuse and had to drop out of school. She tried going back to mainstream school but just couldn’t cope.

“Kids can be so cruel. She was 12 – she had no reason to lie about this.”

The girl, who cannot legally be named, had only just started second year when she was targeted by Harris.

After chatting to him on Facebook she arranged to meet him at his house and told her mum she was staying with a friend that night.

Manipulative Harris even spoke to her mum on the phone pretending to be the girl’s dad.

“He had told her that he was 15 at the time and knew her older brother so she thought it was fine,” she said.

“The night it happened she phoned asking if she could stay with a friend. I spoke to him on the phone thinking it was the girl’s dad so he must have known she was underage. He was 19 at the time.

“This was the first boy she was interested in and he’s groomed her and manipulated her…he made her feel special.”

Harris was arrested immediately after the assault on August 10, 2014, after the girl broke down and told her mum what had happened the following morning.

She said: “They weren’t talking long on Facebook before it happened, I think it was only two days. He arranged to meet her and she had no idea what was going to happen.

“But hats off to her, she did come and tell me what had happened the next morning and we went straight to the police station.

“She told me she kept saying to him ‘no’, but he just wouldn’t listen and pinned her down.

“I was shocked…horrified…numb for months; even now I’m still trying to process it. I just need to be strong for her and the rest of the family.”

When word of her daughter’s rape got out, her mum said her ‘confident, happy-go-lucky’ daughter became a shadow of her former self.

“She just couldn’t cope,” she said.

“She went from being happy-go-lucky to being really depressed and isolated. She doesn’t socialise at all now and has lost all her ‘friends’ because of it.

“She’s lost her education, she’s lost her confidence, she doesn’t’t like being in crowded places now, she gets really anxious.

“She went through being terrified of the dark and had to sleep with the light on because she was having constant nightmares.

“I think she could have done something really silly because she was so depressed. She would say: ‘I don’t want to be here’ and ‘I can’t cope anymore’.

“She has no interest in anything now. She just wants to stay at home where she feels safe. I worry for her future and future relationships – this will just make everything a lot harder for her.

“People know she’s vulnerable and she has been targeted and used because of that. She’s at the point where she can’t trust anybody.

“As a mum, it’s been horrible, because you don’t know how to make it better.

“There’s nothing you can say or do to take the pain away. It’s never going to get back to how it was, she’ll never get her childhood back. He stole her innocence.”

One silver lining in this horrific ordeal is that Harris never put his victims through a harrowing trial.

Although happy that her daughter was spared this after all the pain and hurt she’d already been through, her mum spoke of her “utter disgust” at the length of his sentence, but praised her daughter for finding the courage to face her attacker in court.

She said: “I’m disgusted at the sentence because, for me, as a parent, and for my daughter as well, we feel that’s how a lot of these girls don’t come forward when these guys are getting away with doing a few years in jail when it’s the victims whose whole lives are wrecked.

“I think a lot of girls are scared to tell anyone and are suffering in silence.

“It’s hard as an adult going through that, but for a child I can only imagine it’s 10 times worse – they lose everything.

“We’re two years down the line and this is only her now beginning to talk about how she’s feeling.

“I’m really proud of her for facing him, she wanted to be there. I think it gave her a bit of closure.

“He never had any remorse, smirking as he was taken down wearing a hoody top saying ‘Smile more’.

“It was a good outcome for him but it’s not for the victims. They get the life sentence.

“We were happy he got a custodial sentence but we were expecting six years. The sentencing is completely wrong for these cases, they need to review it for serious crimes like that.

“He’s a sexual predator, I do believe he’ll come out and do it again. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

Looking to the future, her daughter has aspirations of a career in social work and hopes to use her experience to help other victims.

And her proud mum had nothing but praise for her brave decision to speak out, saying: “What she has done by coming forward and seeing it through to the end has protected other girls from becoming a victim.

“I’m really proud of her for not being ashamed to say ‘this happened to me’. A lot of people are made to believe it’s their fault but he was an adult and she was a child.

“She’s determined to make sure she comes out of this a survivor but she is going to have a hard time and this will follow her through her whole life.

“He’s took my wee girl, he’s stolen my wee girl’s innocence and she’s going to suffer the rest of her life, but she’s going to have a good life because we’ll make sure of it.”