May 2018

His crimes are his shame, not mine

When Amanda shared her first kiss she thought she was in love.

Still a child, she thought the man she trusted loved her too.

And when she turned 16 she felt sure Christopher Doyle, fast approaching middle age, would keep his promise and leave his wife.

By that age she was in a different relationship, this time with someone her own age.

Yet the growing up she was forced to endure at the hands of Doyle would taint this new love, as it would her next three decades.

Only now, after bravely standing up in court and reliving how Doyle preyed on her – and watching as a judge announced the sex offender would serve a six year sentence – does she have closure.

It has taken a long time for her to cleanse herself of Doyle’s vile crimes.

Now she has done so, Amanda hopes the justice she has won will inspire others to have the courage and faith to seize control of their lives earlier.

Speaking to the ECHO, she recalled the harrowing impact of her abuser’s crimes and told how, with the support of police, her new-found justice has changed her life.

It started with a kiss.

The grooming, the manipulation, the exploitation had already begun, but Amanda is only aware of that now she can look back on her stolen childhood with adult eyes.

At the time she felt special to be the target of an older man. But that feeling quickly turned to pain and panic as she struggled to cope with experiences she was too young to come to terms with.

She said: “I was an average child and I had not even kissed a boy before Mr Doyle.

“Being pushed to be sexually active with him, I had no choice but to learn about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases at such a tender age.

“After the first time Mr Doyle had sex with me I bled down below.

“I was alone and frightened with no-one to speak to.

“A few days after the first time Christopher Doyle had sex with me I contracted thrush. I was very scared and worried about what was wrong with me. I had to visit the doctor with my mother and describe the discomfort and discharge I was suffering from.

“I had to lie to my mother and the doctor when I was asked if I had had intercourse with anyone.

“I felt very uncomfortable and isolated.”

Doyle, a dad himself, targeted her again and again.

She was too young to understand, too confused to speak out, too scared to stop it.

Over the course of almost two years she remained silent as he kissed her, fondled her and abused her.

The crimes typically took place behind closed doors.

But the consequences played out in public.

And the consequences of Doyle’s sick advances did not stop when she finally ended his exploitation.

They coloured her life for years.

Amanda explained: “What Mr Doyle did to me made me grow up very quickly.

“By the age of 14 I was hitting pubs, bars and clubs.

“I was drinking most Friday and Saturday evenings – I wanted to be a grown-up.

“A few months after I stopped contact with Mr Doyle, I met my first husband. I wanted to be in a relationship, being with someone made me feel safe.

“The only way I thought I could have a relationship was through sex, so a few weeks after we met we were having intercourse.” By the age of 20, she had already become a mum, married and separated.

While Amanda was able to end the physical abuse, conquering the psychological impact was a battle she had to endure far longer.

Post traumatic stress disorder left her moving on and off anti-depressants, addiction left her binge eating, drinking and smoking until she was sick.

Too scared to relax in case her thoughts consume her, Amanda lives her life at 100mph.

At the same time she is hyper-sensitive to the dangers she perceives her own children to be at risk of, and issues with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and sex acted as catalysts to the break-up of her first two marriages.

She told the ECHO: “The repetitive and intrusive thoughts, the flashbacks, sleeplessness, insomnia, nightmares, difficulties in concentration and hyper-vigilance – are all things I struggle with.

“Sexual assault has robbed me of my confidence and my self-esteem. My dignity, my autonomy and my self-respect have all been compromised as a result of the crimes carried out against me. My faith in myself and my faith and trust in the world has been crushed.”

The legacy of Doyle’s crimes may endure, but it has not defeated Amanda.

With the help of counselling she now understands she is not to blame for what happened, that “this is Mr Doyle’s wrongdoing and shame – not mine”.

That could not be clearer after Amanda made the brave decision to report Doyle’s offences.

Inspired by watching her daughter reach the age at which she was abused, she decided it was time to reach for justice.

Doyle made her go through the drama of a trial. He denied his crimes, forcing Amanda to take the stand and give evidence.

When she did, her truth conquered his lies.

Jurors at Liverpool Crown Court found Doyle guilty of seven counts of indecent assault against a female under the age of 16.

Last month the 66-year-old, of The Dell in Croxteth, was jailed for six years and made to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.

The experience vindicated Amanda’s decision to go to the police.

And the fact she was believed has freed her from the shackles with which Doyle’s crimes had bound her.

She now hopes others can take inspiration from what she went through and find their freedom too.

The support of police proved crucial throughout the process.

Amanda said: “I had contact with three officers from Merseyside Police.

“All three acted with considerable empathy, sensitivity and gave me tremendous support throughout. I would not have been so brave without them.

“Words can never describe how my husband, my friend, and I feel about the officers who gave such care and compassion. They were with us when we were scared and didn’t understand what was going to happen next, clearly explaining the process and ‘holding our hands’ every step of the way.

“It’s not just about what the officers did, but how they did it; their actions came from the heart and not just the head.

“They have shown the highest professionalism, the greatest perseverance and most importantly distinguished help and kindness over this long and tiring case. They are all very special individuals and a true credit to Merseyside Police.”

Amanda also wished to praise the support provided by the Court Welfare Service and the Witness Care Officer, which she described as “exceptional”.

*The woman’s name was changed to protect her identity.