April 2019

Swindon woman speaks out after scout leader stepfather jailed for sexual abuse

A schoolgirl from Swindon was sexually abused by her stepfather after she came out as gay.

Now, 34-year-old Stephanie Lawson is speaking out publicly about the 18 month campaign of abuse she faced daily at Ian Dallow’s hands, urging other victims of abuse to come forward and report perpetrators to police.

On Friday her stepfather, a 55-year-old former Scout leader, was sentenced to four years and two months in jail for 10 counts of sexual assault committed over an 18 month campaign of terror.

The abuse, which started when Stephanie was 15, happened on a daily basis and only stopped when the former Hreod Parkway School pupil plucked up the courage to tell her mother about the assaults.

Now living in Bristol with fiancée Rachael Hooper, 32, and her 11-year-old stepson, full-time carer Stephanie described watching her abuser being sent to prison as surreal: “I feel empowered. When that sort of abuse happens you feel as though you haven’t got any control. It feels like I have that control now.”

She said the abuse had started almost immediately after she came out as bisexual to her stepfather. Stephanie suspects Dallow was trying to force her into being straight.

Before the sexual assaults began, Stephanie was a happy and bubbly teenager. But the abuse has had long term affects and led her to turn to drink in an attempt to handle her feelings. She was training to be a chef at Swindon College and, to this day, says she struggles to prepare meals because cooking is a trigger for her feelings.

She said: “His abuse destroyed my trust and belief in the world. My lack of trust in people has affected my friendships and relationships all my life.

“He was someone I loved as a father, trusted and looked up to. I will never be able to fully trust anyone again. He should have protected me from bad things and now I never truly feel ok or safe. Each day is a struggle for me and I feel like I have lived in a prison in my mind since I was 15 years old.”

It took Stephanie 18 years to come forward and report the abuse to police. Her mum had told her she would lose her family if she spoke to detectives.

She says it was only after moving away to Bristol three-years-ago and with the support of her partner that she was able to testify against her stepfather and follow the case through the courts.

She wants others who have suffered similar experiences to come forward and report their abusers to police.

“I want victims of abuse to know they can speak out. What’s happening to them is despicable. They are not the bad ones. They can speak out and they can have a future,” she said.

“Obviously, the effect of the abuse is never going to go away. But what’s happening or what’s happened is not their fault, they can build a life and survive.”

Dallow, 55, of Northbourne Road, St Andrew’s Ridge, who is understood to have left the Scouting movement in 2014, pleaded guilty to all ten charges of indecent assault and was sentenced at Swindon Crown Court.

A judge ordered him to the sex offender register for life.