David Tweed abuse victims town ‘outcast’ fears

David Tweed abuse victims town ‘outcast’ fears

The late David Tweed's daughters, from left, Victoria, Catherine Jamiee-Lee, Lorraine, and Amanda.

Alan Millar

Reporter:

Alan Millar

Email:

alan.millar@thechronicle.uk.com

AMANDA Brown, step-daughter of David Tweed, has spoken to The Chronicle about the fears she and her four sisters had of being made “outcasts” in their home town of Ballymoney, prior to speaking up about the years of sexual abuse they had been subjected too.
Ms Brown, who hasn't been back to Ballymoney, also spoke of intimidation, social media abuse and a nasty letter writer, they believed was from the local area.
But, she went on to say: “we have family and many friends in Ballymoney. It's our home town and always will be.”
Since the former rugby international, councillor and prominent Orangeman's death in a motorcycle crash near Dunseverick on October 28, Amanda and four sisters, Catherine, Vicky, Jamiee-Lee and Lorraine have talked of the child abuse and physical violence meted out to them, describing him as “a predatory paedophile” and “violent thug.”
Speaking to The Chronicle, Amanda, who had been subjected to abuse since she was eight years old, said: “At a point we felt that, given the status Tweed was held in, that we would be outcast by the people of Ballymoney, and that is not a reflection of the people of Ballymoney.
“When you see someone held in high regard, it’s difficult to think that people would believe you.
“But only in standing in and speaking our truth, will it expose the abusers and stop them.”
Amanda described, “being conditioned to believe that the whole world would be against you.
“Many other victims I have spoken with have felt similar,” she said, “especially when the abuser had placed themselves in a position of trust within a community.
“Growing up hearing how he was idolised by my peers affirmed this fear, and in spite of believing we would be up against thousands across various communities, through sports or politics, Ballymoney and the church, we were still willing to speak out.”
   
CLOSING RANKS
Amanda expressed disappointment at Hebron Free Presbyterian Church, where Tweed's funeral was held, saying “we feel massively let down, we went to church, he didn't, when the news broke they seemed to close ranks and protect him and his family.”
The Chronicle attempted to contact Hebron, but they hadn't responded at the time of going to press.
But, Amanda went on: “we have family and many friends in Ballymoney. Moving to Belfast was about my personal safety in relation to the abuser and not a reflection of how I felt about the town or the people who live there.
“We are standing in our truth, and the people we remain good friends with, stand in it with us.”
But it's not been an easy journey.
“All of us on some level have some difficulty visiting Ballymoney,” she said, “mostly due to the intimidation we would have encountered if we ever ran into Tweed since he was charged prior to the court case in 2012.”
“Most of our friends from Ballymoney have shown support either publicly or privately, some have remained silent.
“None of us have visited since the incident. The support we have been shown far and wide has surprised us and shows other victims that they too will be supported.
“We are so very grateful for every person who has proven to us that our fears of not being believed were unfounded.
“We just hope that with that it helps other victims see that they will also be shown the love and compassion that we have.”
   
CHILD ABUSE
The sisters' testimony lead to Tweed's conviction in 2012 on child abuse charges, which brought an end to his political career.
These were later quashed by the court of appeal, in 2016, after he had served four years.
Amanda says she and her sisters have received abuse on social media, with people calling them “liars” and questioning why it took them so long to speak out.
She said people were “trying to invalidate our truth by claiming that because his conviction was quashed due to a technicality that he was somehow innocent.
“One of my sisters, who was still living in Ballymoney at the time, had stones thrown at her while walking home alone with people shouting 'pedo’s daughter' at her,” she said.
                  
HATE LETTERS
“One sister received multiple letters calling her and I liars, telling her that we would burn in hell.”
Amanda said the letters often included veiled threats such as “watch your son.”
“There were a variety of insults towards our mother in these letters,” she said, “they were all signed ‘A praying friend’. ”
The sisters believed it was from someone from the Ballymoney area and it was reported to the police. However they were unable to trace the source.
   
COURAGE
Amanda concluded by saying: “I hope that by us speaking out people have got a more accurate reflection of the person he really was.
“We hope that this gives others holding their silence out of similar fears, the courage to speak out.
“This is an issue which is a lot more widespread than any of us can comprehend; anyone standing on the side of a paedophile are demonstrating to the victims and their families that they will not believe and support them.
“To any victims, regardless of age or time passed or how frequently the abuse occurred, or how severe you deem it to be, the right time to speak up is now.
“Free yourself from the abuse, your abuser isn’t the monster you think they are, they are just another person.
“They deserve to be pushed into the light for what they are doing or have done; they rely on your silence to facilitate their abuse.
“Hopefully by seeing the support and compassion we have received will help ease your mind somewhat in terms of the support you too will have. We hear you. We see you. We believe you.”

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