A young woman who was raped by her stepfather at the age of eight has bravely spoken out to urge victims of the crime to come forward and get help.
Michelle Sallis, 27, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was subjected to horrific sexual abuse by her depraved stepfather, David Sallis, 47 – who she’s branded a ‘monster’ – when she was just a little girl.
When she confronted him years later, he shockingly to the crime, telling Michelle he assaulted her because he wanted to know what it ‘felt like to have sex with someone else’.
Michelle endured years of terror at the hands of the rapist, including one instance when he abused her in her mum’s bed when she was ‘flat out with sleeping tablets’. The perpetrator is now beginning a 14-year jail term after admitting his crimes at Preston Crown Court.
Bravely recounting her experience, she explained: ‘My stepfather raped me in my own bed, in my bedroom, as a little girl. It was the one place I should have felt safe.
‘From the moment I met him, I was wary of him and anxious around him. Perhaps I had a sense, even as a little girl, that he was a monster.
‘It was only aged 16 when I learned about consent at school that I realised it was so wrong. It took me years to pluck up courage to confront him and he just admitted it, as though it was no big deal.
‘I haven’t had support from my family, and it’s been a hard journey. But I feel as though the burden has been lifted. I would encourage all other victims of abuse to speak out and to get help. Staying silent is what enables perpetrators, I feel now I have a voice’.
David Sallis came into Michelle’s life when she was just six years old after her mother met him on holiday in Peterborough.
David quickly moved into their family home in Bury, Greater Manchester and by the time she was seven, she was made a bridesmaid at her mum and David’s wedding.
Michelle, an auxiliary nurse, said she had always been ‘wary’ of strangers and quite quickly sensed the ‘evil’ in David.
She continued: ‘My own dad wasn’t around, and I had no relationship with him. I was wary of strangers, and of men in particular. I didn’t even feel comfortable in the same room as him. Perhaps instinctively I sensed the evil in him.
‘He assumed the role of my dad and was very strict, sending me to bed earlier than usual, not allowing me to have a night-light. He did the school run too.
‘He worked as a cleaner in a pub and would take me to work with him on Saturdays, saying my mum “needed a break”.
‘In the evenings, he’d leave my mum watching TV downstairs, and come up to watch a film with me in my room. The sexual assaults began when I was 8. It started with touching, and it progressed until he raped me.
‘I had no idea what it was, but I knew I hated it. Because I wasn’t used to having a dad, I presumed maybe this was what all dads did’.
Sallis continued his twisted reign of terror, attacking Michelle as often as three times a week.
‘It happened a lot in my bedroom. He’d pitch a tent in the garden and abuse me there’ she continued.
‘Or he’d get in the paddling pool with me. He took me camping, and he raped me in a field.
‘He even abused me in Mum’s bed when she was flat out with sleeping tablets.
‘He made me promise not to tell, and I grew up fearing that social services might take me away if I ever confided in anyone.
‘Over the years, I became very withdrawn, confused and sad’.
By the tender age of 12, Michelle began staying with a schoolfriend, causing the abuse to gradually peter out.
And by 16, during a school lesson about consent, Michelle finally realised she had been raped.
She said: ‘It could be that the abuse stopped because I’d hit puberty. But I think probably he just didn’t get the opportunity anymore. I spent so little time at home and in my teens, I moved in with a pal from school.
‘I had always thought of rape as a violent act – an attack by stranger down a dark alleyway. I didn’t associate this with what had happened to me.
‘Yet I also slowly realised that it was the worst betrayal of all to be raped by my step-dad, in my own room, in my own bed.
‘It was a lot to deal with. I tried all sorts of new starts, moving house, getting a new job, meeting a new partner, but nothing helped. I drank a lot, to blot out the memory. I felt like I was constantly running, constantly fleeing the memory of the abuse’.
Emotionally, Michelle felt like she’d hit a brick wall, and so decided to confront David in front of her mother and other family members.
Michelle was stunned when he admitted it immediately, saying: ‘I just wanted to see what it was like to have sex with someone else.’
David was jailed for 14 years and three months at Preston Crown Court in August, for five counts of rape, and assault by penetration.
Michelle revealed that she now has a partner, James, and is gearing up to enjoy her life ahead. She is also urging other victims of sexual abuse to speak out and know that the ‘shame belongs to the abusers’.
She added: ‘I felt the sentencing was probably about right, given the guidelines but he can never be adequately punished for what he did.
‘Apart from the officer in my case, who was brilliant, I had no support. Victim Support kept forgetting to update me, I was always lost on their system. It just added to the stress.
‘I don’t want my story to define me, I want to look forward and enjoy my life. But I want to try and help others by speaking out. The shame belongs to the abusers, and not to the survivors’.