“Indescribable is the memoir of the sexual abuse I suffered by my stepfather from the age of eight, lasting until I was fourteen. The abuse of women and children isn’t limited to any section of society, but affects us all, regardless of our backgrounds,” explains the actress and campaigner Candice Derman at the launch of her new book, published by Quartet. “I needed to tell my story because I survived my stepfather’s abuse and built a life, one that is filled with love. I thought it was important to share this with those that have been impacted by abuse, to say “you are not alone” and explore survival amidst the darkness,” she continues.
“Sexual abuse of vulnerable children has been fronting the news lately – but there is nothing new about it. It is often ignored, or covered up and thrives in dark corners where people look the other way. We have a responsibility as a society and as doctors and health care workers to help our children to feel safe once abuse has been uncovered. ‘We often hear about abuse but it is hard to truly empathise and understand how traumatic it is and the impact it has on a life,” says Derman. “I succeeded as an actress in South Africa but realised that hiding behind my characters didn’t make me happy. I acted to forget, but my body wanted me to remember and carrying my secrets diminished me. I always felt that I needed to find the answers myself, and Indescribable helped me explore this part of me” continues Derman.
Doctors working in A&E and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are seeing a growing number of children who have been abused physically, sexually and emotionally. It can affect children from all backgrounds and not only the underprivileged, although children with parents who have a drug, or alcohol problem at more at risk.
Doctors working in A&E and CAMHS are seeing a growing number of children who have been abused physically, sexually and emotionally. It can affect children from all backgrounds and not only the underprivileged, although children with parents who have a drug, or alcohol problem at more at risk.
Although Derman had been having behavioural and learning problems at school, there were no obvious, outward signs that Derman’s father had been sexually abusing her over years. All doctors have a duty to report concerns that a child may be at risk of abuse or neglect, even if their work is with adult patients, according to guidance from the General Medical Council. It is vital that all doctors have the confidence to act if they suspect a child is being abused, or neglected and take action through appropriate channels.
Derman’s story is told from her perspective as a child. When she was eight years old, her parents’ marriage broke up and her mother married again. Her stepfather seemed friendly, handsome and charming – but he had a very dark side. His secretive abuse of her began with inappropriate touching but soon progressed to worse forms of abuse. He swore her to secrecy and afraid of his anger, and losing his love, she told no one, but began to feel increasingly alienated and detached from her body and her life. One of the few things that helped her deal with the abuse was acting at school, at which she excelled and received recognition for. It provided an outlet of sorts for her confused, angry feelings and anxiety. Derman’s recollections are deeply shocking and disturbing but will help to raise awareness and possibly protect children from adult sexual exploitation. “Time can be kind, ticking clocks move forward and I’m the furthest I’ve been from my childhood story, both physically and mentally,” observes Derman.
Candice Derman is an actress who has played leading roles in several popular television dramas, including Backstage, Scandal and Generations
Indescribable by Candice Derman, published by Quartet Books Ltd. Priced at £10
The Oldie magazines. She also works for the NHS and is the Hippocratic Post's roving reporter.