NI woman Haileigh Lamont speaks out about being sexually abused as a child to encourage others to stand up to their abusers

A young woman from Northern Ireland has waived her right to anonymity to encourage other victims of sexual abuse to seek justice.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:10 pm
Haileigh Lamont saw her abuser convicted of 42 charges of sexual violence against her in Laganside Crown Court today

Haileigh Lamont was abused between the ages of seven and 18 by her stepfather Tommy Harris, 48, who today was convicted at Laganside Crown Court of 42 charges of sexual violence against her.

Now 30, the Belfast woman said: “I will not be remembered as the wee girl who was sexually abused, I will be remembered as the young women who boldly and bravely stood up for herself and exposed a paedophile”.

Haileigh said until last year she had suppressed what happened as a way of coping and in fear of what her stepfather would do if she exposed him.

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Haileigh's stepfather Tommy Harris began to abuse her when she was seven

She said: “I was filled with dread every day and I was deeply conditioned by fear. He never left my family home.

“I feel guilty that while I was staying silent, I was protecting a paedophile. I felt like a fraud.

“I carried that fear, guilt, and hopelessness for 22 years, from the age of seven to 29, when I finally ran into a police station on July 7, 2020 and reported the abuse.”

She continued: “When he was arrested, he denied that my report was true. That really hurt me as it had taken so much courage for me to tell the police. I have had to make many painful sacrifices to get to this point, surrendering my privacy to get justice and ensure that he doesn’t get away with what he did to me.

“The prosecution process has been brutal. I have had to talk about the abuse I suffered and suppressed for years, and the onus has been on me, the victim, to talk about things I never wanted to share with anyone.”

Haileigh said she’d like to see victims empowered and bring about more convictions: “I understand the fears and uncertainty of what will happen if you speak out.

“I hope that by waiving my anonymity, I can help others be prepared for what will happen if they go to the police and the different obstacles they may face.

“I’d like to see other victims empowered rather than re-traumatized and many, many more convictions.

“Victims don’t know what to expect. It is very overwhelming but if I share what I have learned and just one person decides to use their voice to expose their abuser then it’s worth it to me.”

Haileigh said: “For me, justice is the sound of my voice today, exposing him with no shame and no fear.”

• If you are in a similar position to Haileigh, Victim Support NI can help, regardless of how long ago the crime took place, or whether it has been reported to police.

• You can contact them at their Belfast Hub on 028 9024 3133, or the Foyle Hub on 028 7137 0086, or email [email protected]

• If you are in immediate danger, please dial 999.

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