Rapist’s sentence prompts calls for abuse victims to tell someone

James Bird’s victim suffered in silence for years out of fear.

VICTIMS of sexual abuse are being urged to tell someone and not suffer in silence after an East Devon paedophile was sentenced to 17 years in jail for rape.

Charities, which support survivors of sexual abuse, have welcomed the sentence.

Pervert James Bird, 52, of Churchinford, was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court of four rapes and two indecent assaults.

The charges were specimen counts and the court heard Bird, an agricultural worker, who is well-known in game shooting circles, had repeatedly raped his victim, who was from Honiton. It took years for the victim to find the courage to tell someone what had happened.

At an earlier court hearing, Bird pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault against a female aged between 10 and 16.

The victim, however, was under the age of 10 when the abuse started, the crown court heard.

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Detectives, who led the investigation, have praised her bravery.

Dr Kate Cook, of Rape Crisis England and Wales, told The Midweek Herald: “A massive majority of girls who are abused do not report it to the authorities, because they are routinely threatened.

“Abusers tend to be manipulative people, who frighten children into silence.”

Dr Cook, who is urging people to listen to children and take them seriously, said abusers can use different kinds of intimidation – from telling their victims they will get into trouble if they confide in someone to more sinister threats.

“Older girls may be given cigarettes and alcohol by their abuser – to entrap them,” said Dr Cook. “It is getting them to do something that they know is naughty.”

A spokeswoman for Rape and Abuse Line (RAL) said: “A lot of our service users are dealing with issues of historic childhood sexual assault and the long-term effects that such experiences can have on a person.

“We understand the complexity and fears involved in coming forward to report abuse.”

Bird will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence before he is considered for parole.

If you are being abused, call Childline in confidence on 0800 1111.

If you feel you cannot say the words, take this story to someone you trust and point to it. Keep pointing to it until they have read this line.

RAPE Crisis England and Wales is an independent charity providing support for women and girls who have suffered sexual abuse – even if the abuse took place a long time ago. It runs a free, confidential helpline – 0808 8029999 – noon to 2.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm, every day.

RAL offers support on a person-centred approach, encouraging survivors to explore their issues and the reasons why they may not come forward. Its main aim is to ensure adequate support is available to abuse survivors, no matter when the abuse took place. It runs helplines for male and female victims of abuse – 0808 800 0123 (female support workers), 0808 800 0122 (male support workers).