Sexual assault will never be an easy topic to discuss but DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP, a reporter at this newspaper, explains why she can finally speak out about her own experience of being groomed as a teenager


For many years, too many in fact, I carried a secret shame.  

In 2000, at the age of 14, I was groomed by an online predator.  

The internet was something relatively new, especially in our household in rural north Norfolk, and internet safety was something of a mystery.

My parents, both loving and protective, did everything they knew how to keep me safe.

But the reality is that not many had the adequate tools some 23 years ago to do that online.

Eastern Daily Press: Donna-Louise Bishop on holiday with her family in 2000, shortly after her 15th birthdayDonna-Louise Bishop on holiday with her family in 2000, shortly after her 15th birthday (Image: Donna-Louise Bishop)

And while they struggled for many years not to blame themselves, much the same as I struggled not to blame myself, I think we are finally at some sort of peace with what happened.  

The result of this rather bleak episode is that I was raped while being convinced into believing I was living some sort of love story.  

After many, many years of coming to terms with what happened, as well as receiving a healthy dose of therapy along the way, I now understand that I am a survivor of something much bigger than what happened - and there is absolutely no shame in that. 

So, why am I sharing this now? And why so publicly?  

Last week was arguably the pinnacle of my educational journey.

Eastern Daily Press: Donna-Louise Bishop graduating from the University of South Wales with an MPhil in WritingDonna-Louise Bishop graduating from the University of South Wales with an MPhil in Writing (Image: University of South Wales)

I graduated with an MPhil in Writing from the University of South Wales; a long journey both in distance and time, let me tell you! 

In fact, it was a journey that began in 2004 when I also studied there as an undergraduate.

They say 'write what you know' so, as a creative writer, my studies quickly turned to writing about the relationships of my past and how they have shaped me.  

READ MORE: Rape victims spared witness box trauma as pre-recorded evidence introduced

Through reading my work, it was a beloved lecturer of mine, Rob Middlehurst, who first opened my eyes to what had happened to me.

His guidance and support, as both my teacher and first confidant, are what set me on this path to help others. 

My recent thesis looked at trauma and how it is depicted in literature, memoir, and society.

As this newspaper’s dedicated obituary writer, I usually spend my days telling other people’s stories. But faced with what happened, I have turned my trauma into a novel based on my experience.

Eastern Daily Press: Donna-Louise Bishop is the obituary writer for the Eastern Daily PressDonna-Louise Bishop is the obituary writer for the Eastern Daily Press (Image: Newsquest)

Writing was a cathartic process to work through what had happened to me, and I became intrigued by the way in which literature deals with trauma, and how women are represented through narrative voice.

On the Other Side, which is yet to be represented by an agent, looks at the stigma in society surrounding sexual assault and its treatment of survivors.

When you're groomed as an individual, you're not aware of the wider context of what's happening to you, and it wasn’t until I was writing my novel that I realised the extent of what I’d been through.   

What happened to me was horrible, but what I have also realised is that I’m not alone.  

READ MORE: Norfolk rape victims get support from 24-hour helpline

I've been able to come to terms with what happened and, as a result, I feel I can help other people now. I want to help other survivors, to give them a voice so that they aren’t frightened to speak up about what’s happened to them.

While I did eventually report what happened to me to the police, albeit many years later, the case was eventually dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) due to lack of evidence; it all came down to whether I looked of consenting age in photographs from the time. 

This is not unusual, and the many statistics that are published online confirm this.  

According to the latest figures, the number of rape victims who see their attacker convicted hit an all-time low in England and Wales in 2020, despite an increase in reports to police. 

The CPS data shows that just 1,439 cases in 2020 resulted in a conviction for rape or another sexual offence. Out of more than 55,000 rape accusations that were filed to police, less than 2,102 of those made it to court. 

It is not always about conviction though.  

Since sharing my story, a former school friend – who was shocked this happened during a time when we knew each other well – said: “We have a huge debt of gratitude to the survivors of sexual abuse, brave enough to speak out. Voice-by-voice you become a chorus, which in turn makes the world safer for our children.”  

And they are right.

For me, it’s about becoming part of the chorus in the hope that one day we can sing together for entirely different reasons.  

  • Donna-Louise lives in north Norfolk and received counselling from Norfolk-based charity the Sue Lambert Trust, which provides support for survivors of sexual violence. Visit for more information.