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Darlington abuse victim speaks out after uncle convicted
A BRAVE victim last night opened her heart and waived her legal right to anonymity to tell of the appalling abuse she suffered three decades ago.
Rachel Williams was sexually assaulted by her uncle when he babysat at her family home in Darlington when she was eight and he was 16.
Her attacker, Michael Cossins, now 44, was convicted of three charges at a trial, but walked free after a judge heard how he had suffered.
Ms Williams refused to be downhearted by the suspended jail sentence and said it should not deter people from reporting their abuse to the police.
Mother-of-two Ms Williams, a businesswoman, said: “I suffered in silence for many years and others should not do the same – it does not help.
“Other people in my position should come forward immediately.
Yes, it is really hard, but it is not half as hard as living a lie for such a long time.”
Former taxi driver Cossins, now a father-of-three, insisted throughout his trial that he had never behaved inappropriately towards his niece.
His barrister, Dan Cordey, told Teesside Crown Court: “He is likely to have been an immature boy moving on to being a man at the time.
“It is that fact and the fact he has not committed anything further for 28 years which could allow the court to draw back from immediate custody.”
Mr Cordey told Judge Michael Taylor: “He has lost his good character, he has lost his good name. These sort of offences carry with them a great stigma.
“In the digital age we live, he tells me that from the moment he was convicted, things were being put up on Facebook and similar social media sites. People were speaking to his former place of employment about him. That, in itself, has been [fitting] punishment for him. He lost his employment.
“He went to hand his badge in and as he did, they contacted him and asked for its surrender.
He is not able to go back to that kind of work.”
Reacting to Cossins saying he had also suffered, Ms Williams, 35, said: “My heart aches for him.
“A lot of my family – not close family, though – have turned against me. My mam and dad have had so much hassle and it is so wrong.
“Giving evidence during the trial was tough and getting the guilty verdicts was the most important thing. The sentence is irrelevant, really.
“Sending him to prison would not really do anybody any good. The crucial thing for me was that I was believed, and the jury did believe me.”
It emerged during the trial how Cossins was the architect of his own downfall when he thought his past was a secret that would be kept for ever.
Ms Williams had only told two school friends several years after the abuse, but had never confided in her parents and spent years trying to forget about it.
Last year, however, she confessed to her younger sister, Kelly, who angrily confronted Cossins at his work about the abuse.
He went to the police to complain about the accusations, but was arrested when officers spoke to Ms Williams, who confirmed them.
She said: “It was true, so it was a really silly move to make. I actually had no intention of going to the police. I was just going to live with it.
“I had told my mam and dad a couple of years ago, but told them not to say anything, and just leave it.”
Cossins, of Denmark Street, Darlington, was found guilty of two specimen charges of indecent assault and one specific count of indecency with a child.
Judge Taylor imposed a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to sign on the sex offenders’ register.
The judge told him: “What is relevant are two factors – firstly, your age at the time, and your relative immaturity.
“You had not been in trouble before then and, more importantly, you have not been in trouble since. You have 27 years of unblemished character to call upon.”
He described the offences as unpleasant and told Cossins: “You were in a position of trust. You robbed that girl of her innocence.”
Victims of abuse can seek help from The Meadows sexual assault referral centre on 0191-301-8554 or themeadowsdurham.org.uk. The centre provides advice, support, counselling and sex health screening.