ABUSED sisters Katie and Dellisa Shortman have bravely waived their right to anonymity in a bid to help other young victims find the courage to speak out and find justice.
Katie, 24, struggles every day with the effects of the abuse.
She has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety - but she is determined to help other victims.
Katie said: “He used to buy me sweets and take me places which was something me and my sister rarely had when he wasn’t around. I would plead with him to stop, crying, telling him he was hurting me. My sister would try to fight him off. We both would be screaming but nothing would stop him.”
The girls were taken into care aged seven and eight. Both spent the first three years at a children’s home. But they were then separated - breaking their bond.
After becoming addicted to cocaine aged 12, Katie fell pregnant at 14 while still in the care system. By 19, she had had three children. Two have been adopted, one was stillborn.
She said: “I used to take drugs, I’d run away and go into men’s houses. I felt like I should be abused – I was conditioned in that way. I was confused and alone, I had to grow up fast, I used to run away from foster placements because it felt like I was being punished.”
Because of her mental health problems, she lost custody of both her boys.
She added: “It kills me inside that I can’t hold my children, have a family, and can no longer have the bond with my sister I once had. It feels like everything has been taken from me because of this man’s disgusting actions. He has ripped my life apart. While he has lived a free life for the past 17 years, I have suffered in silence.”
She feels the authorities failed her as a child – but has praised the police work after the case was reopened in 2011.
She said: “The police this time have been incredible, if it wasn’t for them I would still feel like nobody cared.
“I hope no little girl or boy ever has to go through what I went through. All those people who should have protected us failed us greatly. Anybody who is aware of a child being abused and does nothing about it is as bad as the abuser. More needs to be done so agencies can work together and get closure. I feel like Paul stole my innocence and social services stole my potential.”
Despite her ordeal, Katie has found the strength to look forward.
She added: “I won’t allow him into my heart. My life’s too precious to have something so sick and twisted in it. What he did to me impacted on how I saw life but I’m no longer a victim, I’m a surviving victim. Even if I can help one child in the same predicament as me, I’ll die happy.”
Katie plans to write a book about her experience.
She added: “I want for other children not to have to wait 17 years to get someone to listen – give them the courage to come forward about their abuse.
Dellisa, 25, also has depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. She was Ward’s first target and later, when he began to abuse her little sister, Dellisa would try to protect her from their stepfather.
After they were sent to different children’s homes they met only once a year.
Dellisa had a girl aged 21 but she was adopted because Dellisa, who has mental health and learning difficulties, was unable to care for her. She now lives in Oldham in a flat on her own.
She said: “I can’t forgive him, I feel like he should have got a lot longer. He took nearly 20 years of our lives.”
She added: “My child was taken off me. I’ve never had the right support and it’s had such a big impact on my life. I don’t have the close relationship with my sister that I should have.”