I don’t have very many memories of my childhood. I think that’s my mind protecting me from what happened to me.
My father had a very unstable personality – he would fly into rages and be unpredictable and bullied my mother in front of me.
I have a clear memory of running away from him and hiding under a wardrobe because he was so angry. I feared him.
I’m very aware of how my dad’s behaviour impacted my entire life. There was sexual behaviour from him since I was about 12. He’d touch me intimately and talk to me in an adult way, leaving pornographic images hidden in my bed for me to see, or make me watch sexual things with him.
Of course, in time my personality changed. Before he started touching me I was happy and outgoing.
Then I started getting in trouble at school in a bid to get someone to notice what was happening. But if they suspended me I’d have to go home and face him as he didn’t work. Everything I did made it worse.
I wanted to tell my mum, but I always felt it would upset her too much. She was frail because of how my father treated her and I didn’t want to split up the family.
Plus I was afraid of him, and knew he expected me to stay quiet because he’d always treat me to magazines and sweets for keeping the secret.
The abuse went on until I was 15.
In my early teens I felt lonely for much of the time, I had few friends and no interest in having a boyfriend. At weekends I’d take the bus to the library and spend my free time immersed in a book.
This changed dramatically at the end of my first year at uni, when I went a bit crazy and met loads of men, trying to catch up with all I’d missed out on.
After that, I moved out of home where I began a bad relationship with alcohol.
I felt very isolated. I had a particularly difficult time feeling emotionally close to people. I would want to blot out memories and I’d take too many risks, drink too much and make mistakes.
Then, aged 19, I told my mum what had happened. She was still with my father, but I had to tell someone. She was upset and believed me, but she never left him.
She was just distant with him. She confronted my dad, but it wasn’t an accusational showdown.
And I never had the opportunity to do that. I never saw him again. I couldn’t face it. It had already damaged my entire life more than I’d ever know.
My first few serious relationships ended in heartbreak. By my mid 20s, I was in an IT job I hated. I went travelling overseas and fell for an American who left the country just before I found out I was pregnant by him.
I didn’t tell him because he’d told me he was going to marry someone else, and I decided the best thing would be to have a termination.
That was the start of a very bleak time. I remember walking alone in a forest on Christmas Day soon afterwards, crying.
For a year or so after I hung out in bars a lot, drinking too much and sometimes spending the night with men I didn’t know, not caring what happened to me.
I was walking through life in a haze of confusion and grief.
A turning point was the death of my parents. My father died first when I was 32. I didn’t go to his funeral. As a small child, I had loved my father, but when he started to abuse me that stopped. I wasn’t going to honour his life in any way by attending his funeral.
It was my mother’s death six years later that triggered everything. I had a complete emotional breakdown. I quit my job shortly after she passed away because I just couldn’t do it any more.
I felt depressed and hopeless. I bought a little book of uplifting phrases to try to make me remember there were things to live for, but it was the darkest period of my life. I’d always had trouble sleeping, but that’s when the insomnia started.
I stayed at home all the time and couldn’t sleep at all. The slightest noise would terrify me, whether it was a squirrel rustling outside, or a door opening.
Creaking floorboards reminded me of my father’s abuse and I’d feel disturbed. Even the patter of rain petrified me. The sounds would magnify in my head and become overpowering, all sounds that had never affected me before. I was so scared and anxious. It felt like my life was caving in.
If I did sleep a little, my dreams haunted me. I used to dream of a man hunting me down trying to kill me. That went on for years and the nightmares would make me jumpy all day.
The sleep deprivation deeply affected my life.
I was so exhausted that my concentration went completely, so when I went back to work I struggled.
I was averaging 3-4 hours of broken sleep and I’d worry all day about the night, because the recurring dream scared me so much, it was making me more depressed. Every morning I’d get up having not slept and the day was already ruined.
I needed help. I tried therapy. I’d given it a go in my teens, but I couldn’t commit to it.
Eventually, after seeing different people, I opened up to one who made me realise there was so much I needed to address in order to improve my health.
Over time, she managed to make the nightmares stop. I had been plagued with depression and issues for my whole life. Eventually I felt lighter.
Only when I started talking about it did I realise how self-destructive I’d been in the past. I was never fully happy. My whole life had been ruined by what had happened to me.
I overcame my trust issues and recognised it was the trauma of my mother’s death that triggered the insomnia.
When she was around I felt safer from my father’s abuse, because it only ever happened when she wasn’t around. When she was gone, I felt like I’d lost my protector.
A few years after my mother died, aged 40, I met my husband who was so understanding and let me open up in my own time.
I didn’t tell him all the details straight away, but I was honest and he’s supportive and respectful.
We never had children and that’s a huge regret. But again that was due to what happened.
I came from such an unhappy family I was put off kids at a young age. Now I can’t believe I’ve had such a long, positive relationship, but the more I healed the more I managed it. When I started to think about kids, it was simply too late.
My only regret is never confronting my father. I wanted to know if he loved me, why he abused me and if my mother ever knew. I wanted to know how it happened. After his passing I found out a young girl had visited my father, went up to his bedroom and then ran out of the house very upset. That shocked me.
Thankfully, I’ve managed to turn my life around. I’ve pretty much got over the psychological damage from my childhood, I’m content with who I am and generally optimistic.
I’m happily married, most of the time – my husband makes me laugh and wants me to be happy. I enjoy being with his children and wouldn’t mind being a grandmother one day.
I’ll never know the full truth of what happened to me and I have to live with that. I let what happened to me dominate many years of my life and I refuse to be a victim any more.
Jennie has written a psychological thriller inspired by her life. She hopes to offer a sensitive insight into the trauma abuse victims suffer when deciding to face up to their maltreatment and tell the truth. The Girl In His Eyes is out September 18, £8.99, Amazon.co.uk .