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I was abused as child – years later I found out my abuser befriended my SON

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A MUM who was sexually assaulted as a child “felt sick” when she realised her abuser was her son’s new boss.

Lisa Connor, from Chapeltown, County Down, Northern Ireland, was attacked by Paul Milligan – the nephew of her mum’s then-partner – when she was 10 or 11.

Lisa Connor was abused when she was 10 or 11

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Lisa Connor was abused when she was 10 or 11Credit: Pacemaker
She was sickened to discover her abuser was her son's new boss

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She was sickened to discover her abuser was her son’s new bossCredit: Pacemaker
Paul Milligan was jailed for a year in February

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Paul Milligan was jailed for a year in FebruaryCredit: Facebook
Colm Cunningham was also a victim of Milligan and has a tattoo of the date he was jailed

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Colm Cunningham was also a victim of Milligan and has a tattoo of the date he was jailedCredit: Pacemaker

She hadn’t seen Milligan for years when she suddenly spotted him in her son’s friends list on Facebook in 2016.

Lisa and fellow victim Colm Cunningham agreed to waive their anonymity as victims of sexual assault to tell their stories.

Lisa, 43, told The Sun: “I had gone through my son’s Facebook and realised they were friends, phoned him and wanted to know why they were friends, how they were friends.

“He actually thought I had a screw loose and said, ‘what are you going on about?

“‘He’s my boss.’ I said ‘no, you need to give up your job.’ In the end, I had to tell my son why he had to give up his job.”

Mum-of-two Lisa said her then-teenage son was working as a kitchen porter alongside Milligan – who was his immediate superior – at a local hotel.

‘IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT’

Asked how hard it was to reveal her suffering to her son, Lisa said: “It was very very difficult. He wasn’t giving up his job just because I said to.

“He needed to know and the second I said he sexually abused me as a child, he handed his notice in that evening.

“He wanted out of there because he said he would have literally killed him. I sat my son down and I told him and he stood by me every day in court.”

Describing the abuse she suffered, Lisa said her family had just moved up north from Dublin, Ireland, with her mum’s new partner, and Milligan briefly came into her life. He was 17 at the time.

The abuse occurred soon after.

“I went into a spiral, I went completely off the rails. Really went off the rails when I was 16,” she added.

In 2002 – two years after her son was born – Lisa had reported the attack to police but eventually changed her mind about pressing charges.

However, after coming clean to her son, she decided to pursue the case again years later.

Milligan, of Ballymartin, was convicted last December at Newry Crown Court for sexually assaulting two males and a female over a five year period between October 1986 and June 1991.

The 49-year-old was sentenced in February on eight counts of sexual assault and four counts of gross indecency against his three victims.

Three counts of buggery, which he denied, were left on the books.

HANDED A SENTENCE

Milligan was given one year in prison with a further two years on probation.

Lisa went on to say: “I always say things happen for a reason.

“If my son had not been working side by side with him, he would not have known about me being abused…I would never have pressed charges, because I was taking this to my grave.

“I firmly believe there’s a reason he was there working with him. I was able to do something about it – and we got justice.”

Another of Milligan’s victims, Colm, 45, met Lisa during the court proceedings.

Lisa said: “We have not just become survivors, I think I can say we’ve become quite good friends.

“I find it very easy to speak to Colm, because no matter what I say Colm knows what I’m talking about.

“He is the only person that I know in my life that has been through exactly the same thing with the same person that I can openly speak to and he just gets it.”

They are both now campaigning for stronger sentences in historic abuse cases.

Lisa said: “I think there’s a lot more people out there who need to come forward and we need to fight for stronger sentences.”

She continued: “With these kind of cases you don’t get guilty pleas, you don’t get custodial sentences.

“The fact that we got both…everybody kept saying, ‘he only got a year’. But we expected him to get nothing.

“That year to us was major. Yes, it wasn’t enough but at the same time, from my point of view, it was major.

“Our barrister did a little dance. She couldn’t believe he got a custodial sentence because it doesn’t happen.”

‘IT MADE A STATEMENT’

Dad-of-three Colm, from Kilkeel, agreed: “It made a statement.”

He had first reported Milligan in May 2013.

“The struggle of it all, having to attend interviews, and then three adjournments…” he said, before trailing off.

He was abused by Milligan when he was 13, with both having lived near each other in Ballymartin.

“It happened to me numerous, upon numerous of times over a period of 10 months,” Colm said.

“That’s why I had to come forward, I couldn’t cope with it. It was either that or leave my life behind me. I was going to kill myself.

“I couldn’t do that but I knew what I had to do, it was the hardest thing but I had to.”

He added: “I’m still suffering, to tell you the God’s honest truth.”

You’re Not Alone

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

The next year or so after the abuse ended, Colm became more and more reserved and his mum took him to the doctors.

“I absolutely loved football. I was always outside, I had to be dragged into the house,” he explained.

“But I started worrying about stuff all the time. Feeling adrenaline in my body and my mum knew I wasn’t right. The doctor put me on medication for anxiety at 15.”

In 2004 he moved to Australia with his then-girlfriend, and they had two daughters.

But he couldn’t get away from the pain, and “things got worse and worse”.

“The pains in my head, the hissing, the whistling in my ears, the adrenaline rushes. This wouldn’t stop. It’s like when a car pulls out on you and you get that surge. It was every day. F***ing rotten.”

He said: “I had to have electroconvulsive therapy done in Australia and I think it’s done me more harm than good. I don’t think it can even be done in the UK, only as last resort.

“I’ve been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in Australia, I’ve had three break downs and the list goes on.”

He eventually returned to Northern Ireland in May 2018, and again approached the police about Milligan.

He added: “The adrenaline has gone since the court case, but the hissing is still there.

“I had to leave my two beautiful daughters in Australia. I’m still in their lives and I pay for them. But I had to come home.”

Lisa eventually came on board and having her as an extra victim helped to solidify the case.

She said: “It all happened so quick, I didn’t have time to think. It’s only hitting me now what I went through and how quick it was.

“It took a couple of years to get to court, but because it was ongoing I was pushed through, it wasn’t even a year. It was so intense for me.”

Describing watching Milligan plead guilty in December, she said: “It was such relief. That was the only time I was able to look at him in the face and watch him bend the microphone and say ‘guilty’.

“That was the most harrowing thing I’ve ever had to do, but do you know what? It just felt as if someone came behind me and lifted them bricks off my shoulders.

“Don’t get me wrong, seeing him guilty doesn’t take it away, not by a long way. We are no longer victims, we’re survivors and we’ll be survivors for the rest of our lives.

“We need people to know that the sentencing is going to be tougher. It is something to come forward for. It is okay to talk and to come forward. As survivors, we want the law changed. We want people to listen.”

To see more about Lisa and Colm’s campaign click here.

The pair met during the court case and have become close friends

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The pair met during the court case and have become close friendsCredit: Pacemaker
They are now campaigning for stricter sentences for abusers

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They are now campaigning for stricter sentences for abusersCredit: Pacemaker
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