Girl's suffering over Brighton bus driver sex abuse

Image source, Sussex Police
Image caption,
Brighton and Hove Buses said Spalding was removed from duty within 15 minutes of evidence being received

The stepfather of a girl who was sexually assaulted by a bus driver at the age of 14 says she lost years of her school life as a result.

The Brighton man said his stepdaughter self-harmed, lashed out and grew withdrawn following the abuse.

Mark Spalding of Thakeham, West Sussex, was jailed on Tuesday after admitting a series of sex assaults.

"The one thing she said, from the day she started, was I just want people to believe me," her stepfather said.

Speaking anonymously, the man said he was left feeling as if had not defended his family.

He revealed how his stepdaughter kept the abuse secret even after police began proceedings because she felt ashamed.

At one point, her mother found her daughter self-harming, he said.

"Literally she was pushed out of the room because she didn't want to talk about it.

"Her mum just said through the door 'you know I'm here, tell me, tell me what's wrong'."

'Horrible pleasures'

His stepdaughter had always been strong and level-headed, he said, but he believed her contact with Spalding, from 2014 to 2015, "started out as a crush and he took advantage of that".

Spalding warned his victims not to say anything and told them he would go to prison.

"He was meeting them. They could have been out and he was passing and he would say 'do you want to meet', and she would say 'yes, OK'.

"She thought he was a friend at the start and it was just him paving the way to feel his horrible pleasures."

The man revealed his stepdaughter had blamed herself for what had happened, but said: "We've always said it's not your fault. You were only 14. You're not open to the world. You don't see what older people see."

He said the whole family felt relieved after Spalding was handed a prison term on Tuesday.

"We went home and had a celebration to say 'right, life starts again'," he said.

He urged any young girls in a similar situation to tell someone immediately, saying: "The quicker it's out there, the quicker people get caught."

He said his stepdaughter now wants to be "that person she wanted to become back when she was 14".

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