Gemma Schembri of Lincolnshire, England revealed the horrific rape and other sexual abuse at the hand of her own father Mark to promote a children's safety initiative. The 21-year-old said her father took her virginity himself, saying it was better him than a stranger— she is now using the traumatic ordeal for good along with the National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the U.K.
Gemma Schembri's tale of shocking abuse took place starting when she was 12 years old. Her mother and father were separated, but when she began staying with him, he began abusing her and soon after took her virginity.
"The first time he raped me he said afterward, 'Well it was better that it was with me than with some random person in a hotel,'" the 21-year-old recounted. "He was very manipulative and controlled my thought to make me believe it was normal."
Though the rape was tragic enough, Schembri then had to live with the reality for years without speaking up. She believes that part of the reason she didn't act quicker is because no one ever spoke to her about what constitutes sexual abuse.
"My mum hadn't spoken to me about sexual abuse and what type of touching was acceptable and what wasn't," she told Daily Mail. "It took me two years to tell someone I was being abused as I didn't realize it was wrong at first and then, when I did, I didn't know how to broach the subject with my mum."
When the then-teenager finally did reveal what happened— it was the "worst conversation of my life," she admitted— action was taken, and her father was sentenced to nine years in prison. Schembri turned to the NSPCC after acting out, self harming and having suicidal thoughts, but over time, she was able to emerge from that dark place.
Schembri now supports an initiative by the NSPCC called PANTS. The program gives parents a basic to discuss sexual abuse with their young children: anything underneath the pants is off limits to everyone. PANTS stands for "Privates are private," "Always remember your body belongs to you," "No means no," "Talk about secrets that upset you," and "Speak up, someone can help."
Schembri thinks the campaign will help prevent future sexual abuses and could even help victims recover.
"I'm better now and love my life but I think that if I'd spoken out and stopped the abuse earlier and gotten help earlier I would have recovered more quickly," she told Daily Mail.
To see a video about the PANTS campaign and the parents who have used it, click below.