Mayameen Meftahi was abused by her father throughout her childhood, until he was sentenced in 2011.
The evidence at the trial included over 60 hours of video footage – some of which came from CCTV installed inside bedroom lightbulbs – a diary, and drugs. Her father was later charged with several counts of incest, indecent assault on a female, committing gross indecency with a child and making indecent photographs or pseudo photographs, of a child.
Despite being placed on the sex offenders register for life, her father served only six and half years of a ten year sentence, for violence that spanned over a decade. The conditions of his release include details about Mayameen’s local area, but prevented by the law from knowing her father’s whereabouts, she worries constantly about her family’s safety.
Mayameen, who has waived her right to anonymity, is now campaigning to change the laws around sentencing for child sexual abuse. Her first interview, with That’s Life magazine on 27th September, offers details about the abuse she suffered. On the day of the interview, Mayameen published a video on Facebook talking about her life and explaining why she chose to speak out. The video has since received over 13,000 views.
Mayameen spoke with Researching Reform about her childhood, why sentencing for convicted paedophiles needs to change, and her work combatting sexual violence.
Mayameen, thank you for speaking with us. Can you tell us about what happened to you during your childhood?
My childhood consisted of child sexual abuse from the age of 4 up until my teens, and possibly beyond. As I got older, my father used drugs to continue the abuse. When he was arrested in 2011, the police found drugs, along with other evidence, including videos and a handwritten, detailed diary.
As well as sexual abuse, my father engaged in several forms of controlling behaviour. He was always stalking me, and was a very manipulative presence in my life. I was never free from the abuse, my childhood was a nightmare and not a time in my life on which I can look back on and smile.
Did you have a positive experience with the authorities you spoke to about your abuse?
I didn’t speak out about my abuse, my father was arrested whilst I was on holiday and I had no idea what was happening back in the UK. It was only when I received a phone call telling me about what had happened that I found out. I was told, ‘you are safe now, he has been arrested’.
When I returned to the UK, the police were exceptional. It was a monumental case with the evidence stacked high, and I was well supported by the police until my father was sentenced.
What happened to your abuser?
My father was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
How do you feel about your father’s prison term and the decision to let him out early?
I think his prison term at the time was too lenient. I know the judge’s hands were tied due to sentencing laws, he did make that very clear. My father served 6 years and was not eligible for either of his paroles in 2016 and 2017. I will never be free from the abuse and so the time he has served in prison, is unjust. He is a prolific sex offender.
Why did you decide to waive your anonymity for That’s Life Magazine?
When my father was being released, I realised then that I would never be free from his sentence, and that’s why I waived my anonymity. I felt strongly that justice hadn’t prevailed. Shortly before his release, I had an instinct to Google his name and I was absolutely flawed to find an article online that publicly named him giving evidence as a trained ‘listener’ for the Samaritans. Given the work that I now do, I made the decision to speak out.
You started the She Can Consultancy to help women exposed to violence – can you tell us about the organisation?
I founded She Can Consultancy as an independent specialised consultancy agency for sexual violence and psychological trauma. As a consultant, I provide expert advice and assistance for professionals, authorities and organisations working with victims. I also provide professional training currently in Female Genital Mutilation, Trauma Informed practices, and I will be looking at providing Sexual Abuse Training also.
Alongside the professional work, I also wrote a 7 week PTSD and Anxiety Recovery Program, which I offer to women via self-referral or as an outreach program for organisations. This has been very successful and provides full understanding of PTSD as well as teaching a number of coping mechanisms to improve survivors’ quality of life after trauma.
What do you hope to achieve with She Can?
I have launched the #IfSheCanICan campaign to provide a national platform for survivors to speak out safely, to raise the voices of survivors and to pave the way for systematic law changes and better victim protection. I’m also working on the Child House campaign for Wales, and we’ve just launched a petition asking for Child Houses to be built in Wales, for victims of child sexual abuse.
How do you feel about the current sentencing guidelines for child sex abuse offences?
The current sentencing guidelines are an insult to survivors who live with the life sentence of abuse. The Judge in my case also felt extremely frustrated that he could not impose a longer sentence. When a victim hears a prison sentence of 10 years, they only process that term, they’re not made aware of the the days deducted due to time on remand, nor do they know that their abuser could end up serving only half their sentence.
The system as it currently stands provides victims with a false sense of hope, for example in my case, that I could expect 10 years of safety, and an opportunity to try and re-build our lives, when in fact ten years often translates to five years, eight years to four, and so on.
It’s a huge injustice, sex offenders should serve their full sentence. It was clear from my case that my father is a danger to the public, his refusal of parole on 2 occasions highlights that, I think. And yet less than 12 months after being refused parole, he was released, because of the law.
What changes would you like to see for victims of child sexual abuse?
I am campaigning for a right in law to allow victims of abuse to be given details, confidentially, of the location of their abusers. I would like to know the location of my father upon his release to minimise my risk. I want to know where his vicinity is, so I can avoid the area as much as possible, in order to protect myself and my family. My father is aware of the vicinity I am living in due to his licencing conditions, and yet as a victim, I am not given that same right.
I also want to see a change in sentence guidelines that offers better protection to victims of child sexual abuse.
Many of our readers have been abused as children themselves – what would you like to say to them?
Your voice is powerful, being a survivor is a part of your identity and something to be proud of, and your voice deserves to be heard. You are not alone. I would also encourage survivors to speak out, but to do so safely. I broke my anonymity with my interview in That’s Life Magazine and this put me in the media, which can be a very vulnerable time as you re-live your trauma, but you also enter a new transition. If anyone is feeling burdened by silence, then reach out. I Believe You, I Validate You, You are Powerful.