'I don’t think I will ever get closure' says TV soap actress sexually assaulted as a child

Welsh actress Sera Cracroft has been a familiar face on our screens for over thirty years. It's something she dreamed of from an early age. But unknown to her fans until now, Sera was having to deal with the trauma of something that happened to her in her childhood.

The Pobol y Cwm star who plays the much-loved character Eileen in S4C has revealed how she was sexually assaulted as a child. She says it has taken decades to realise the full extent the attack had on her.

Sera says it affected both her mental health and relationships and she hopes by speaking out and sharing her story, that it will help others who have gone through similar experiences.

Sera Cracroft was five years old when she was sexually assaulted by a man at a friend's birthday party. Credit: Family picture - Sera Cracroft

The 57-year-old who was born and raised in the small Conwy village of Rhyd-y-foel near Abergele says the assault she experienced as a five-year-old at a friend's house first came back to her through "flashbacks" and she "thought it was a dream".

She said: "I went to a friend's birthday party and a man attacked me.

"I can remember disassociating myself from what was happening. I was looking up at the dust in the air and I felt myself suffocating.

"I can remember biting him and screaming. It turned out I had fractured my arm. Then it becomes very hazy. I think I must have become very hysterical.

She added: "My parents arrived and I was crying so much. Everyone thought it was because of my arm, I was in a lot of pain. I did not have the words to explain what had happened to me."

Sera was taken to the hospital she says it was "all about my arm".

"They (medical staff) told me I had fractured my arm and I thought, 'Oh that's why I am hurting'."

Sera said this incident triggered, what she now understands following counselling, to be "periods of disassociation". When something particularly stressful would happen in her life she would "switch off".

As a schoolgirl, she loved to read and use her imagination. She said books and acting helped her escape. "I would revert back to my imagination because it felt safer.

"I was a very nervous child. If my parents would take me somewhere and they left me there, I would worry that they wouldn't come back for me."

Her self-esteem was also low, she said: " I didn’t think I was pretty. But when looking back at photos I was quite pretty.

"I had friends but didn’t have close friends in school. It was only at University that I started bonding more."

Sera says acting helped her escape Credit: Family picture: Sera Cracroft

She did not mention the attack to family or friends. "It was put in the back of my mind, locked away," Sera said. "It was only when I was stressed that flashbacks would come back with a vengeance".

It wasn't until Sera was in her 40s, a mum of three and working in television that these episodes escalated during moments of stress. Up until this point she had not even told her husband, they had been together since she was 23.

She said:" I got married quite young. I did not tell my husband until I was nearly forty. I just did not have the words. I thought it could not possibly have happened.

"He actually thought it made a lot of sense. I did have a side where I could be very touchy, and fly off the handle. I could be paranoid.

"I had three children and had depression after each one. I don’t think it was that– I think it was hormones but also the feeling that someone was going to harm my child. I was very, very protective of them growing up.

"I could be quite defensive. It made sense to my husband when I told him. He wasn’t astounded when it did come out."

Sera was working away from home and commuting to see her family, she said the pressure was taking its toll. She was having night terrors and she felt like she could not continue this way. She decided the only way to stop this cycle was to end her life.

But she says a phone call from her daughter brought her to her senses. She said: "I was taken to A and E at the University Hospital of Wales and that is when the recovery started.

"I started to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. For the first time. He asked me if I thought I had been sexually assaulted. For the first time, I admitted I had."

She received counselling and says it helped her turn her life around. Sera also spoke before the Truth Commission, the body set up by the UK Government for victims of sexual abuse.

Sera says she didn't think people would believe her and admits "Insecurity has been part of my DNA since that happened".

Sera talked about the sexual abuse for the first time on Sgwrs Dan y Lloer on S4C at 20:00, also available on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer. Credit: Sgwrs Dan y Lloer, S4C, BBC

But she has been "absolutely flabbergasted" about the response from friends acquaintances and from people she doesn't even know, who are sympathising with her situation.

She said: "I’ve had six people today contacting me to say they were abused as children too and I have been able to give them advice and tell them where to go.

"You can still access the rape crisis centre SARC in Cardiff and North Wales these people are absolutely amazing. They don’t tell the police if you don’t want them to, they will chase up the police about certain things if they don’t think they are doing it.

"I don’t think I will ever get closure because I don’t like that word but I have learnt to live with what has happened to me. Part of my life has been acknowledging what happened and making sense of things."

Sera will be sharing her story tonight (Monday 20 September) on Sgwrs Dan y Lloer on S4C at 20:00, also available on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer.

If you have been affected by anything in this article, help and advice can be found here.

Samaritans is available day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

The Mental Health Helpline for Wales is available to take your call any time, day or night. Freephone 0800 132 737 or text 'help" to 81066 (charged at standard network rate)

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