Sickening ordeal: Louise has finally got justice but at great cost
A woman who was raped by her brother as a child has won justice but paid the heavy price of being disowned by their parents.
Brave Louise Palmer, 38, suffered in silence for decades as her strict Jehovah’s Witness parents protected her abuser.
She was only five when 14-year-old Richard Davenport started molesting her.
He had moved into a caravan in the family’s garden because of a strained atmosphere in the house.
He would offer to take little Louise to stay with him, supposedly to shield her from domestic violence scenes, but actually as an opportunity to abuse her.
For six years Davenport, now 47, put helpless Louise through hell. He stopped only when her periods started and he feared she may get pregnant.
She told parents Trevor and Diane and church elders about the vile abuse but shockingly they did nothing for fear of bringing shame on the name of God.
Last month Louise’s mum and dad were at Wolverhampton crown court where Davenport denied two charges of raping his sister and three of indecently assaulting her.
But they were there for him, not Louise. He was found guilty on all the charges and jailed for 14 years.
Mum-of-two Louise, who waived her right to anonymity, felt she had once again been betrayed.
Jailed: Richard Davenport
She told the Sunday People: “My parents chose my brother over me, even when they knew what he’d done. I can’t forgive them.
“I was very close to Mum, we were best friends. How she has reacted is not the Mum I know.”
Louise is now to campaigning to reform the “oppressive” church and stop other youngsters’ suffering.
“I’m speaking as I want other abuse victims to know that no matter how long ago the crime, they can come forward and be believed. Help is out there, they are never alone.”
Louise kept her abuse secret for decades. Her brother threatened and emotionally blackmailed her.
On one occasion he begged her: “Please don’t tell the police – I’m not prison material.”
Witnesses: Louise’s parents Trevor and Diane
She now believes the Jehovah’s Witnesses, including her mum and dad, wanted to hush up the abuse by using a shocking and little-known two-witness rule.
This means they do not alert police as allegations are investigated internally only if a second witness was present.
She was strongly advised against reporting the abuse to police because it would bring reproach on God’s name and reflect badly on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Louise said: “They said there were stories of other sisters who had been in a similar situation of abuse and had turned to Jehovah and prayed. They said our religion would help me get over it.”
The Davenports were seen as a respectable family, and pillars of the community in their home town of Halesowen, West Midlands. Yet the court heard claims that behind closed doors mum-of-four Diane suffered domestic violence at Trevor’s hands.
Meanwhile Louise was being groomed for sex by her brother yards away. She said: “I remember how he used to wear patchouli oil and burnt incense sticks while jazz would be playing.
“He also had books on the occult in the caravan. I don’t know why. That was against what the Jehovah’s Witnesses stood for. I don’t remember being scared but there were things he forced me to do. As I got older he said if I told, I’d go into care and he to prison.
“Then he’d ask me who would protect mum. It was blackmail.”
Innocent: Louise aged around seven
He stopped only when Louise began her periods. “He said we have got to stop ‘as you might get pregnant’. It never happened again.
“Somehow I pushed what had happened to me into a little self-preservation box inside my head and tried to forget.”
Davenport first left home at 16. He married, had children and even became a school governor in recent years.
He dropped in and out of Louise’s life but only once mentioning what he had done, when Louise was in her early teens, on the way back from the cinema.
She said: “He said he thought we should tell Mum and Dad. I said no as I feared I would get into trouble because I had kept it a secret.
“I now know he was being controlling, manipulative. It was reverse psychology, kind of, ‘Forget it now then, I gave you the option to tell.’ He just wanted to keep that fear there.”
For years, what happened in the caravan remained hidden, as Louise, who had become a mum but also divorced, bravely tried to carry on with her life as a Jehovah’s Witness. But that changed when Davenport briefly returned to the parental home and acted as if nothing had happened – while a little girl relative was sitting on his knee.
Louise said: “We were talking about childhood and Davenport said, ‘It was not as bad as you remember’ to me. I replied it was, but he argued it wasn’t.
“The combination of the girl being sat on his lap and him talking about my childhood… it all suddenly came back to me, literally at that moment.”
Louise spiralled into a cycle of self-destructive behaviour.
She said: “I was drinking, doing things I wasn’t proud of, going out secretly clubbing, having secret boyfriends as I struggled with my self-esteem. My emotions were everywhere. I was punishing myself for what happened to me and I never really respected myself. I wanted someone to love me.”
In 2005 she told her father, by now a respected elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he fell to the floor wailing.
Three other male church leaders were invited to hear what Louise had revealed.
She said they were sympathetic but urged her not to receive counselling as it would bring shame on the religion.
“They said, ‘If you want to get counselling, come to us.’ But why would I go and speak to three men about my sexual abuse?” Louise later learned of the religion’s two-witness rule.
It is now being challenged by campaigners who fear that other victims like Louise are going unheard.
When Diane and Trevor got Davenport and Louise together he denied rape but broke down. Louise recalled: “He said, ‘Please don’t tell the police... I’m not jail material, I won’t cope in prison.’
“It was emotional blackmail all over again. It was, ‘I’m your brother, I love you loads, we have both got families now.’”
Happier: Hug from fiance Kevin
Louise agreed not to go to the police but changed her mind in 2013 when her parents invited Davenport and family on holiday near where she lived. She feared she could bump into him and demanded her dad withdraw the invite.
He refused and as Louise had left the religion her parents have ended contact with her. Davenport was arrested at his home in Tayvallich, Argll and Bute.
Louise, now with a fiancé called Kevin, 36, said of her parents and brother: “I can’t forgive them. Knowing they cast me out, despite knowing what he did, there is no way I’d have them back in my life. They have failed me too many times.”
A Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman said: “Richard Davenport was never a Jehovah’s Witnesses. We abhor child abuse.
“The safety of our children is of the utmost importance.” Trevor Davenport refused to comment.