This article contains details which may upset some readers

Michelle Sallis was just eight-years-old when she was first raped by her step-dad.

Over the next five years, depraved David Sallis would continue to subject Michelle to weekly incidents of sexual abuse and rape, in acts of sheer callousness which he later brazenly admitted to, saying he, “just wanted to know what it felt like to have sex with someone else”.

Sallis, now 47, was jailed for 14 years and three months at Preston Crown Court in August, for five counts of rape, and assault by penetration - almost 20 years after he first entered his step-daughter’s bedroom at the home they shared in Edenfield.

Lancashire Telegraph: Michelle aged around seven or eightMichelle aged around seven or eight (Image: Michelle Sallis)

Now, brave and courageous Michelle, 27, has waived her right to anonymity to speak about the effect the abuse had on her, why she could only bring herself to report the crimes some 17 years after they began, and why, after saying she was failed in some respects by Victim Support, she wants her story to play a part in helping other victims of sexual abuse.

Speaking exclusively to the Lancashire Telegraph, Michelle said she refuses to let what Sallis did define her but knows the abuse has played a part in shaping her into the person she’s become today.

She said: “I don’t want my story to define me, but I want to try and help others by speaking out, if I can.

“I have characteristics that have been caused by what happened, but I can’t go through life like that, blaming things on the past.

“The abuse began in 2004, when I was about eight, and stopped when I was 12, as I used to just stay out of the house a lot. But I only reported it in 2021 when I was 25.

“I wanted to go and visit my auntie but she said I needed to go to my mum's for half an hour first. I told her I didn't want to go and said I'd explain why in the car.

“I suppose I’d just got to the stage where I was sick of carrying it around with me, feeling angry and anxious all the time, and I was suffering with complex PTSD, and just knew I had to tell someone.

“So, I told my auntie, and we both went round to my mum’s that day and confronted David, and he openly admitted it.

“When I asked him why he’d done it he just said, ‘I wanted to know what it felt like to have sex with someone else’.

“After the confrontation, my auntie went to have a phone call with my cousin outside and he ended up coming round and he was the one who called the police, and they arrived really quickly.

“If you’ve not gone through something like that yourself you can’t possibly know how it felt, but I was so full of adrenalin, I was shaking.”

Lancashire Telegraph: David SallisDavid Sallis (Image: Lancs Police)

Michelle said that her mum had met Sallis, who is originally from Peterborough, while they were holidaying there in 2002/3, when she was six, and he moved in shortly after, with the abuse and grooming beginning almost immediately.

She said: “It started with him building an inappropriate relationship, when I look back, he was always taking me out alone and building a close relationship, and when I was seven that’s when it escalated.”

She said at first the abuse started in her bedroom, but would then take place on the sofa, with Sallis touching her underneath a blanket.

Later, the abuse would progress to the garden, and some of the incidents of rape would happen when Sallis took Michelle camping, pitching up tents in what she called “random fields”.

READ MORE: Paedophile David Sallis abused his child victim for 5 years

She recalls going on a trip to Peterborough, just her and Sallis, to visit his sister, with the abuse continuing there.

And Michelle said Sallis, of Whalley Banks, Blackburn, even dared to touch her while they were all in her mother’s bed, her mother asleep after taking some sleeping pills.

She went on: “I didn’t really understand it at first, I just thought it was normal what he was doing to me. There was no aggression in it.

“Social services had been involved with me growing up, but they didn’t pick up on it and I suppose I just didn’t know to tell them or didn’t want to tell them for fear of being taken away.

Lancashire Telegraph: Michelle nowMichelle now (Image: Michelle Sallis)

“It was only when doing sex education at school did I realise what was happening wasn’t right. But I was too scared to say anything.

“Then throughout my teens I thought there was something wrong with me. I used to act out and disassociate from things. I had bad anxiety but never put the two and two together.

“I was angry, so filled with anger, and I felt dirty too. I started drinking quite a bit, and self-harming, but then when I eventually told someone, it was like a weight had shifted.

“I did a lot of research on trauma and learnt about anxiety and PTSD and realised that I could either let what happened to me shape me, or I could shape myself, and I chose to shape myself.

“I only realised how strong I am because of the situation.”

Despite being brave enough to speak out, Michelle said her experience with the criminal justice system and Victim Support has been far from straightforward, and it took more than two years for Sallis to be sentenced after she initially reported the crimes.

She said: “The officer in charge of the case, Phil Scott, he was the one that kept me up to date with everything. He did everything for me behind the scenes and the police were excellent.

“I was referred to Victim Support pretty early on in the investigation, and they are the ones who are supposed to provide the counselling etc, but I got nothing from them.

“I think I received an initial letter but then nothing until they informed me it would be going to trial.

“I was supposed to be assigned a case worker, but I didn’t get one, and when I phoned to enquire they said my case didn’t exist and they had to open it again.

“There’s a process too where you get a tour of the court before having to attend and I didn’t even get that.

“I wasn’t offered any counselling, I had to source that myself through work, and then when he finally pleaded and it went to sentence, it was adjourned three times and Victim Support didn’t even let me know.

“Apart from Phil, I had no one else. Victim Support should have informed me of what was going on but instead I had to rely on the police.

“I was really lucky Phil was so good, he really cared, and had I not had him there I don’t know what I would have done.

Lancashire Telegraph: Michelle nowMichelle now (Image: Michelle Sallis)

“Having to relive everything that happened was bad enough, but not having that extra support there, not having the options available to me explained, being left in the dark, I feel I was let down a bit by the system.

“There were times when I thought I didn’t want to go through with it all, I was scared I wouldn’t be believed and I got victim guilt, if you can call it that – I don’t like to hurt people even if they’ve hurt me, and I am very aware of what can happen in prisons.

“David damaged me and hurt a child, but the only thing I could think was he could get battered in prison.

“It happens a lot I think, that guilt, especially when the offences are historical, as you think ‘is anything going to get done’, ‘are the police going to fight for me’, and then to not receive support from the system…it’s hard.”

Michelle, who now lives in Bolton and works as an auxiliary nurse, says by sharing her story she hopes she can help others who may have experienced similar things, and wants them to know that there are people out there who can offer support.

She said she’d like to see more people speaking out about abuse, even if they choose to remain anonymous, as it can sometimes provide comfort for others.

Michelle, whose family haven't spoken to her since the investigation, also believes there should be more support for the families of victims who may find it hard to come to terms with what has happened.

She went on: “I don’t think my story is something I should be ashamed of and I think waiving my right to anonymity only makes me human.

“People might be more keen to share their stories, and know that they’ll be believed. You don’t have to stay in the dark or suffer in your own way.

“I was brought up around people that I didn’t want to be like, and now I want a life I can be proud of, not one I’m ashamed of.”

Michelle, who still has Sallis’ surname has considered changing it so she can leave that chapter of her life behind, but has yet to make a firm decision.

She is also keen to work with any charities who may provide support to victims of sexual abuse in order to help make a difference in people’s lives.

She added: “You have to be brave as a victim, you have to be to go through something like I did. And even if you think you’re not, even if you don’t speak out, you can be brave in other ways.”

A spokesperson from Victim Support said: “We want to say a huge apology to Michelle, we are incredibly sorry to hear her account of not getting the support she needed from our services. It is absolutely vital that all victim-survivors are listened to and get timely, specialist and tailored support to help them cope and recover.

“We hold ourselves to a very high standard and want to reassure that we remain dedicated to delivering support that meets the needs of victim-survivors. We acknowledge Michelle’s experience and take it very seriously – we are taking steps to establish why this happened and to ensure it does not happen again.”