Two women who are reportedly cousins have spoken of the disturbing sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the same man as children. They only discovered that they were both victims when he was put on trial earlier this year.
Jo Keegan, 48, and Tracy Gibson, 54, from Barnsley, UK tried their best to hide the fact that they had been sexually molested and raped by John Kelk, now 68, when they were children. Jo was John’s niece and Tracy was his stepdaughter. The duo has now detailed the horrific abuse they endured, including being penetrated with a screwdriver and being forced to drink weed killer as a punishment.
Both Jo and Tracy reportedly complained to their mothers about John when they were children but were dismissed. When Tracy confided to her mother about the abuse, she was told she must have been a “dirty little s**t.” John received a 30-year prison sentence in May this year after he was convicted of 22 offenses, including rape and sexual assault, committed in the 1970s and 80s. Both Jo and Tracy testified against the perp and were shocked to discover during the trial that they were both victims of his abuse.
Tracy recalled how John would babysit her on Friday afternoons when she came home from school. He reportedly began sexually abusing her when she was 10 years old. “He used to have a smell about him, one that I will never forget, it was vile and for 45 years it never left me,” she said. “I used to dread Fridays it was usually the day I would see my father but, as my parents weren’t together, until he came to get me, I would be with John. He would rape me and it would hurt and make me bleed. He would make me get in the bath afterwards.”
Tracy remembered the disturbing ordeal that saw John violate her with foreign objects like a screwdriver or a lollipop. “There was one time that I screamed and told him to stop and he threw me off the bed and grabbed me by the scruff of my neck,” she continued. “He then took me to another room where there was a black case and told me there was a gun inside. He told me that if I told anyone he would shoot my father. After that, I avoided seeing my father and even told him I hated him and didn’t want to see him again. In my own way as a child, I was trying to protect him, I watched my dad walk down the path with tears in his eyes and wouldn’t see him again until I was in my late teens.”
John later told the court that the black box contained a “fishing tackle” and that he had “never owned a gun.” Jo, meanwhile, described how the perp sexually abused her on a regular basis after starting a relationship with her mother when she was seven. She remembered him making her drink weed killer as punishment, something that makes “her feel sick thinking about” even today. “He would often abuse me and took me downstairs once and told me to drink weed killer. It had all floaty bits on top of it,” Jo told the Daily Mail. “He told my mother I had drank it myself and she called an ambulance, she told me as I was about to go to the hospital ‘you had better tell them that you did it yourself or he will do the job properly next time.'”
Both victims mustered the courage to confide in their respective mothers, but their pleas for help were dismissed. “My mother just said to me ‘well you’ve been a dirty little s**t then,'” Tracy, a mother of four, recalled. “I cared for her, but I didn’t like her. She’s dead now but I never let my kids know that I didn’t like her or why, as she had a relationship with them. She knew it was going on but didn’t protect me.” Meanwhile, Jo said she told her mother about the abuse when she was just nine. “She knew he was abusing me and did nothing, when I told her she dragged me into the living room and made me repeat what I had said in front of him,” she explained. “Of course, he denied it and called me a liar. That was the night he made me drink the weed killer. She let it happen and didn’t protect me. I didn’t feel a thing when she died. She was no mother. And I realized that when I had my own children, how I wouldn’t let anyone hurt them. How could she let someone do that to me?”
Jo said she was painted as the “black sheep” of the family and visitors to their home were told that she was a “liar.” She then tried to tell social workers about the situation, but John and her mother reportedly tried to blame her biological father instead. “John knew that my mother would cover for him, so he didn’t need to threaten me much,’ she explained. “He was more important to her than anything else. When I said something she would remind me that he brought money into the house. I found out later that my biological dad had one of his kids taken away from him over the accusation.”
Tracy bemoaned how the abuse affected every aspect of her life, from her relationship with men to her schooling. She remembered being “timid” and being placed in the “duggie class” before she eventually left school without any qualifications. However, she continued to be plagued by nightmares of the abuse and decided to finally reach out to the authorities after decades of suffering in silence. She later discovered her cousin Jo had already reported the abuse she suffered to the police the previous year.
Tracy said she didn’t expect there to be “other victims” of John until Jo came forward. “I never thought there would be other victims, and when I saw he had married Jo’s mother I thought it would stop, he wouldn’t touch her as her mum was there,” she said. John had reportedly stopped abusing Jo when she became a teenager and started dating. Nonetheless, she left home as soon as she could.
Jo first reported her abuser to the police in 1995 but felt she wasn’t taken seriously. She was successful in her second attempt to report John in 2018. “I was messed up for a while over it but then I told myself I had two choices, I could either let it affect me or not and I decided not to allow it to impact me,” Jo said of how the abuse affected her. “It hasn’t disrupted my sexual relationships and like Tracy, I was just glad to be believed and finally have my story heard. No one ever believed me – and that’s the message I want to pass on, keep speaking up until someone listens. I kept reporting him and in the end, we won.”
John would admit after being sentenced that the victims’ testimonies were true but he “didn’t want to die in prison.” His barrister Richard Canning told the court that his client was “not a well man” and that he was “sorry” for his actions. However, Jo told John in court, “The truth is that you don’t deserve the time and effort in my thoughts. I have no time for people like you.” Judge Sarah Wright declared, “Those girls were subjected to repeated sexual abuse and acts of a degrading and violent nature. The impact on their lives has been devastating, their childhood cannot be reclaimed after enormous psychological harm.” Now, both Jo and Tracy are looking forward to helping sexual abuse victims and are determined to spread their message of support and understanding as much as possible, the Daily Mail reported.