Overcoming childhood trauma and building resilience

TW: discussion of sexual abuse as child







In this episode, Tamsin speaks to Lauren Penn about her experience of being sexually abused by her HIV positive father as a child. She talks about her ongoing recovery and the options for help that were available. Lauren hopes that speaking about her experiences may help others in her position or the other parent of people in her position.

Lauren Penn: "I'm a small business owner, Mama to 2 under 2, but also a survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of my HIV+ father. After speaking out myself, I want to empower other men and women that have suffered the same or similar ordeals!"

Contact Lauren



Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.

You can contact Tamsin at tamsin@smartdivorce.co.uk or arrange a free initial meeting using https://calendly.com/tamsin-caine/15min. She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK

Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Smart Divorce Ltd

P.S. I am the co-author of “My Divorce Handbook – It’s What You Do Next That Counts”, written by divorce specialists and lawyers writing about their area of expertise to help walk you through the divorce process. You can buy it by scanning the QR code…

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(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hi, something different for today's podcast, I am speaking to the amazingly brave, Lauren Penn. She was abused sexually by her own father at the age of 14. And she now is a mom of two and wants to talk openly about her experiences and how she came through it. And also to empower for those who have been through the same or similar experiences. She's an amazing young woman, I really hope that you find the episode interesting and useful. I think it enjoyable is probably the wrong word for these circumstances, but let's jump right in and hear what Lauren has to say.

Tamsin Caine 1:08
Hello, and today, I'm really, really chuffed to be joined by Lauren Penn. This is a bit of a different episode for us today. And I discovered lovely Lauren on on a group called lightbulb in Facebook. And she wants very much to tell her story. And it's not. It's not going to be a particularly light hearted episode, I don't think. But there's a hugely positive ending to it. But Lauren wants to tell her story to be able to help other people. So let me introduce Lauren: Lauren, thank you for joining me first of all, okay. So Lauren is a small business owner, Mama to two children under two. So she's quite clearly completely bonkers. But more importantly, she's a survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of her HIV positive father. After speaking out herself, she wants to empower other men and women that have suffered the same or similar ordeals. And I thought it would be useful to any of you who've either been in a similar position to Lauren, or you're divorcing somebody who has who has had a similar impact on one of your children. So, Lauren, can I start by asking you just to tell us a bit about your story?

Lauren Penn 2:38
Um, so yeah, like you said, I, when I was 14 years old, I was abused by my dad. He's also HIV positive. And that went on for around six months, he then got taken into custody, because my mom, like discovered what was happening. At the time, he was like, taken into custody. It had it stopped, but kind of looking back now I realise it probably hadn't stopped, it probably paused, rather than stopped. But yeah, then he's been in. He was in prison for four years, and then served the rest of his sentence on licence. And that's due to end in May. So he's really quite close to finishing his sentence.

Tamsin Caine 3:30
How are you feeling about that?

Lauren Penn 3:36
At the start, I wasn't, I wasn't too concerned about it kind of ending because he's got a Sapo in place, which means that he can't contact me directly or indirectly, like even when a sentence finishes. But I was kind of always under the impression that with, it meant that he couldn't live in the same area as me. But I've read more recently found out that that's not actually the case. So he said, That's kind of caused a bit more anxiety because he could move back to the area I live in. And although he can't contact me, there's nothing stopping him from kind of, I guess, loitering about

Tamsin Caine 4:17
Yeah, of course. It's not must be really friendly. So if I can, I don't want to dig up too many demons. But But when once your mom found out, she by the sound of it is a very brave lady as well. And she contacted the police straightaway, did she?

Lauren Penn 4:39
So she, I think she was just in shock. To be honest, she phoned her health visitor. But obviously knowing she would then have to kind of call the police but I think she was very concerned about how I would react because she knew that I'd obviously be distressed about everything coming out, kind of surfacing. And so her health visitor actually said, Well, why don't I make the phone call so that way, you're not having to be the one to kind of turn her life upside down, I guess so to speak. So the health visitor then agreed to call the police and everything. My mum naturally phoned my dad and confronted him. And he admitted to everything. And he said that he would wait to be taken into custody and and that's what he that's what he did. He didn't like run or anything like that. He stayed in his flat. Yeah, he pleaded guilty, like from the offset, so your sentence got reduced from 12 to eight years.

Tamsin Caine 5:44
Crickey. And were your parents divorced at the time?

Lauren Penn 5:49
They never actually married. So my dad left my mom when my mom was pregnant. So I never actually met my dad until I was 11.

Tamsin Caine 5:59
Right. Okay. Yeah. But they weren't so they weren't living together. I must have been so hard. And in terms of what happened afterwards, what support were you offered? And what did you What did you take?

Lauren Penn 6:19
At the time, I was very much like, I didn't want help at all, I any help that was kind of offered to me. I had social workers and like it was offered counselling and things. But although I was kind of made to do it, I just didn't engage with it at all. I had no interest in talking to people. And I did get given a, through a social worker, I got given a lady who like specifically specialised in like child exploitation and things. But I think she's, though, like one person that I actually engaged with, and like spoke to. Even now like we're not like officially, like working like together. But like, we still stay in touch. And like, she's coming to my wedding and things like that. I think she's like, definitely been like instrumental to kind of helping me move through it.

Tamsin Caine 7:18
She sounds brilliant. Yeah. How? How did you find her? She was she was through social work. Did you say

Lauren Penn 7:25
yeah, she was a like, I don't know if she would be considered a psychologist or what, but like a specialist that was given like privately. And then she kind of made the decision to that she was happy to keep in touch with me, even though like our work at the visually kind of finished, like through social workers.

Tamsin Caine 7:45
Bless her, she sounds brilliant. How, how long did it take of working with her before you felt able to tell your story public?

Lauren Penn 7:59
I say everything happened when I was 14. I hadn't like my like close family members knew like as a result of that my dad obviously been taken into custody. But other than that, I hadn't really spoken to anyone. I think kind of the turning point for me personally, was when I had my own daughter. And I think it really kind of hit home because I just looked at her. It was like, how, how could you do that? Like it just kind of so overwhelmed with love for her and I just couldn't comprehend how, how he could have done that.

Tamsin Caine 8:38
Yeah, no, I completely understand that. And they've talked about wanting to empower the people who've been in a similar position. What what's driving that?

Lauren Penn 8:51
I think just like personally, obviously, I have, I have struggled and stuff as a result of what's happened. But I want other people to know that although they've been through like terrible things. It doesn't have to, it doesn't have to be the end and you can still achieve things and flourish in what you're doing and things like they don't have to win and keep that hold over you.

Tamsin Caine 9:19
Absolutely. Is that what it feels like? Does it feel like if you don't make most of yourself that that he will have one?

Lauren Penn 9:27
Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Tamsin Caine 9:31
oh fantastic. So what what are you do just say that we've got that kind of, we've got the negative stuff but but positive from a positive perspective. You're obviously absolutely adore your children. And we've also got a business as well.

Lauren Penn 9:48
Yeah, so I own my own business like selling like a range of paper goods like home decor and nursery art, stationery and that's been going like really? Well. I finished my degree as well.

Tamsin Caine 10:07
Oh, that's fantastic. And you're getting married as well.

Lauren Penn 10:09
Yeah, in August. That's really positive things. Do you feel that? What happened to has impacted your relationships?

Lauren Penn 10:20
Yeah, I would say so like, especially as a teenager, like, my relationships were very kind of unstable. And I would be in quite a lot of, I guess, unhealthy relationships, because I think I think I had, like issues with attachment and stuff. I wasn't able to kind of recognise like, Okay, this person's treating me badly. And that's not okay. I was very much like, well, at least there's somebody there. And again, with like, trust issues as well, I think it definitely impacts that.

Tamsin Caine 10:58
Oh, bless you. And was it working with the lady that you talked about before that helped you through that? Do you think?

Lauren Penn 11:09
Yeah, definitely. I think she's, she's probably been kind of the only person that, like I said, that I've really engaged with, like, more recently, I've now kind of started trauma focused, like therapy. But it's only been very, like recently, licence, choosing to kind of speak out that I've been like, well, if I'm going to speak out and tell people that they can improve and move past things and stuff, then I obviously need to be doing that work for myself as well.

Tamsin Caine 11:42
Yeah, absolutely. But you sound like doing amazingly, just speaking out takes an incredible amount of bravery. I think. If if you were in the position that your mom was in it, the things that she was posed to start with are the things that did signs that you feel that she could have picked up on earlier to understand what was going on.

Lauren Penn 12:12
I don't think like it's not something that you would ever expect of anyone kind of at all, like, what happened is just completely kind of a porn. Like, you wouldn't expect that of anybody. I think I think she did know kind of something was going on with me, like she said, like that. She could see like, I was quite withdrawn and things but obviously, she had no idea that the reason for it was my dad and what had happened. I was having like issues with drugs and stuff at the time, so I feel like she believed it was more focused around that rather than what was actually going on.

Tamsin Caine 13:02
Yeah, I guess one thing could quite easily lead to the other fairly well, and if if you are in your mom's shoes and want it found out that was happening to your dose, what what would you what advice would you give to your mom to be able to help you in the best possible way?

Lauren Penn 13:29
I'm not even sure really like a looking back now. Like, I feel kind of awful to my mum because at the time I was very angry. But I can't even imagine now as a mum, like what that would have felt like and I know my mum carries a lot of guilt with it. Thinking like, oh, I should have protected her like I should have stopped it but like I've kind of told her more recently there's there was no way she could have known like that guilt isn't hers to kind of bear. Yeah.

Tamsin Caine 14:07
That's really sweet of you to to feel like that I guess. I guess as a mom. Well and you know, as a parent in most cases, who want to protect our children from anything that don't make I was a little teeny but even even then you you know you're stuffing them bumping their head or when they cry and this is like I can't even imagine what you both went through. And is there anything in particular that you that you want to get across that you want to make sure anybody is aware of who's been through similar duty?

Lauren Penn 14:50
Um, I feel like a lot with like survivors of abuse, they often hold a lot of shame. about like, what happened. And I guess just to tell people that that shame is completely not theirs. Like, you can't, you can't hold shame for things that somebody else has done to you. It's not an it's not in any way, like, therefore. I think like, I definitely struggled with shame, like for a long time, and it's just not yours to have, like, it's the perpetrator, who should be feeling that shame and that guilt and all the kinds of negative emotions that you kind of put yourself through.

Tamsin Caine 15:38
Yeah, absolutely correctly. Yeah. And just to kind of I don't know, add to that, like that feeling that you shouldn't be feeling shame. Since you started telling your story, what's what's the reaction been, like, from the people, some people that you spoke to?

Lauren Penn 15:59
It's been, it's been like, really, really positive, like before, kind of speaking to the papers. Like, I get quite anxious anyway. And I think I'd really kind of built myself up for the fact that there would be trolls or there would be like, some negative comments. But so far, like, I haven't experienced that at all, which has been really nice. And it's been quite moving as well, like, just the amount of people that have like a shown support, but also the amount of people have been like, I've experienced something similar and like, this has really helped me.

Tamsin Caine 16:38
Yeah, I think it's, it's an absolutely remarkable thing that you're doing there and speaking out, especially when you struggle with anxiety anyway to come up, out and speak out and speak to you know, the papers and and come on, in and guest on our podcast and really touch that you agreed to do it. And I know that your story will help lots of people. You've been absolutely amazing. I'm sure you're going to inspire so many people and your story is so incredibly positive. I'm so glad that you've come out of of what you've been through it with was such positive hadn't. And two fantastic little girls now and I really hope that your business goes super well. Well, we'll put your we'll put a link to if you've got a website.

Lauren Penn 17:32

Tamsin Caine 17:33
Fantastic! We'll put your website link in the show notes so that anybody who wants to do well, let's go and see what you're up to. They can they can have looking and get ordering some of your fabulous stuff. Thank you so much for joining me learn it's been a real pleasure talking to you.

Tamsin Caine 17:54
I hope you enjoy the episode of the Smart Divorce podcast. If you would like to get in touch please have a look in the show notes for our details or go on to the website www.smartdivorce.co.uk. Also, if you are listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify, and you wouldn't mind leaving us a lovely five star review. That would be fantastic. I know that lots of our listeners are finding this is incredibly helpful in their journey through separation divorce and dissolving a civil partnership. Also, if you would like some foot further support, we do have Facebook group now. It's called separation divorce and dissolution UK. Please do go on to Facebook, search up the group and we'd be delighted to have you join us. The one thing I would say do please answer their membership questions. Okay, have a great day and take care


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