I should have found a loving home. Instead I went from the frying pan into the fire. Her claw-like hands pressed down on my shoulders, pushing me under the bath water.   ‘No one wants you,’ she shrieked and she pushed my head further under the bubbles. ‘I’m going to do everyone a favour and get rid of you right now’.   ‘No! I screamed, my flailing arms battling against her.   But as I cried the water flooded into my mouth and I gulped frantically for breath.   This is it, I thought to myself as her hand pressed down on top of my head and the water went up my nose – I’m going to die.   Suddenly, I woke up sobbing, drenched with sweat. Panicked, I looked around the room. But there was no bath tub, no Mum, no six-year-old me.   It’s OK, it’s just a bad dream, I told myself as finally my breathing began to slow.   I had them most weeks, these flashbacks to my childhood. If you could could call it a childhood…   I’d been taken into care and put up for adoption before my first birthday.   Within a few months, I was placed with another family – Christine and Roger Morgan and their adoptive son.It should have been a new start, the end of my suffering. But instead, it was only the beginning.   To the outside world Christine Morgan had selflessly welcomed an unwanted child into her home. No doubt she revelled in her friends’ admiration.   Desperate to be part of a proper family, I called her ‘Mum’, Roger, ‘Dad’. But in return for my love, I was subjected to the most unimaginable abuse.   The violence started when I was just four years old. While other mothers were teaching their daughters how to tie their shoe laces, Mum told me how she hated me, how I was a waste of space and how she wanted me dead. While other children were sent off to school with packed lunch and a kiss, I was thrown out of the house in bleached, smelly clothes with holes in. ‘You’re disgusting, you don’t deserve any better,’ she told me. I was bullied by the other kids, given free school meals. And as I walked home alone, watching the other six-year-olds excitedly gabbing to their mums about their day, I couldn’t help wondering why I was so unloveable. What was wrong with me? One morning, I made the mistake of telling Mum I didn’t like egg on toast.   ‘You ungrateful bitch! Well maybe you’ll like it now,’ she said, spitting on it and handing back to me.   Instead of hugs and goodnight  kisses, Mum regularly grabbed me by the throat and pinned me against the wall, smacked me until my skin throbbed red and pulled my hair out in clumps. One day she left me with a huge lump on the back of my after pushing into a mantelpiece.   She made it quite clear that she hated me because she hadn’t been her first choice of child.   ‘I’d wanted twin boys but someone else had got them and I got lumped with you instead,’ she cruelly spat.   One time, when I was seven-years-old, Mum pinned me against the wall and stuffed a bleach-soaked cloth, which she’d been using to clean the toilet with, into my mouth. When I finally managed to wriggle out of her grasp, I was left with a burning sensation in my mouth and felt sick. But no matter how sick I felt, it was no way near as sick as Mum was. Because back then I truly believed Mum must be ill to do these awful things to me. Not once did she ever hug or kiss me. As I shrunk further into myself, tried to hide the bruises as I got changed for PE, school contacted social services. But even then Mum was able to lie her way out of trouble.   Dad was my only hope. A kind man who worked long hours, I only felt safe when he was at home. Mum never laid a finger on me then.   I loved our time together, Saturday afternoons spent on long walks or at the swimming baths while Mum seethed with jealously at home. But when questioned by social services, he backed Mum up.   Mum was a great actress in front of him, social services, the school, anyone who dared to question her. I guess it was easy enough to pass off a young girls cuts and bruises as clumsy accidents.   But as they walked out of the gate giving me a cheery wave, I couldn’t understand why, if she didn’t want me, she just didn’t give me back ?   Dad had me stumped, too. While I could see how strangers could be taken in by Mum’s lies, surely he must have had an inkling as to what was going on under his roof…?   Still, I never questioned him about it. It was just the ways things were.   As I grew older, I earned cash from a Saturday job to pay for Guides and gymnastics to avoid being in the house.   Richard was never there either. A troubled lad, he spent most of his time at the local juvenile detention centre. Looking back, I’m sure Mum abused him too. But we never discussed it. Like me, he kept things bottled up.   My time alone with Dad was the only thing that kept me going. For those few hours I could pretend that I was normal. A daughter spending time with her father.   Only then, in my last year of school, Dad fell ill with heart problems. He never really recovered and when I was 17, died of a heart attack.   I was at his bedside when he died.   ‘I’m so sorry for everything that happened,’ he croaked as the last breaths left his battered body. ‘I’ll never forgive myself for not helping you.’   So I’d been right. He’d lied to social services, knowing all about Mum’s evil acts. Maybe I should have felt cheated, angry. But instead I forgave him. Deep down, I think he was scared of Mum too and also didn’t want to risk me.   But with Dad gone the violence worsened.   A few months later, I found the strength to leave.   ‘Don’t go!’ Mum begged. ‘I don’t want to be on my own.’   But I felt nothing. No sympathy, just hate.   I started work full time to block out the memories, but suffered depression and began self-harming.   Eventually, I went to see my GP.   He referred me for counselling. But it was so painful, all those awful memories flooding back… how could I just put them into a box and move on? No, instead they haunted me, playing over and over.   I cut all ties to Mum. But even so, struggling to cope, at 25 I had a breakdown.   You can’t let her get away with this, the voices in my head begged.   I knew they were right but I didn’t know if I had it in me to take things further.   Only afternoon they grew so loud that I walked into the local police station and said I wanted to make a statement.   ‘You’ve got to help me,’ I told the duty officer. ‘This is affecting my mental health.’ Finally, somebody listened to me and Mum was charged.   ‘She’s lying!’ she screamed as the officers took her down to the station. ‘And after everything I did for her.’   When the case finally came to Southampton Crown Court last October, I was still too scared to face her. Instead, I gave evidence from behind a screen.   Mum denied all three charges against her but jurors took just over five hours to find her guilty on two charges of cruelty to a child under 16. She was cleared of one count of indecent assault.   The details of the case were so upsetting Mum was warned to expect prison but her failing health due to rheumatoid arthritis meant she got 250 hours community service and a two year suspended sentence instead.   I was devastated. In my opinion it was nowhere enough punishment for everything she’d put me through. As far as I was concerned, justice hadn’t been done   Now nine months on, I still feel let down by the system but I’m trying to move on. Christine Morgan stole my childhood. I won’t let her ruin my future, too.   Growing up, I blamed myself for the way I was treated because Mum told me it was my fault and as a child I knew no different. But I now I realise that she must have enjoyed abusing me.   Christine Morgan doesn’t know the first thing about being a mother. She should never have been allowed to adopt. The system needs to be much more closely monitored.   ENDS