A VICTIM of disgraced dance teacher Thomas Cox has spoken out about her experiences in the hope that it might inspire more victims of sexual abuse to come forward.
Now 21, the former Bohunt schoolgirl, who has asked to remain anonymous, was aged just 11 when she was groomed by the then 16-year-old Cox at his mother’s dance school, which cannot be named for legal reasons.
After eight years of torment, she finally found the courage to call the police in 2016, and after a two-year investigation, Cox was sentenced to seven years behind bars in September.
Speaking to The Herald after taking the stand in Cox’s trial, the victim said a great weight had been lifted off her, and she now hopes to work with schools and charities to empower other abuse victims to speak out.
“It’s been the most crazy two years of my life, and once I’d stood in court I felt this weight had lifted, and then when I found out he was found guilty it felt like I could fly. Honestly, it’s incredible,” she said.
Described by police as “disturbed” and “predatory”, Cox was also a trainee teacher at an independent school near Farnham, where one of his victims was also a pupil. The school also cannot be named for risk of indirectly identifying Cox’s victims, but The Herald understands the assaults did not take place at the school.
His youngest victim, who joined the dance school when she was just three years old and remained a member right up until she made her allegations in 2016, continued: “The whole school became like a family, it was a community. His mum was my dance teacher and he was the older boy in the dance school that every girl had a crush on because he was an incredible dancer.”
She said that it was when she started to get “really good” that the abuse began.
“It went on for maybe two or three months, and he made it out like I was his girlfriend and I was the most beautiful person in the world at a time when I’d never been called beautiful other than by my mum and dad. He said all the right things and made it out like it was normal.
“But it was a massive secret, something that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about. He was 16, and my main reason for not coming forward earlier was because I didn’t think I could because he was only 16. But I remember one day talking to one of my friends and his little 11-year-old sister was there. I just looked at her and thought ‘oh my gosh, you are a baby’.
“That was when I fully realised that just because he was only 16, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong.”
At the culmination of the trial, investigating officer Detective Constable David Jones described Cox as a “disturbed individual” who turned to emotional blackmail to ensure his victims didn’t talk.
“It was very much like I love you and you can never leave me, and when I turned around and said I didn’t want to do it anymore he said ‘no, you can’t, you can’t end this and if you do I will tell everyone what you did’,” the victim said.
“As an 11-year-old girl that was quite frightening because I thought I might lose dancing, which I loved, and all my friends. He had a hold over a lot of people. The mums loved him, the girls loved him and the boys at the dance school looked up to him as if he was their role model. But then I met him again and realised he didn’t want anyone to know either. That was when I completely cut it off.
“It didn’t really affect me straightaway, I just knew that I hated him and carried on dancing and tried to push past it. It took a couple of years for me to properly realise what had happened.
“It was just something that I never wanted to talk about, I just pushed it away and tried to forget about it because I thought nothing was going to come of it. I now realise that was completely and utterly the wrong thing to do.”
The moment that changed her mind was when Cox and his mum failed to turn up for a dance presentation and she discovered another girl had come forward and made an allegation against him.
“As soon as I heard that another girl had come forward, I knew I had to stand next to her, it didn’t matter how painful it was going to be. Coming forward was the hardest part, having to dig up everything that I had been pushing away for so many years. But it was always there and in the end it was so worth it.”
She added that the police were “just incredible”, “so kind and easy to talk to, and so understanding”, and kept her regularly updated over the course of the two-year investigation.
“My main goal in coming forward was to inspire other girls to come forward. It stripped everything away from me - it took away my passion, broke my whole family up and my mental health completely spiralled.
“But now it’s over I am so much more confident, I am able to hold my head high, and there is so much pride inside of me for what I have done.”
* If you suspect anyone of committing offences like the ones mentioned above, call the police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency).
Support and advice is also available from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) via nspcc.org.uk or its helpline on 0808 800 5000.