From the age of 3, Vanessa lived in daily terror of her mother's unpredictable rage. If she was 'naughty', her mother would lash out at her – with beatings, torture, starvation and making Vanessa sleep in their garden's pigsty, tied up like an animal. Her mother said her punishments were God's revenge on her for being the devil's child. Her father lived in denial of her suffering.
When she was 6 years old, Vanessa's grandfather began to sexually abuse her – to her despair, aided and abetted by both her mother and grandmother. At eight years old, she then discovered that the 'mother' who hated her so much had adopted her as a baby and would never love her as her own.
At the most horrific times of Vanessa's abuse, she nearly lost all hope that she would escape her prison, until mysterious things started to happen to her that allowed her to fight back.
This is the story of how Vanessa survived a childhood that nearly destroyed her and how her secret led her out of the horrors of her past.
Phoebe, an autistic nine-year-old girl, is taken into police protection after a chance comment to one of her teachers alerts the authorities that all might not be what it seems in her comfortable, middle-class home. Experienced foster carer Rosie accepts the youngster as an emergency placement knowing that her autism will represent a challenge – not only for her but also for the rest of the family.
But after several shocking incidents of self-harming, Pica and threats to kill, it soon becomes apparent that Phoebe’s autism may be the least of her problems.
Locked for nine years in a secret world of severe abuse, as Phoebe opens up about her horrific past, her foster carer begins to suspect that Phoebe may not be suffering from autism at all.