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Byline: CIARAN JONES Investigations Editor

AWELSH actress who was sexually abused as a child today reveals how her innocence was destroyed by a trusted family friend.

Brave Rachel Isaac, who starred with Ricky Gervais in The Office as Trudy and has appeared on Broadway, spoke out after seeing Michael Batten jailed.

Rachel was a happy eight-year-old when Batten began abusing her in the home he shared with wife Non - known by the little girl as "Mam Two".

Today Rachel reveals how: Batten terrified her into keeping the abuse secret by telling her she could be sent to prison; The former British Rail worker contin-ued to visit her on Christmas Day in the years after assaulting her; The abuse led her to develop ME, and; ? Why she decided to waive her ano-nymity and talk publicly. Rachel, now 38, spent time at the home Batten, now aged 70, shared with his wife in Maesteg, Bridgend.

The youngster would visit on Saturday mornings after tap-dancing lessons, often staying for lunch or walking the couple's red setters, Callum and Fergus.

"There was a very clear grooming process by him over time," said Rachel. "I liked him - he played the banjo and would play Welsh music. I would go for a walk with him over to the park."

Rachel said: "He just slowly turned what was normal adult behaviour with a child into slightly sexual grooming stuff.

"He transformed one thing into another - he gained my trust emotionally and physically, I suppose. The abuses accumulated over time - he built up his repertoire, the kind of things he would do."

She added: "The sexual abuses themselves were frightening and have had a very long-term damaging effect. But the thing I believe affected me just as much were the lies and the threats from him.

"He lied by saying that if anybody found out what we were doing we would go to prison. He tried to make me complicit and he succeeded, I believed him."

Rachel was left with the belief she would be taken away from her loving parents, engineer dad William and journalist mum Jayne, if the abuse was uncovered.

Opportunistic Batten, then in his early 40s, assaulted the youngster when his teacher wife was out of the living room.

"It was always when Non had gone to peg the washing out, or make food. What she did was perfectly normal, she never left me unattended in a bad way. She had no idea.

"They used to close doors because the dogs would fight so it provided him with good cover."

"As a Year Four pupil in school, Rachel said she recalls feeling "really isolated," adding: "I knew there was something wrong with me and that I was different."

Following two years of abuse, Rachel escaped by joining a Saturday morning gymnastics class and stopped spending time at Batten's house.

"But he would come to my house every Christmas morning to bring presents. So all through my teens I used to dread him turning up."

On those occasions Batten's behaviour would appear normal.

"He was very friendly. He didn't try to avoid me, it was the opposite.

"He had no shame and no fear that I would say anything, clearly. He had done his work. " After her parents divorced she and younger sister Morwenna moved with their mother to Bridgend and Rachel saw less of her tormentor.

She only revealed her darkest secret as an 18-year-old after spotting Batten in a shopping centre.

Rachel was so traumatised she could not tell her best friend in person, preferring to write a letter. Her career began to blossom and she landed two film roles before appearing in ITV romance I Saw You. She played Trudy in the second series of The Office before touring America and doing a stint on Broadway in Greek tragedy Medea. "I convinced myself I was doing okay. I was very lucky to have a career in the arts. I was like 'Tick, tick, I'm not damaged.' "But what I missed was how happy I could have been achieving those things, meeting such brilliant people.

Even on the day of my wedding - we were together for about seven years - I remember the feeling of being frightened. It pervaded every area of my life."

Rachel became the main carer for her father, who died of a brain tumour in August 2008.

She then became seriously ill herself, attending more than 150 hospital appointments from 2008 onwards after being diagnosed with ME.

The ordeal at such a young age had "hard-wired" the fight-or-flight response in her brain, leaving her in a continuously heightened state.

As she battled ME, Rachel found the strength to confront what had happened and spent a year composing an emotional 12-page letter to her abuser.

"I wanted to tell him I had not forgiven him and I had not forgotten," she said.

Cruel Batten sent a terse 10-line reply, concluding with the words: "I'm sorry for any hurt you feel I may have caused."

Rachel said: "The letter was only to shut me up. There was no heartfelt apology or explanation."

With the support of sexual abuse charity One in Four, Rachel reported Batten to the police.

"I still partly believed that nobody would believe me. Part of me had forgotten I am not a child any more, part of me was still trapped in that frightened, stuck, colluding 'bad girl' kind of thing."

The night before he was due to be arrested, Rachel told her mother and sister about the abuse.

Their support helped her get through the stress of giving evidence at Batten's trial earlier this year.

"Standing in the witness box telling people about this horrendous abuse was totally off the scale in terms of how to measure my level of fear and worry and stress," she said.

Batten, who has been married for 37 years and has two children from a previous relationship, denied three counts of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child. Jurors convicted him of each offence by an 11-1 majority.

Rachel said: "For me it is the best possible outcome. It's out in the open, he is in jail and justice has prevailed."

While he spent more than a month on bail awaiting sentencing after being convicted, Batten lived life as normal - going out for meals and attending a weekly pub quiz, leading to a boycott by other patrons.

On Thursday, Batten, of Neath Road, Maesteg, was jailed for a total of 30 months at Cardiff Crown Court. Judge Neil Bidder QC told him he had led a "brainwashing" campaign against his vulnerable child victim "to prevent her from telling anyone, which was probably as damaging to her as the actual assaults".

Addressing the pensioner, he added: "Apart from this abuse you have lived a blameless life - but your good character has been based on a lie."

His wife's shoulders shook as she wept in the public gallery and twice mouthed "I love you" to her husband as he was led to the cells.

Rachel accepted her latest acting job on the same day Batten was convicted - a part in Jeppe Ronde's film Suburbs, shot in Bridgend.

She praised South Wales Police and Detective Constable Melanie Deere for bringing the case to justice and hoped by waiving her legal right to anonymity it would persuade other victims to do the same.

"I realise now that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I was preyed upon by an evil adult when I was a young, happy, trusting child. It is only he who should be filled with shame."

Anyone affected by sexual abuse can contact charity One in Four on 020 8697 2112


Paedophile Michael Batten

TV's The Office actress Rachel Isaac and, below, with cast WALES NEWS
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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