Balerno child rape and sexual assault victims speak of lasting trauma which has ‘ruined’ parts of their lives after abuser is jailed for 5 years

A transgender man who was raped as a child and a woman who was molested as a girl by the same Balerno predator have waived their right to anonymity to speak about the lasting trauma caused by their abuser.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 4:55 am

Cody Cummings was abused and raped from the age of 12 by his second cousin, Steven Telford. He carried out the abuse in 2007 when he was 16 and it lasted until he turned 18. Cody said much of this happened out of sight at his grandmother’s home in the Edinburgh suburb. Cody was a schoolgirl at the time of the incidents but now identifies as male.

In 2003, ten-year-old Erin Collins was also molested by Telford, formerly of Deanpark Avenue in Balerno, after he seized her by her clothes and pulled her to the ground in a local playpark. He was still in school and aged 12 at the time.

Her mother told the Edinburgh Evening News previously that Telford told police her daughter had only started crying because she fell off her bike. Despite the lack of evidence to charge Telford, police kept the incident on file and, after Cody spoke out about his abuse to a nurse at a gender clinic in 2017, police were contacted and both cases were taken to court.

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Cody Cummings (right) and Erin Collins have spoken out about the impact of their past abuse. Pictures: supplied

Last week at the High Court in Edinburgh, Telford was jailed for five years after being found guilty of five charges against his two victims, including two of rape against Cody. Telford, now 30, was also told he would be put on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely.

Judge Lady Carmichael said he would have faced a greater sentence had he been an adult when he committed the offences - and she also took into account he had learning difficulties.

Cody’s story

But Cody told the Edinburgh Evening News that he still suffers from serious mental health issues 13 years on from Telford’s abuse - and he has previously attempted to take his own life.

Cody during his school years.

Now aged 25, Cody said: “I am still scared to go out of the door. Before it happened I always went out as a child.

“It’s also ruined relationships and I have been pushing people away because I feel I should isolate or detach myself from feelings.”

Cody, who lives in Midlothian, recalled the abuse starting with inappropriate touching and kissing before it progressed to sexual assaults and rape. He still experiences flashbacks and said that reliving the events in court was extremely difficult.

Eventually he stopped going to his grandmother’s house and the abuse ended, but the trauma led to later diagnoses of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post traumatic stress disorder. Cody also suffers from anxiety and depression and would self-harm at school.

Erin with her fiancé, Donald, and wearing a t-shirt representing sexual assault awareness on the right.

Cody was 15 when he first told his mother about the abuse but it was not until four years ago it was reported to police. This followed a discussion with a gender clinic nurse who encouraged him to open up about past traumas in order to progress his gender transition and try and move forward with his life.

Cody hopes that getting justice can help give him some closure in order to move on - but he believes Telford’s five year prison sentence fails to reflect the serious impact it has had on his life for many years.

He said: “It’s not enough. I was a minor and he was of age to have sex, and so he was an adult to me and it should be seen that way.

“If this hadn't happened I would not have anything to be traumatic about. BPD happens when you have been hit by severe trauma. I now have to find a balance in life and start living it.”

Steven Telford was jailed for five years.

Erin’s story

Erin, who is now 28, also suffers flashbacks to the sounds and smells of the day she was sexually assaulted by Telford in a Balerno playpark. She says: “It’s as if I’m time warped.”

During the trial in March, Erin told the court she went to the park with friends who ran off when Telford and others turned up before he pulled her to the ground by the back of her hoodie top. He put his hand down her trousers and told her she “will be dead” if she told anyone about it. She then kicked him and stood up and ran home to her bedroom.

Erin, who still suffers from anxiety and depression linked to the childhood attack, said: “I think the prison sentence should have been longer because I do not feel it’s fitting punishment for the crime. Me and Cody have life sentences.

“That innocence that a child should have, I feel like I was robbed of it since the moment it happened. There are after effects which last with it, the trust issue with other people who haven’t done anything dangerous. Suddenly you have a 10ft wall around you to protect yourself.”

Erin said her studies and abilities to form relationships in her teenage years were severely affected as she regularly saw her abuser in the same part of the primary school she attended, as well as in high school. She said she often felt disbelieved by others around her.

After school and college, Erin pulled out of her quest to become a nursery teacher – one assessment from the end of the course – when Telford turned up at a nursery she worked at to do some plumbing work.

She then moved to Glasgow where she met her fiancé, Donald Richardson, and they now have three children together. In the time she has been away from Balerno, Erin says she has been unable to visit her own mother there due to the risk of seeing Telford.

Erin remains concerned about the possibility of Telford returning to his former home upon release from prison, as it is located near a local primary school and the playpark where she was attacked.

She said one of the positives from the court case was meeting Cody because he understood her experience.

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