FOR a 14-year-old girl it was love, but 16 years on Stacey Fernandes is finally coming to terms with a relationship which left lasting damage.
Stacey (now 30) has chosen to waive her right to anonymity and share her story in a bid for closure after her former guitar teacher Nicholas Watson was jailed for 30 months for two counts of indecent assault on Tuesday.
Watson (46), of Rowan Avenue, Spalding, was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for life for the charges, which date back to 1996 and 1997.
Stacey finally reported her two-year relationship to the police 14 years later in 2010 after getting her life back on track.
Her story starts in 1996, when Watson, a former school friend of her stepfather, was asked to give Stacey guitar lessons to help boost her confidence. It resulted in a secret two-year sexual relationship.
She said: “I had always viewed it as a relationship despite the age gap. It was only on talking through everything with a counsellor when I had post-natal depression that it made me realise it was something else.
“At that point I disclosed everything to my family in detail. They only had suspicions before then.”
Stacey told how her family first became suspicious after following her from the school gates to Watson’s car.
The lessons were initially called off but started up again when Watson assured the family that his mother would act as a chaperone.
Stacey explained: “I was in love. It was going to be a lifelong relationship.”
Afterwards, she described herself as “a mess” who “drank herself into oblivion” until she met her husband, Karl.
“At school I was very academic because it was the only place I could be myself,” she said. “I excelled. I was good at putting on an act but I was drinking, self-harming and was bulimic for about two years.”
Stacey, who lives in Moulton, now has two young children and has set her sights on training for a role in the medical profession.
She admits coming forward to report her relationship was hard, but she has praised the “amazing and supportive” police officers who dealt with her case over the last 19 months.
She said: “It’s worth going through the pain and turmoil. At the end of the day, I have got closure from it and I have a result. I know that’s not the case for everyone but I try to take positives from a situation.
“The support is there from the police and counselling services. It’s not always easy but it’s there.”
Stacey was in court to hear Watson be sentenced and said it was a shock.
“When I went to the police it was never for revenge or to achieve this,” she said. “It was to be believed – to have it out there and for him to know what he had done and the damage that he caused. “I do not feel good about his position but then it was taken out of my hands. It was not for me to judge what he deserved.”