"I was gang-raped by seven men at the age of 16," says would-be MP for Luton
The woman standing as an MP for Luton has spoken out about how she was gang-raped by seven men at the age of 16.
Serena Laidley, 34, was so traumatised afterwards that she tried to take her own life, she has revealed.
She was befriended by a group of girls who belonged to a gang and they lured her to the house where the gang rape took place.
"It turned my light of hope for a successful future into darkness ... I wanted to commit suicide,” she said.
“It put fear into my family because they didn’t know what I was going to do next. I tried counselling, but all I was entitled to was six weeks and that wasn’t enough.”
Serena had just left school when the rape happened. She continued her education by going to college, but afterwards found herself in an abusive relationship. He was controlling her about money and would even take her phone so she couldn't contact anybody.
She said: “I felt shame, thinking: ‘It’s happened again.’ I thought this person loved me.
Serena says she went to the police “numerous times”, but they took no action. Eventually she plucked up the courage to leave.
“I waited until he went to work and I packed up my bags, my son, the buggy, passport and £30 in cash.”
But the ex partner tracked her down and she said she lived through harassment, stalking and broken injunctions for several years.
“I started to realise the mental impact I had endured and I was diagnosed with PTSD,” she says.
“I had to give up work, I again tried to commit suicide. I realised that I needed more help.”
Today Serena still has counselling and is a part-time secondary school teacher, running her own programme to teaching empowerment and respect to students.
She supports Luton All Women's Centre as well as the Luton branch of Women's Aid, which helps victims of domestic abuse.
Serena is standing in Luton North for The Women's equality Party (WEP), which is fielding three candidates nationally in seats where MPs have been accused of sexual misconduct.
Luton North's independent MP Kelvin Hopkins resigned this month for family reasons.
He had been was suspended from the party after Labour activist Ava Etemadzadeh complained he had hugged her inappropriately after a student event in 2014.
Mr Hopkins strongly denied the claims, saying he had only “put an arm around her” and did not hold her tight.
The case was referred to Labour’s highest disciplinary body but not concluded.