A 20-year-old woman has opened up about the sexual abuse she endured when she was just 13, which started hours after her abuser was married.
Ashley Bullock was 13 years old when she attended Steven Ball's wedding. Ball, who was 35 at the time, was getting married to Bullock's mother's cousin. She had never met Ball prior to his wedding day.
During the wedding reception, Ashley recalls walking outside to get some fresh air. There, she ran into Ball, who reportedly called her over to look at her figure. Ashley felt uncomfortable and went back inside the venue. She was followed by the groom, who handed her a pack of cigarettes.
"I thought that was his way of apologizing for going too far," Ashley told The Sun. "It was only a few days later that I discovered he'd slipped his phone number inside. My friend persuaded me to send him a message and, within minutes, he replied to say he hadn't stopped thinking about me."
Ashley said she was "completely taken aback" and did not understand why the man was "so fixated on me," adding, "I was just a kid."
Over the following several weeks, Ball continued to message the 13-year-old, telling her he loved her and that he would be willing to leave his new wife for her.
Six weeks after the wedding, Ball was near Ashley's home for a family party. He drove to her house, where she was alone, and lured her into his car. The newlywed then drove Ashley to a deserted industrial park, where he kissed her and touched her inappropriately.
"My mind was spinning," Ashley said. "I was only 13. I didn't want to be there but I was too scared to tell him to stop. He told me we had to keep what happened between us."
Ashley said she wanted to tell her family, but "thought everyone would be really cross with me."
Ball continued to text the teen for weeks until she told him she met a boy her own age. Afterward, she changed her phone number.
"I could see Steven for what he was -- a predatory pedophile," Ashley said. "Whenever we bumped into each other at rare family occasions, I avoided him like the plague."
Ashley attempted to move on from the traumatic experience but in 2014, she was contacted by Ball once again, this time on Facebook.
"He soon began feeding me the same lines he had all those years before. In an instant, I felt like that 13-year-old girl again," she said. "Steven had this hold over me. Against my better judgment, I let him come over to my flat. He’d get me drunk, then we’d have sex. It happened more than once because I was so damaged by what had happened before."
A month later, Ashley left her Facebook account logged in on her mother's computer. That's when her mother discovered pages of inappropriate messages from Ball.
"When my mum phoned to ask what was going on, I broke down and explained how Steven had started grooming me on his wedding day," Ashley said. "I poured my heart out. She was devastated, as she’d never realized. With her support, I decided to go to the police."
Ball was arrested and on Nov. 12, 2015. He was later found guilty of sexual assault, sexual activity with a child, and three counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
The pedophile was sent to prison for nine years. He was also given a life-long restraining order, which is meant to prevent him from ever contacting Ashley again.
Bullock, now 20, is working on improving her life. She says she has to take anti-depressants and goes to counseling to "try to come to terms with it."
"The only comfort is that Steven is now in jail where he belongs," she said. "I would not want anyone else to have to go through what I did."