Emma-Jane Taylor, who runs a number of lifestyle businesses, was invited to speak at the Great Chefs Dinner held at the Guildhall, as a survivor of child sexual abuse who now campaigns against it.
The black-tie event, which was attended by 500 people was in support of the charity’s Speak Out, Stay Safe, an online safeguarding programme for young children.
This teaches victims about the forms and signs of child abuse and helps them understand that it’s not their fault and they have a right to be safe.
Ms Taylor, 49, who campaigns against child abuse, spoke for 10 minutes at the event as she shared her story, which she documented in a book called Don’t Hold Back.
She said: “I made sure to take half an hour or so to myself before I went on stage. I needed to remember why I was there.
“When I stepped on stage, you could have heard a pin drop. I was nervous and excited but I have had lots of training and practice.
“My goal was that once I had finished I wouldn’t have any regrets and I achieved that and feel so proud of myself. Of course I do love some glitz and glamour and it is great to get dressed up for such an important event but I never want to lose focus of the message I am portraying.
“I will stand in front of one person in a supermarket if I must just to tell my story and the message it carries.”
Her book details how she was groomed and sexually abused by a trusted family friend for years after being abandoned by her father when she was 13.
She was nine when she was first abused while on a family holiday in Greece with her mother Jane and stepfather Alan Taylor.
The perpetrator owned a restaurant where the family ate regularly and was trusted to look after her in the evenings.
After this incident, she suffered with anxiety and developed an obsession with cleanliness.
Emma-Jane did not tell her family about what had happened to her and instead compartmentalised it in her mind and tried to not think about it.
Four years later, her biological father decided he did not want to see her anymore.
Her parents had been separated since she was a toddler but she still was still visting her father on the weekends until that point. She was left “heartbroken”.
Mrs Taylor said: “It was when I was at my most vulnerable that a family friend was able to take advantage of me.
“I misbehaved a lot at school and I was labelled a ‘delinquent’ who was going nowhere.
“I began to resent my family but I liked my abuser because he was there for me at first.
“I had become so isolated and I experienced substance abuse and drinking heavily as a coping mechanism because that is what my abuser had encouraged me to do. If someone had only asked or just recognised that there were some problems going on, perhaps things could have changed earlier.
“If children behave in certain ways there’s usually a reason behind it. Nobody would have behaved the way I did if they were happy.
“Education is crucial and when you get to your teenage years you’re dealing with hormones as well as practical problems. I was the needy kid who wanted to be loved and wanted by others.
“Four or five years ago, I decided to share my story. It’s scary because it is such a daunting subject but now I am so much more confident and you must be comfortable to have these uncomfortable conversations.
“I have had more 20 years of therapy and I have such a supportive team around me.
“I now speak about this dirty secret, which is how it felt for many years. But this dirty secret was never mine, it was the perpetrators’. You need to change the dynamic of that conversation in your head. That’s one my key messages.”
The event featured a five-course meal served by five top chefs, auctions and raffles and raised a total of £266,000.
There was also a performance by opera singer Lesley Garrett of The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha and I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables.
Ms Taylor said: “I am glad my speech wasn’t directly after her performance as it was so moving I cried my eyes out.”