By Lauren Gregory and Lydia Hawken for Mailonline
12:49 p.m. on December 23, 2023, updated 12:49 p.m. on December 23, 2023
A woman has revealed she was sexually assaulted by her father’s best friend who gave her Christmas presents when she was a child before confessing his love for her.
Katie James, 19, from Cwmbran, south Wales, had known Tino Iacovou all her life and saw him most weekends when she visited her father.
Describing how he was an “uncle figure” in her life, the teenager explained how Tino showered her with sweets and gifts.
She said: “He was always playing with me. When I was six, he bought me my favorite teddy bear, Ruby, for Christmas.
However, Katie says their “uncle-niece” relationship changed when she reached adolescence.
She explained: “One day we were all in my kitchen.
“I jumped on Tino’s back to carry me on my back, but his hands touched my butt and he kept them there for a while.
“Feeling uncomfortable, I quickly jumped.
“He acted as if nothing had happened and continued talking to my father.”
Afterwards, Katie says Tino regularly began to be too affectionate towards her.
The teenager remembers Tino “constantly” asking for cuddles and offering to rub her back.
Katie explained: “I left him because I thought I trusted him.”
Following this, Katie recalled that Tino would not come to his father’s house without bringing him a gift.
She said: “He would always come over with sweets for me, as well as stones and crystals that he knew I collected.”
“The next Christmas he even helped my dad buy me an Xbox. I started to feel really uncomfortable around him.
In 2018, Tino sexually assaulted Katie – who was 14 at the time – in the living room of his father’s house.
The two men watched television while Katie’s father was in bed.
She explained: “Tino came over and lay down next to me on the sofa.
“Suddenly, he lifted my pajama top and groped my breasts, before running his hand down my pant leg and groping my private parts.
“I was in complete shock and didn’t know what to say or do.”
Katie says Tino only stopped because she heard her father moving around in his room.
However, he then rocked Katie, kissed her and told her he loved her.
After the assault, Katie was left traumatized and said she avoided being with Tino – choosing to stay in his room when he visited.
When she inevitably had to see him, Katie says Tino acted like nothing was wrong and insisted on sitting next to her and giving her cuddles.
She explained: “For a while I couldn’t understand what had happened.
“But a month later it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had panic attacks and isolated myself in my room, away from my family.
After this, Katie found the courage to tell her mother about the assault and, with the full support of her parents, she reported Tino to the police.
After his arrest, Tino denied everything, meaning the case had to go to trial.
Katie continued: “I was devastated to have to go to trial.
“When I gave evidence in court, I confronted Tino for what I hoped would be the last time.”
In September 2022, Tino was convicted of one count of sexual activity with a child and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in November of that year.
Additionally, he is also on the sex offenders register for life.
Katie added: “The punishment is nothing for what he did to me. During the trial, I felt ridiculed and embarrassed.
“He pretended I was happy that he was touching me. But I’m so glad I brought him to justice.
“If you have been abused, tell someone. We will believe you.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, Rape Crisis offers support to victims of assault in the UK.
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