I was raped by my ‘pillar of society’ martial arts instructor as a young girl – and later found out he’d abused others
- Lauren Walker from Basingstoke, was just 12 when Derek Hodder began abusing her after grooming her in martial arts classes
- Read more: ‘I was raped 400 times’: French tennis star Angelique Cauchy reveals hell she endured at the hands of her coach when she was 12
A woman has revealed how she was groomed then raped as a child by her martial arts coach – and urged parents of children in sports clubs to always be vigilant about potential predators.
Lauren Walker, 32, who lives in Basingstoke but grew up in Devon, was just 12 when her instructor began a four-year campaign of abuse against her.
Derek Hodder, 65, was viewed as a ‘pillar of society’ in the Brixham community where they both lived, abusing his position of trust to groom her.
Years later, when Walker was an adult, she discovered she hadn’t been his only victim; Hodder had been abusing other girls from the sports clubs in a campaign of sexual abuse that spanned more than three decades.
Now, Walker, speaking exclusively to Femail, has bravely waived her anonymity in a bid to raise awareness and encourage other survivors of sexual abuse to seek out justice too.
Lauren Walker, 31, from Basingstoke, was just 12 when martial arts instructor Derek Hodson began his four-year campaign of abuse against her. Pictured: Lauren now
Walker, who runs her own dog walking business, says: ‘For years people in our community respected and looked up to Derek, but now everyone knows him for the monster that he is.
She continues: ‘I’ve spent most of my life in pain because of him, but now it’s his turn to suffer. I hope parents are extra vigilant with who they leave their children with and they’re wary of anyone, no matter what their position is.’
Growing up, Lauren lived with her grandma and twin sister. In 2003, when she was 12, she joined the martial arts club across the road from their home.
Lauren explains: ‘I dreamed of pursuing martial arts as a career, so I absolutely loved it.
‘Whenever Derek showed me a certain move, he’d lean his body onto me. I thought it was normal coaching.
‘As my nan took me to classes, he immediately noticed I didn’t have a dad. He was really supportive and listened to my problems.’
At first, Lauren worried no-one in the community would believe her, due to Derek’s shining reputation. Pictured: Lauren in recent years
Hodder sexually abused Lauren in abandoned buildings, sometimes locking her inside and not returning for hours. Pictured: Lauren aged 13, during the time of the abuse
Derek Hodder, 65, (pictured) was a ‘pillar of society’ in the Brixham, Devon community and used his position of trust to groom Lauren throughout her teen years. Pictured: Hodder’s mugshot
From then on, Hodder always partnered up with Lauren in class, showering her with compliments and asking about her life.
The next year, when she was 13, he told her she seemed stressed and offered to massage her at his home. Lauren says: ‘He showed me photos of his massage table and said he was specially trained.
‘I agreed and told him my nan would take me, but he told me to come alone and use the back door. The next week I went there after school and all the curtains were drawn. I thought it was odd.
She explains: ‘He let me in, made me lay on the sofa and began touching me, telling me they were my pressure points and that I had tension.
‘I felt uncomfortable and knew something wasn’t right. I made an excuse and rushed out of the house. Embarrassed, I didn’t tell a soul after that.’
Soon after, Hodder caught on to Lauren’s family not having much money, so he then began giving her gifts and cash after class, including a mobile phone.
Lauren says: ‘He told me how my nan didn’t care about me enough to get me these things.
‘Whenever I’d get grounded or not be allowed out somewhere, I’d complain to Derek. He’d say she wasn’t bringing me up right.
‘Somehow, he convinced me my family hated me and the only person who loved me was him. When I turned 14, Derek took me to an empty building he’d been doing renovations on.
Hodder continued abusing Lauren for years, all whilst maintaining his respectable position in the South Devon community. Pictured: Lauren with her twin sister aged 13
‘He laid me on the cold floor, took off my clothes and climbed on top of me. I squeezed my eyes shut, wishing it would end.
‘After he said no-one could know, and I fought back my tears. I thought it was all normal. In classes after that, he’d always tickle my hand to signal for sex. He’d get a huge kick out of it.’
From then on, Hodder sexually abused Lauren in abandoned buildings, sometimes locking her inside and not returning for hours.
Meanwhile, he groomed and psychologically manipulated her, isolating her from her family and friends.
Lauren says: ‘My nan would be worried sick and would search for me everywhere. She called social services a few times, but they were no help.
‘I believed all the lies Derek fed me and every chance I got I’d run to his house. I thought he loved me and that my family were against me.’
Hodder continued abusing Lauren for years, all whilst maintaining his respectable position in the South Devon community.
Lauren has bravely waived her anonymity in a bid to raise awareness and encourage other survivors out to get justice too. Pictured: Lauren aged 16
Lauren says she is ‘so proud’ of all the survivors who stood up and got justice, adding that Hodder ‘destroyed our childhoods.’ Pictured: Lauren last year
But in 2007, when Lauren reached 16, she began to realise she was being abused.
Lauren says: ‘Derek caught onto this, and he began promising to get me a passport so that we could move to Italy together. I finally knew it was wrong and felt so trapped.
‘Then one day, I was at his house when he went out and left the doors unlocked. I realised I couldn’t do any of it anymore and I ran out the house and never looked back.
‘By then I was still convinced my family hated me so I went to a shelter. They were amazing, and helped me go to the police to report Derek.’
Sadly, after speaking with the police, Lauren became scared and dropped the charges. She worried no-one in the community would believe her, due to Derek’s shining reputation.
The supported housing workers helped her get her life back on track and she eventually found a new home. Lauren says: ‘Years later, aged 19, I reconnected with my nan and sister. Nan had a nervous breakdown when I told her about Derek. She was guilt-ridden for taking me to the classes.
‘But I told her the only person to blame was Derek. Although I was so happy to have my family back, by then, the damage was done.
‘Derek had brainwashed and abused me for so long, I was a shell of a person. It took years to recover.’
He groomed and psychologically manipulated Lauren, isolating her from her family and friends. Pictured: Lauren with her twin sister both aged 13
When Lauren got older, she became a chef in the army, travelling to Afghanistan, Germany and across the world. Pictured: Lauren aged 25 during her time in the British Army
Lauren says she has left the army and now has her own dog walking business. She added that she is rebuilding her relationship with her friends and family
When Lauren got older, she became a chef in the army, travelling to Afghanistan, Germany and across the world.
In 2018, when she was 27 and living in Oman, she received a call from Devon and Cornwall Police. They informed her other women of different ages who’d taken Hodder’s classes as kids had come forward too.
Lauren says: ‘I was horrified. I had no idea others went through what I did. Derek had groomed me to feel special, like I was the only one. I was determined to get him locked up and flew back home to tell them everything.’
It took four years to get to trial, but finally, in November 2022, Derek Hodder, now 66, of Brixham, was found guilty of seven counts of rape and one count of sexual assault against Lauren.
Lauren said that Hodder would make her lay on the sofa and touch her, telling her that there were pressure points and that she had tension. Pictured: Lauren now
He was also found guilty of 26 sexual offences against victims aged between 10 and 17. In a 32-year pattern starting from 1986, he’d moved from one vulnerable girl to the next.
He was sentenced to 28 years at Exeter Crown Court. Lauren says: ‘During the trial he claimed he didn’t feel well so I only saw him through video-call. He was a coward.
‘He sighed constantly and looked like a spoiled child. He disgusted me. Now, I’ve left the army and have started my own dog walking business. I’m re-building my relationship with my family too.
‘I’m so proud of all the survivors who stood up and got justice. Derek destroyed our childhoods. But we caged the monster and there’s no-where left for him to hide.’
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