This piece was submitted by a visitor to the site. It is a very powerful, personal story that details one mans efforts to get support and justice.
I set about writing a diary in 1996 because I felt my head was about to explode with the pressure and pain associated with trying to come to terms with been sexually abused as a child. I attended a Counsellor who assisted me in coping with the trauma and destructive impact child sexual assault was having on my life.
I desire that it will bring hope to those of us who on a daily basis try to overcome the damage abuse has inflicted on us. I have had to make some deletions and alterations to the text in order to hide my identity. I have done this not because I am afraid to put my name to the text but for private reasons. I have not changed the factual detail of the text.
My childhood memories are full of happiness and contentment, with summers spent on the bog stacking turf and drawing in hay by horse and cart, too, going fishing, with my brother. These were happy days. There were days I would rather forget about - hours of study and the Leaving Cert. When I think over the past, those dreaded exams always stuck out as being a nightmare. I had a childhood that any one would envy. It was because of these memories that my wife and I, were drawn back to the West of Ireland, to bring up our children. The prospect of rearing teenage children in a city environment and of spending our lives in a city of high walls and steel shutters did not appeal to us.
It is the wish of a lot of country people, living in cities like Dublin, to return to the country one day. This seed was planted in my heart when I met an elderly Galway woman. She expressed how she longed to end her days, walking the fields and borings of that ‘Noble County’. She was in her 90’s and all her efforts would not be vain, if she could return to Galway to die. This lit a fire in me, to search my own desires, to ensure that someday I would not turn out like this woman. It took months for this seed to develop into a flower, but grow it did. We did a lot of soul searching, because we knew the changes it would bring in our lives. No more easy access to all of the facilities, city living affords. We knew this time had long since gone and our ideas of country living and bringing up of children in a country environment would bring with it, changes we did not expect to encounter.
Eighteen months later we moved down to the West of Ireland. My wife was left with having to cope with the logistic of moving. Within a few weeks we quickly settled into a beautiful, peaceful, country village. The people were fantastic and helped us become accustomed to the change. We had come to a village full of Irish culture and steeped in traditional Irish music. This village resembled in so many ways, the home of my youth. When we took a walk or a drive through the countryside, childhood memories slowly re-emerged, the smell of the honeysuckle, the sound of the cuckoo, the sun setting on nearby hills. A drive down a winding country road, that went on for miles and seemed to be going nowhere, only to end up back on the same road that we started out on - the only change was, that we had passed here, twenty minutes previously.
We were both really looking forward to our first Christmas in our new home we were in a place where the troubles of the ‘outside world’ were far off. My wife had gone back to Dublin for a few days to visit her family and friends and I stayed at home to look after the children. I would not take her for granted and I knew that the children would be delighted with a reprieve, from dad’s cooking.
I settled down and watched a programme on R.T.E. it was very informative and revealing. As it progressed I sat up and felt a chill come over me. I saw pictures of children and these pictures were not of children from a distant land. I felt a bonding with the images I saw. The children were in a home run by a religious order for the protection of young children, but what it revealed, was a harrowing account of what some of the children had to endure.
It was like a bolt of lightening, I realized I had been sexually abused as a child. Every word that was spoken throughout the programme helped to draw back the curtain on that hidden part of my life. I started to get flashbacks of instances from my childhood. In the past whenever I started to remember those days I would automatically turn my mind to other things and run away from the subject, but in this moment I suddenly knew that I had to face my ‘hidden secret’. It was a secret that only my perpetrator and I knew. No longer could I allow it to ensnare me. I strove to put these images in sequence, but to no avail. I knew that I had to walk into this hidden darkness.
My brain dwelled on my past, I felt so mad because I could not get an instant picture of what I had been through. In the programme the abuser was not a member of the Order that ran the Home. I learned two vital facts the first was that within a group of caring people, who had responsibility for children, a person could conceal the fact that they sexually abused children. The second fact was that the child was a girl approximately 12 years old and who I knew to be completely innocent. For the first time in my life I visualized myself as this child. I also saw how a child’s ability to say “No” could be removed. An abuser can sexually abuse a number of children around the same time, and each child feel that they were alone, and could turn to no one for assistance. These children would continue as if nothing had happened. This fact became an eye opener for me. Up until now I believed that if it occurred to a number of children, it would be detected. I realized I that I must act immediately.
What he did to me became a secret between my abuser and I. He did not threaten me with dire consequences if I revealed details of what had occurred. There was no need for that I was numbed into silence, by the assaults. I was overcome with a feeling of guilt and a feeling that I was responsible. I had gone through 20-25 years of feeling that I was solely responsible and guilty for what happened to me. During this time I felt that these things were not for speaking about to others. My heart felt so heavy with the realization of what lay ahead. I knew that I was going to be bringing huge stress on my wife and our children, together with the hurt that my father and mother, brother and sisters would have to bear. This disturbed me greatly. I struggled with these fears. I could still go back to my old way of dealing with my abuse, but deep down I knew I was been given an opportunity to get healing. I could not go back to that dark world again.
I could not stop the tears I did not know who to turn to for help I needed my body to take in this new reality. A half an hour later I was on the phone to the Rape Crisis Centre for assistance. At work I had helped numerous people when I was in Dublin by referring then to the Rape Crisis Centre, now I needed to call on them for help. I will never forget that conversation, I could say nothing I just cried and cried. I was on the phone for nearly an hour. The woman was so understanding she just listened, all the hidden pain flowed to the surface, it was like puss oozing to the surface of a festering wound. This wound was hidden for 20 years. When I left the phone down I felt so raw, I did not know where I was going from here, I could not think of tomorrow, my mind was trying to make sense of the pain. I did not understand what was happening to me I had never broken down like this before. This was the first time in my life that I allowed my body freely grieve for what was done to me when I was a ten to sixteen year old boy. Twenty years previously I was helpless in stopping him, now I felt helpless in turning off the pain. When I finally went to bed I could not sleep, my mind just went back to the days of my youth, and I also tried to work out what I was going to do next. Years previously I had told my wife sketchy details, of what occurred to me, when I was a child. I later rang her, she realized what I had told her only skimmed the surface. That short talk, years previously, was still essential, because it now allowed me to open up to others, knowing that she was going to give me support.
If I reported my abuse to the Gardai I might not succeed in getting the case to Court but my actions would alert them to the danger this man posed to children. I knew that it could take a number of years to get through the system. I also felt that it would be a very difficult process for a victim to take on. If I could not do it, how could I expect another person to face their abuser? The following days I painfully recounted details of my abuse to my wife. She guessed whom the culprit was without me telling her. She felt sick that he could be so conniving and have the ability to betray a family friendship. My first intention was to inform my parents as they were entitled to know. Words cannot describe what I was bringing on them and they did not deserve this turmoil. I felt that what I was doing was the equivalent of telling them a child of theirs was after being killed in an accident.
I will never forget that 50 miles journey to my parent’s home the following morning. I felt that I was going to destroy my mother and father. I will never forgive him for bringing this on them. Potentially their lives could crumble before me. The tears flowed as the miles passed. Did he consider that his actions would bring about this outcome? For his moment of pleasure, other people would have to pay such a high price. I wished I had told them years previously when they would have been better able to cope with such devastating news. I was certain that if I told my parents about my abuse, then I was going all the way. Nothing was going to stop me. The pain that was visited on my parents that Saturday morning is something that was very private and I do not wish to write about.
During the following weeks I met with a Social Worker, I saw a clearer picture of how my abuser operated and the sequence of events that occurred. Over the years my brain had hidden away details of the abuse in order that I could function. I slowly removed the layers of dust that blurred what he did to me. Slowly a clear picture started to emerge, it was one of a young boy of 10-12 years being wrestled with and trapped under a grown man I did not realize that anything was wrong. I did not want this attention from him, but I was unable to call out for assistance, at the time I believed what he was doing was ordinary playacting, similar to the playacting between a father and child. Gradually this changed to more intimate touching that made me uneasy. The months became years, during this time my abuser made excuses and availed of any opportunity to get me alone and then he would abuse me more seriously. In the end the attacks progressed to assaults of buggery.
Up until recently when ever I thought back about the attacks I only remembered the later assaults. Now I recall the way it started, I carried enormous feelings of guilt because my mind focused solely on the assaults of buggery. I could not understand how any child could allow this be done to them. The later abuse probably would not have happened had he not ‘cultivated’ and ‘broke down’ my ability to say ‘no’ as a youngster.
He had put many years of planning and thought in order that I would succumb to him in later years. I believe parents everywhere should be vigilant and observant of how adults interact with their children. Abuse can occur on children who are only infants.
As a child I was very quiet and a loner. He assaulted me when I was alone. From this time on I felt guilty and responsible. This guilt had a huge bearing on me been unable to tell my parents. Add to this the fact that on the surface he presented a very ordinary, caring and trustworthy face. How could I, a young child, inform them of what really was occurring? I could not put words on it myself. I would love to be able to turn the clock back to when I was a child and challenge him about his actions. As I think of these attacks I get flashbacks of me lying there motionless with him in complete control. Each attack lasts approximately 10-30 minutes my mind does not want to think about it even though I can see the scene so vividly. Before me I could hear the television on above my head while my mother worked in the kitchen, another image was of a valley with open countryside all around and him abusing me in his car.
He slowly starts to have his way I try to struggle free but to no avail. How could I break free he is a grown man I am a child. I feel overpowered by guilt and unable too stop him, I should be. He then loosens my trousers and assaults me. My mind goes blank, even though I know he committed buggery on me. I cannot put words to describe the other things he did. He would then bring me back to my house and return to the upright citizen who could do no wrong. The fucking hypocrite, I know what you are like and I will always know and no matter what you say I will always know. I feel a great anger welling up inside me, towards the way you fooled society as too what you are really like. This scene I have had to endure on many occasions. As a child I had the fear of being caught because I was to blame, how warped life became. Reality has been turned around and I cannot see what is really going on. Many years will pass before there is an awakening within me, too the truth. The day that awakening occurs I shall shout with joy. Why? Because no longer will I betaken in by his lie of being to blame and to the lie of consenting to what he did. Why is it that there is this delay? I don’t know. Is it this lie that allows abusers to get away with their crimes?
As I was getting older I had a strong feeling that what was happening was wrong. I tried to muster up the courage to tell somebody. Finally one day I spoke to a priest about what was happening to me. I still remember the day so vivid. I felt I had to say something. I did not have the courage to tell a priest whom I knew as I felt he would have told my parents. I went to Confessions, I told him some ordinary things just to see what he was like. I just felt the pressure to say what had happened to me I froze, how could I put words on it, I finally broke down crying. He encouraged me to take my time, I felt unable to put words on what was happening to me. I gradually told him what my abuser was doing to me. I did not give him the name of the man who abused me he did not ask me for it. The priest encouraged me to go back to the man and to tell him it was wrong. I left feeling that I was not going to let my abuser have his way again. While I felt great stress in saying anything I felt relieved that I as a person had made a definite decision about what I was going to do.
Many years had passed since he had started to abuse me and I was now stronger and more adamant in expressing my feelings. Within a few weeks he returned to try again, I was on my own with him. He again tried to forcefully overpower me but I kept moving away from him and when he did corner me I shouted at him to stop, he tried to talk me down and break my will to say ‘no’. I held firm I shouted at him to stop. The message finally got through that he would not have his way. He immediately left the house and he never again tried to attack me.
This did not stop his attention but I now believe that any future visits were to ensure that I never said anything to my parents, he wanted to monitor any changes in the reception he received in my home. I now see his conniving and deception. He was a master at it. Child abusers have got to be masters of deception. They have got to win their ways into intended victim’s confidence. They must spend years building on this trust. Parents have to feel that they can trust their children with this person as if the child was their own. The child has to see this relationship and with this the child is silenced into saying nothing when the abuse starts. I found myself fitting into the above and not realizing that anything was wrong. I believe that had he sexually assaulted me in the beginning I would have alerted my parents as to his actions. By slowly introducing touching under the guise of wrestling then as a young boy of 10-11 years, (I now believe it occurred even younger), I associated it with as long as I can remember, my natural defence were brushed aside and he could have his way. I did not like his attention and I tried to keep out of his way but he always had arms that grabbed me as I tried to get by and leave the room. The next stage I went through was an overpowering feeling of guilt, evil and blame, I felt swamped by these feelings. I was drawn under the will of this beast (friend). Once I was overcome by these feelings he had won because how could I tell my parents, when I felt that I was to blame. They continued into adulthood. I believe that they contribute to other victims remaining silent and their abuse not being detected.
Why did I feel that overpowering need to act? At the time I was struck by the enormity of what sexual abuse entailed. I believe that my brain coped with the abuse by causing me to shut myself off from the reality of what had occurred. A major casualty was ‘trust’ and I lost my trust in the adults I encountered. I cut myself off from what my abuser had done to me. This could have been damaged forever. When the abuser is related to the victim the damage is even greater. I was not able to inform my parents therefore they were unable to set about repairing the damage that he had inflicted. I showed deep scars that I attributed as ‘faults’ in my character. It was only when I was able to confront the abuse and my abuser that I started to see them as scars that occurred as a result of the abuse. The main scar I saw was an inability to develop close friendships. To the outside world this would not be evident because I was able to cover my inadequacy. As I went through adolescence I did not trust men. I know that this is due to what he did to me. I believe that people who were trying to deal with abuse need someone to speak out for them. How could I expect a son or a daughter to report a parent who abuses them, at least my abuser was not a member of my family or relative.
What contributed to the anguish being felt by my family was the knowledge that his family were going to be wrenched a sunder with having to deal with the allegations. This was something I did not wish to do but by not reporting the abuse I was leaving other potential victims alone and helpless. I felt that it was my duty to come forward for the sake of other victims and myself. Before I could recover I must speak out and by remaining silence abuse would thrive. Once I had spoken out I knew that it was not only myself that was going to be affected by the abuse, but from that day on my parents and family were going to be scared and wounded. I did not wish to bring this on them, but my other option was to remain silent. I could no longer live with this silence. I needed my family’s assistance to recover. My parents were distraught with the news they could not believe that their life long friend could perpetrate such an atrocity on a child. Words cannot describe the hurt and turmoil that they had to deal with. When a family is left to recover from abuse there is no painless way to recovery, each member of the family must find their own way of dealing with it. I was unable to cope with the effects of informing the rest of my family because I was trying to survive myself.
I felt torn by the casualties around me. I had known what was done to me, for 20 years or more, but my family had no inkling of the abuse. All of a sudden, they were seeing a life in bits before their eyes. Words will not capture the turmoil and hurt they experienced. The wish of my parents was to protect their son and to try and limit the hurt I was experiencing. I felt that burning need to help other people. I could not identify other potential victims so it would seem more appropriate to think of those I did know. Within me I knew that up until now my family would not have known that I was one of those hidden victims. All around us there could be others who had experienced abuse as children yet you or I could not identify them. When their turn came to come face to face with their abuse, only then, would it show itself. These were the people I wanted to help.
Things had changed drastically in our lives. No longer were we looking forward to that white peaceful Christmas. We saw that peace gone forever, and as a family all we wanted was for our children to have a sense of near normality on Christmas Day. They knew that something dramatic was upon the family, but they did not know the details of what it involved. Two weeks had passed since I had made my initial report to the Gardai. At that meeting I had requested that they would not approach him until after Christmas. I knew that I was asking an enormous sacrifice from my mother and father but if he sensed a change in atmosphere then he would be prepared for the Gardai. This time of waiting was unbearable on them. It was a hidden pain that they could not reveal to anybody. I will never forgive him for inflicting this on them. They are an ordinary country family and I was inflicting this burden on them. I had moved out of Dublin to be closer to my family and now I wonder should I have stayed where I was. Yet I knew that in the long term good would come out of this. Does a mother refuse to get pregnant because of the pain of childbirth? This is where I found myself. I could not sleep at night. My mind was going over and over trying to piece together any new evidence and worrying about what was going to happen. I worried that the case would not get to Court. Ordinary everyday things became a burden and my mind was always set on the abuse. I was only able to reveal my real pain to close friends. My wife restored the trust that my abuser’s actions nearly destroyed.
It took 3 hours for me to make a statement to the Gardai. They did not put me under any pressure yet I felt stressed and under great strain when it came to stating the intimate details of how he abused me. I was speaking to two men who I had never met before. They reassured that they believed my story. I had a great fear prior to this that I would not be believed. The words I spoke and the descriptive way my story went down on paper was the voice of an 11-15 year old child speaking out. That child was bursting to be heard. He had been hidden for so long, now he demanded that the World would listen. I knew that as far as the criminal investigation went I was primarily a witness and the decision at this point lay solely with the Director of Public Prosecution. All I could do was wait until he made a decision on whither there was enough evidence to proceed.
The weeks slowly became months until I finally had a phone call from the Gardai investigating my case they told me that they needed to call out and see me. A bad feeling came over me and I believed that the news would not be good. When they arrived, they informed me the D.P.P had directed that my abuser would not be prosecuted. I was numb with the news. I felt so distraught. I went inside the house and cried my heart out. At the time my inner feelings were that I was being told ‘we do not believe you’. This feeling came from the pain I was experiencing. Over the coming week I started to pick myself up again, I could not let this news stop my fight for justice neither could I hinder me from alerting people to the carnage done by child sex abusers. I felt trapped in a corner and I believed that my effort to get the case to the Criminal Courts was finished. I did not know where I could turn too.
Throughout this time the feeling of guilt, shame and responsibility grew stronger and while I was learning that these feeling were incorrect I was continually battling with them, (this battle would continue for a further 2 years before I could honestly feel that I was not responsible), I will forever be grateful for the help I received from my Social Worker and Counselor. During the 2 years I went through week after week of re-examining how my abuser cultivated a relationship with my family and finally how he gained access to me. I came to understand how he was able to transfer the guilt that should be his onto me. This time was interspersed with periods of deep depression all of which stemmed from the abuse. Now I was torn apart with the pain of the D.P.P.’s decision. My mind was trying to search out a way around it. But I believed it was hopeless.
I knew that I had to find a way of communicating the pain I felt, I started to look at ways of reaching other victims. Up until recently they were a group who had no voice. Society had treated these people as if they did not exist. They were labeled as queers, weak, or not to be heard. These words and phrases were designed to prohibit victims from coming forward to report the crimes perpetrated against them. We as a Society are so quick to label things that we do not experience, as abnormal and inappropriate. It is this label and fear of association that kept me from looking for healing.
I had to face this taboo I knew that I was no longer alone. If I had succeeded in getting my case to Court then one abuser would have been brought to Justice. I participated in a programme on television where I got the opportunity to touch the lives of people I would never meet. I felt that if I did not conceal my identity I would give these people a message and hope in being able to regaining power and to achieve complete recovery from abuse. I have come to realize that I am walking a very lonely journey. Women have faced the consequences of sexual abuse years previously. They were the first to challenge Society’s code of silence. Their courage demolished a wall of silence. I have encountered that same wall. It has been rebuilt and fortifier as far as men are concerned. I took courage from seeing how women have formed their own havens of support. The Rape Crisis Centre is an example of this. I turned to them for assistance. At this point in my life I was looking everywhere for support. My searches were all in vain I came to the conclusion that men tried to deal with abuse privately. They take to drink or gambling as a means or covering up their inner turmoil. Socially it was not appropriate to be affected by abuse. I, on the other hand found myself going against this norm. I attended a mixed session for victims of child sexual abuse. The subjects that we spoke about were common to both men and women.
During the Autumn of 1996, I read an ad in the local newspaper announcing the formation of a group for “persons” who had been sexually abused as children and that the group would meet weekly for 14 weeks starting in January 1997. It would be run by the local Health Board and would be under the supervision of a trained Psychologist. I was thrilled, I saw this as the answer to 2 years of prayers. I contacted the number given and asked to be included in the group. I was later informed that the group was for women only. I could not believe what I was being told. My world was being taken apart again. I felt the Health Board saying to me because you are a man you do not matter. I was being thrown in with the abusers and I felt, how could other men who were trying to overcome abuse hope to be heard, when they looked for help, they were told it does not apply to you. Why should I have to fight another battle? I wanted to establish that I had rights and entitlements, but fight I must. It could be years, before the Health Board would have a group that would include men. I do not believe that because I am a man, that I should not be included in the group. I would not want to disallow anybody from healing just because of his or her sex. I believed that the first group should be an example to all victims. It should be a sign that healing is for every one that they need no longer be trapped by feelings of guilt and unable to break free from the trap of silence.
I feel in such a pit of despair- I do not see an end to it or a source other than the failure to bring a prosecution. Why should I be landed with this? Was it not enough to be abused as a child for 4 years have I not suffered enough, I see no end to it. I would love to see my efforts channelled into something that would grow to be a help to other victims. Why are victims of rape and abuse affected in this way and why is it so drawn out. The hole seems to grow deeper and deeper at times with short periods of normality to be overtaken by another cloud of darkness. I feel drawn to listen to songs by Leonard Cohen he seems to reflect the darkness in my soul. Why have I not got the right to confront him? I deserve that right. My heart cries out for it, my soul demands it. Please let me free to make him account for what he did to my boyhood. I feel like a child with no rights. I have been hung out to dry for the greater rights of society. Where do my rights come in? Have I no right to a full healing, I believe I have, I believe I have a right to shout out what a grown man did to me a young child. A child who was full to trust and respect for ones peers.
When I think back on my reactions and feeling over the last 2 years, I wonder how I would have survived if I had not buried my abuse for the last 20 years. I cannot handle it as an adult. How could I have dealt with it as a child? I would have been destroyed if I had to face this and found Society turning its back on me and I would have had no way of shouting out. I may not be here now.
When I was abused I was a child and the damage was done to that child. The damage is similar in severity and cost to a boy or girl. The victim carries this same damage through adolescence and into adulthood. When it comes to healing then we are equal and have suffered equally. Together we can learn to overcome the effects of abuse. We the victims to abuse have so much in common, and we must work together to stop the tide of pedophilia.
I experience a fear and mistrust of men. Not all men abuse children or rape women yet my fear is realistic. I am entitled to have that fear. It is this fear that helped to protect me. I did not experience a fear before I was abused. I find it hard to trust someone who advises me that I can overcome my fear. I do not want to let it go, because I feel I will leave myself vulnerable. I built up a dependence on this fear and unknown to myself it prevented me from developing close friendships with people who I could trust. This prevents us from building real friendships with victims of the offending sex, who have likewise suffered the trauma of abuse. I do not know how to overcome this barrier of fear. My experience of talking to women victims of sexual abuse shows me that we have more in common with each other than separates us. If we build on what we have in common, then we will see a day when victims of all ages and sex, will wipe away the wall of ‘silence ‘ and ‘guilt’ that as children of past and present generations have had to carry. We must learn to trust each other.
I seem to have gone full circle, I am again clutching at straws. I can see no escape from my quest for Justice. Last week (19/02/97), I heard some brilliant news, it related to a Supreme Court ruling relating to ‘laps of time’. Up until now this has been a stumbling block in bringing so many abuse cases to Court. I am again reaching out hoping that this decision could remove the barrier that has prevented me from being heard. I have felt that during the 2 years since the D.P.P. turned down my case, that I am alone. I started to write in order to put my experiences down on paper for the sake of other victims. Reading back on my writing I see a vivid account of a victim and not just words to fill pages. A contributing factor with abuse cases is the lack of corroborating evidence. I believe that corroboration can come in many shapes and forms. It decided that ‘laps of time’ could not prevent a prosecution going to Court. I do not know where to turn too for help.
My memories are of a 15 year old boy who had nobody to call to for help, and who had to endure being buggered by a man who was at least 45 years old. This man had done untold damage to my life and never once had he to account to me for what he did. Throughout all the assaults he had avoided speaking to me about what he had done and after every assault he had behaved as if nothing untoward had happened. My brain was loaded with details of the pain he inflicted on me as a child and how he could present himself as an ‘upright citizen’. His assaults were always done in silence. I required a purging in the open of actions he had no problem committing in private. I was aware that I had endured many years where I associated my abuser with the physical actions but I had no memory of him ever vocally referring to any assaults. I had recounted a lot of the pain I felt in words both during counseling and within my thoughts during repeated sleepless nights. This was a personal need that I had within me, one that was separate from seeing justice done in the Courts of our land.
I feel torn in two when I think back over the events of the last two days. I am drawn to go back further and look at the decision I made to see this through to the bitter end, knowing that it was going to be a lonely and difficult road. I know in my heart that my decision to report the abuse in the beginning was the right one. I also know that the relationship that existed between my parents and I was badly affected by the hidden secret of the abuse and that were I not to have brought out into the open what was done to me as a child my wounds would never have healed.
Prior to coming to terms with my abuse I would never be able to show the real me to them or to the world. In regards to my marriage and my relationship with my children, there would always be a silent secret creating problems regularly during our life and preventing us from maturing in our relationship, both in friendship and understanding one another, together with the intimate side of our relationship. We would be searching for answers without realizing that my abuse as a child was at the core of the problem. When I confronted the ghosts of yesterday the real issues came to the surface and we were allowed deal truthfully and honestly in a way that restored life and hope to areas that were crippled by pain and despair.
The price has been high. What is a person who has been abused to do? Am I to continue feeling worthless because of what a grown man did when I was a child or am I to confront the abuser. Am I to be cut off from the oxygen I was deprived off for 20 years, this was my desire when I started my road to recovery. I knew that it would mean turmoil all around me. An important part of my recovery was to see justice done. Most victims cannot look to the law, due to fear. They fight their battle through whatever restores meaning to their lives or they feel forced to turn to drink to mask their pain.
There are only 2 people who know exactly what occurred during those years, him and I. The telltale signs of abuse are inscribed all over my life. I have only made allegations against one person. At no time in my life has any other person attempted to abuse me. Why should I make allegations against a man whom as an adult I have lost contact with and who for decades continued to be a close and trusted family friend. What son would land this trauma on their parents or what husband would subject their wife and family to years of investigations and a future Court case. If what I have claimed was untrue and they are not untrue then I would have to be mentally unstable, and that I am not.
Reality sinks home, that reality is that the perpetrators of abuse on the occasion of the first assault sets a train of events in motion and no person along the way is able to stop the effects of that action. If I as the victim stand back and do nothing then I will continue to live in death, a death only I have knowledge off. Neither my wife nor my family would become aware of it. To my abuser he did no wrong and he cannot see the years of suffering or turmoil that I have endured. They would not be able to identify what scared my life at such an early age. His concern throughout the last 25 years was to ensure that his secret would remain hidden. This would allow him to continue abusing other innocent victims. Once I confronted what happened to me, from that day forward time can never be the same. Light has shown on an area on my life that has been steeped in darkness and despair. I never will go back into that darkness again.
On meeting my wife understanding, love and trust started to grow and I started to see for the first time the affects abuse had on my life. Do you say to the cripple who has been healed, you must continue in your wheelchair, or the blind man who has sight restored, you must continue to use a white stick for the rest of your life. To the outside world it might not seem as a big handicap, but to the victim of sexual abuse, I felt I was getting an opportunity to receive healing. My trust was gone, with that trust my ability to function as complete person. So when I identified what happened to me, as a child was sex abuse, this realization did not restore trust. I understood what caused it to disappear. It may take years of love and patience to gradually restore a form of normality to my life. To return to my old self would be similar to that of cutting off, the very oxygen that I required to live, I cannot do that. Is it too selfish on my part to long for that life, I do not believe that it is. He set a train of actions in motion the day he first started touching me. He could have prevented it back then but now it is too late. We all have to live with the consequences of his actions.
Where are other victims of abuse to turn too if they remain silent for the sake of the family of the abuser. This will then prove to be the greatest weapon the abuser has. Abusers should get married and have a family. Then the victims must continue in silence. Then abuse will never be overcome. Other abusers turn to hiding behind a respected profession i.e., the priesthood, medicine, law the list is endless. These bodies are very protective of each other and are afraid to open up to public scrutiny they do not have any other reasons for remaining silent. Are the victims of abuse perpetrated by member of the Church to remain silent, lest they bring the Church into disrepute I say no, we victims should shout out with all our might in order to expose their vile actions.
For decades child abuse was an unspoken crime. I believe that its existence was known, by those in Authority, both within the Church and the Law. Society had in place a way of silencing the victims and as long as the victim remained silent then its existence did not have to be admitted. When victims looked for help in the past nothing was done to right the damage done. The way it was dealt with was to move the perpetrator. This resulted in more unsuspecting prey for their hands of destroy. Authorities could not risk the exposure of such perpetrators in its midst. Have we not learned from these wrongs, I believe that they still are tempted to act in the same way if they met this evil head on and exposed it then we might stop it in its tracks. Our children might be speared a repeat of the pain that we have had to endure. Major changes must be put in place to bring this about. Not just window dressing to give the impression of action when in reality there is inaction due to the cost involved.
Decades of inaction turned the guilt back onto the victim. So we were caught in a Catch 22 situation, we had no way of escaping the injustice of it all. This inaction nurtured growth and meant that all the abuser had to do was to ensure that his victim’s characteristic was quiet, isolated and lacking in self worth. This guaranteed that the secret of abuse would never be uncovered.
Where does my life fit in with this description? I was the oldest child I was reared be parents who were 100% committed to their family and who had a Faith that was solid and unmovable. I never questioned their love for me and I owe them everything. It is this security that has allowed me to examine my childhood, and examine how my abuser was able to gain access to me. He took advantage of their honesty and friendship. He exploited their invitation into our home. From the very beginning he started to nurture me as fodder for his later gratification. As an adult I was blessed by a loving wife and a family, they allowed me to examine my past and unreservedly backed my actions into the future. They trusted my judgment and were unmoved when it came to facing decisions that to most people would be too difficult to try to overcome.
I can only speak from my own experience as a victim of abuse. My road to recovery is a very personnel, unique and turbulent journey. That journey was greatly influenced by the reception I met along the way. To assist me I had to have a solid base to turn to for reassurance and support. As a child I had locked away a part of my life that has deeply scared the formation of my character. That closure was essential if I was to survive into adulthood. For me to reopen those wounds I must have the security within and around me and I have come to a time is right for healing. If my timing is wrong the ensuing damage maybe irreparable. It is for this reason that I could not remember in total, details of the abuse. I went through a time of reawakening where gradually over a period, the full picture came into focus. The time span for this reawakening varies with each victim. This allowed me to come to terms with the abuse and gradually bring healing to the areas in question. I went through great pain and suffering but by being patient and not attempting to rush things a clear picture emerged. For some victims the pain and grief may be too great. I found it essential to talk with those close to me. I felt a great need to express my frustrations but I could not force things as my brain has acted as a safe and locked away the area of memory in order that I could function. If for years I evaded the issue how could I expect it overnight to open and expose all the hurts I had endured? It will only allow a gradual release. I had to also deal with the fears of exposing the real me. How will my wife and parents react on hearing what happened to me as a child?
When I was plunged into a world of secrecy I did not possess the means of escape. I could not think or react like a grown up. I could not see the overall picture of what was happening. I did not doubt my parents’ love for me, but I was overcome by a feeling of guilt, shame and of being personally responsible. How could I turn this around and reclaim my childhood. This is why it is essential to educate our children from a very young age to the reality of child sex abuse and to show them that we as parents will not be shocked if they come and ask questions or need reassurance in the area of sexual education. The methods that abusers use, to trap the child varies so too our methods of education must also alert children to the dangers they face.
How was I to be alerted to the risk I faced when my abuser was a trusted friend and had the cover of being of high social ranking. When does ordinary playacting become inappropriate? My abuser regularly wrestled with me within earshot of my parents, they were not to know what he was doing or the stress I was in. I could not alert them to what he was doing to me and when each incident passed, I felt that everything was all right I did not realize the purpose for his actions. That was that I would not fight his assaults on me when he progressed to touching me intimately. He maintained ordinary conversations with my mother when she was making tea of doing the ironing in the kitchen. This was to allay her suspicions it also prevented me from shouting out and silenced my fears. My perception of his actions was of those of a trusted friend and I felt that I had consented to them. I was silenced by the 90% good I saw in him this masked the evil that he perpetrated. By the time I realized what he was about I was drawn into a trap with no means of escape.
For many years after the abuse I never attributed blame guilt or responsibility to my abuser. Prior to 1994, when I saw the programme on television I believed that all these lay with myself. Throughout this time I could see no means of escape other than to try to banish the memories of what happened all those years ago to the back of my mind. It became an internal war and one that I was the only person involved. My abuser had little chance of being caught because what had gone on only involved him and me and I had confined everything to the past never to be revisited. Who was I to turn too as I could not even inform my wife what I had done? The effects on my character would be enormous, I became withdrawn and I felt isolated. My ability to develop close relationships was halted. It would be into the late 1980’s before the truth of what happened would attempt to surface. The full facts would take another 6 years to be exposed.
I have avoided writing and I have tried to stop thinking about my diary over the last number of weeks. I have endured wave after wave of depression. My heart feels heavy with the effects abuse has had on my life. I still have not heard anything from the D.P.P.’s Office. How long more will we have to wait? It is not right that we are left in suspense for so long. One part of me wants to write down my thoughts and another battles to run away and not think about the hurts. It is no wonder that victims cut themselves off from thinking about being abused. There is part of us that does not want to remember those evil days. In the past I dealt with it in the only way I knew and a way I had mastered over 20 years. Yes, I could put on a normal face to the world yet live in torment. However now the prospect of an awaiting Court case will not allow me to fall into my old ways of seeking refuge. I am waiting for the opportunity to say what happened to me, yet so many things can happen. So much hurt will surface and my family will hear things that I have not been able to speak to anybody, lest the Court case be compromised.
My case was reopened and I made a further statement to the Gardai this new statement took 3 days to make. I will be forever indebted to the Gardai who investigated my case. I am unable to name them but they were fearless and loyal to the people they swore to serve. They are a credit to their profession. I owe them a debt one I will never be able to repay.
The transformation in my life since the 2/12/1997 has been enormous. In early December 1997 the D.P.P. has finally directed that charges be brought against my abuser. He was charged with numerous charges of Buggery and Indecent Assault.
I was shocked with this amazing development, what a transformation from the despair I felt when I was originally informed that my abuser would not be charged. My world was destroyed with that news. Now this new development has meant that the light has been turned on again. I am now going to be given a chance to face him face to face before an Irish Court. At last the complete picture was going to be seen by all. That secret world that my abuser had weaved to ensure that he would never be exposed was now going to be undone. This was going to involve great pain to everyone involved. He inflicted these injuries 20 years previously at a time I had no one to turn too. I remember his reply to me when I put to him that he had beggared me. His reply was that that word was a “filthy word”. He was to embarrassed and ashamed to repeat it before other men who were his piers. Yet he had no difficulty carrying it out on me as a boy of 15-16 years old. He would have to account for his actions against a boy who was alone and vulnerable to him. I felt that at last I was being listened too. I feel helpless to limit the damage and destruction this will bring to his family’s life.
He appeared in Court during January 1998. I was not obliged to be present but I had a deep need to be there. My wife and I had a very disturbed night. The prospect of being in the same room as him was not appealing. I was there to claim back my rights that had been robbed 26 years previously. It felt strange being in the building.
We arrived at the Courthouse at 10.05am we waited outside in the hall. The surrounding grey stones of granite held years of history. It was a real depressing place and in need of extensive renovation, yet a building where many turned for justice and where perpetrators of crimes had to account for their actions. Those deeds were varied and the doers were equally varied. Only time would reveal the truth and I possessed the patience to await its unveiling. On walking into the actual Court I was struck by the age of the seats. The body of the Court had a number of seats that were long and solid. To the left were seats for the media to sit. To the front one could see the Judge’s seat towering over the court below. The back of the court was raised and the seats again divided by a central isle. The Court Clerk sat in front of the Judge. To his left the witness stand. There was another raised area where the Gardai sat. The room had a raised ceiling and there was a distinct mark of Authority in the room.
We took up a position in the seats that were at the back of the room. He and his family were to the front of me. I had to have patience. My thoughts were of grief, pain together with tears of the anguish I had gone though since my journey begun in 1994. The court was full and there were a lot of Gardai present, I felt like a prized animal on display. One of the hardest things I have found is the knowledge that as time progressed the pain and hurt would worsen on the family of my abuser. I find it extremely difficult to continue knowing their pain would progressively get worst. I had no other way to bring my abuser to account and hopefully prevent other children from suffering what I had gone through. I will never be able to explain my actions to his family or to those who believe in his innocence together with those who feel that what’s done is done and is better left that way. My mind is constantly reminded of the things he did to me in our house and in his car all those years ago.
Only he and I can bear witness to those actions. But they are etched on my memory I now believe that he has had many a night wishing that he had never befriended my family. What followed was only a formality the Court was called to Order at 11am. The Judge entered and started hearing the cases. When the case was called at approx. 12pm. The Prosecution informed the Court that the Book of Evidence was served prior to the Court going into Session. The Judge remanded the case until the end of January 1998 at 10.30am, in order for the Defense to make any submissions. It was all over in 2 minutes but to me those 2 minutes represented a bridging of 25 years. When the case was over he disappeared out of the Court with the speed that mirrored an eel moving through water.
The purpose of bringing my abuser to Court was not that he would receive a long prison sentence for his crime but that he would not be allowed continue abusing children. When I heard that he had received a 2 year sentence that was later reduced to just over 6 months with the remainder suspended, I felt torn apart. I believed that other victims would look on the sentence and feel that he had been dealt with leniently. I also believed that victims would decide not to proceed with their cases if all that an abuser got was a few months sentence when he originally faced charges of Buggery and many charges of Indecent Assault, this sentence forced me into fighting on to have the sentence restored to its original length of 2 years in custody. I was successful in achieving this. I never tried to have his sentence increased.
A number of years have passed since the case went to the Court of Criminal Appeal. During this time many more cases of sexual abuse have come before the Courts. The victims and public at large have been shocked by the sentences imposed in many of these cases. I have tried not to look on the length of sentence but on the success of making other abusers account for their actions.
The number of reported sexual assaults and rapes is low when compared to the number of actual assaults that have occurred. Research shows that as few a 5% of those sexually abused report their abuse to the Authorities. Those who are successful in getting their cases through to conclusion in the Court are even smaller. Questions have got to be asked why this is so. I believe that the system we have in place is not geared to cope with the needs of victims of sexual abuse. Our Court System is not “Victim” centred. The victim of sexual assault has the position of being a Witness. The injured party is the State. This fact alone causes great pain to the people involved. A sexual assault on a person, male of female, child of adult is such as too cut to the core of ones being, and then to be treated as no more than a witness in the Prosecution case.
When a person is sexually assaulted they are made to feel helpless, worthless and an object of use for somebody else’s pleasure. Rape is an assault of Power over the will of another. These feelings remain with the victim and unless they are dealt with will go on to prevent the victim from regaining lost strength and respect in one’s self. When the person who was subject to the assault comes face to face with the Justice system it is vital that that system is not afraid to step back from the Formal and adapt itself to the needs of the victim. Many advances have been made in meeting these needs. For the majority of people this will be their first time inside a Court. Even to those who are familiar with its working, nothing can prepare them for what lies ahead.
I was not afraid of going up into the witness stand to give evidence. I knew that I was telling the truth. Despite this my abuser succeeded in hitting me the hardest by alleging that I had touched him in the course of the assaults. I felt as if I had returned to being that child again and instantly I was thrown back 20 years to the time of the original assaults. It was as if I was present in his car and the assaults were again taking place. I shouted out in the Court that this was untrue and a lie. I could not remain in his presence within the Courtroom. I ran out of the Court proclaiming my innocence. I was brought into an adjoining room where Gardai and others involved in the case joined me. I was no longer a man of 37. As each person entered the room all I could do was shout out my innocence and tell them that I never touched him. It took a long time before I felt that I was able to return to the Court.
My reason for writing this is to show that if I could be affected in this way how much more would the process scar a child. The Judge showed great understanding in allowing me to regain my composure before proceeding with the case. Another victim may have found the pain too unbearable to continue. I knew that I must not be moved from my aim of seeing this through to the end.
Victims must be very resilient and determined that they want to see Justice before they take on the lonely road which is our legal system. Currently a large proportion of victims are unable to report their assaults in the first place. They fear that the process would result in them been abused again. This is too painful and too much of a price to be demanded from a person who has just endured such a devastating crime. A parent my question how they could allow their child go through such a traumatic experience, which has such a low success rate? Our justice system cannot provide justice to victims who remain silent and invisible without major changes. These victims, both male and female, from all ages, class background wait in hope that society will make the changes that will allow them to claim their right to a fair hearing. This fact is crying out for all to see. It is know by the majority of those working in the field.
The penalties as laid down by a specific Act together with the law of precedent governs the sentences handed down by the Courts to those convicted of sexual assaults of any form. The maximum sentence can only be imposed on those who commit the most serious crimes and who put their victim through the whole process of a trial. Credit is given to those who have not been before the Courts previously. If there are to be changes in the length of sentence this can only be done by changes in the Law. The Government has sole responsibility for undertaking these changes. Every Law must be acceptable under the Constitution and pass examination by the Supreme Court if challenged. As things currently stand changes may need to be made to the Constitution in order to bring about the changes that would bring victims to have confidence that their abuser will receive a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime perpetrated.
Currently a person charged with Rape will be tried in the Central Criminal Court. This is to reflect the seriousness of the crime. Why should people charged with indecent assault and buggery of children be tried in the Circuit Courts? The only difference in the assaults is that the child who was abused did not realise at the time of the assaults what the intentions of their assailant was. In the majority of cases the victim knows their abuser. The abuser invests large amounts of time in order to cultivate their victim. The victim resembles a lobster in warm water not realising that it is being cooked. By the time the child is assaulted its ability to shout stop or to report the assaults to a responsible adult have vanished. If it had been an adult who was raped they would have the maturity to know what had occurred. It is accepted that a rape victim who does not resist the attack has still been raped.
There is an accepted format when dealing with a person charged with a number of similar crimes that appear before the Courts at the same time. When passing sentence the Judge has the ability to impose a sentence or fine on one of the charges and “Take into Consideration” the other charges. An examination is required on the cases of assaults on children, should there be an automatic consecutive sentence for repeat assaults on the same child. If a thief stole clothes from a store on a hundred occasions over a 6-8 year period. These thefts would not be seen as one crime. Each theft would be a crime in its own right. If an abuser assaulted 10 children on 3 occasions over a 6-8 year period we would see these assaults as separate assaults and impose a sentence appropriately. Yet why should one child have to endure 100 assaults over this period and have it dealt with by the Courts as one crime? The accepted system of taking into consideration other similar crimes that were before the Court on the same day may be appropriate when dealing with larcenies or other minor crimes but when it comes to repeat sexual assaults on victims it must be examined. How can a sentence of 5 years be imposed for a Rape and 2 years be appropriate when a child was buggered or indecently assaulted on up to a 100 occasions and these assaults take place over a number of years? The Courts treat very severally repeat offenders. Why can an abuser claim credit for a first time appearance before the Courts when convicted of repeated incidents of sexual assaults. In reality this claim is meaningless as the crime shows that during the time in question instead of being an upright citizen he was abusing and assaulting innocent victims.
If this person had convictions for bank robberies society would have been forewarned as to the risk he posed. Parents would be weary about allowing their children alone in his company. If he came before the Courts he would be in risk of getting a severe sentence. The “upright citizen” who is convicted of sexually abusing an innocent child can claim full credit for his works of charity within the community and believe that these should absolve him from his abuse of the child he assaulted.
Child sexual abuse is like no other crime. The Courts recognises that some victims are unable to deal with the assaults when they occur and that the reality of the assaults might not affect the victim until years later. This delay in time allows the perpetrator to continue on as part of our community and with the danger that they may prey on other innocent victims. The first rule of our justice system is that all men are innocent until proven guilty. This principle is a foundation stone of our justice system. When a person is convicted of sexually abusing a victim repeatedly over a number of years should they be given the benefit of no previous conviction? We cannot presuppose that they have abused other children but the overwhelming evidence of the repeated abuse should remove any reduction that might be given for a first appearance before the Courts.
A large proportion of people who come before the Courts on criminal charges have offended previously. Child sex abusers go against this rule. They have successfully evaded detection and continued unnoticed to ravage destruction of innocent children. The rules that apply to ordinary court cases should be reconsidered when it comes to repeat offenders. Paedophiles spend months if not years patiently grooming their intended victim. They depend on building trust, friendships, and acceptance with the parents, family and child. They search out positions of work that give them access to children. A Defence prior to sentence would see all these as litigating factors. In any other crime this would be true. When it comes to child abuse these are part of the modus operandi of the criminal. Why then should he be given credit for it?
While we cannot presuppose that the abuser has re-offended neither can we claim that he has not nor will not into the future? No one deserves credit for something relating to the future. All research into child sex abuse shows that abusers re-offend. All we can say is that no other victims have come forward and reported their abuse. They of all people do not deserve the credit of not re-offending into the future. What is needed is a system to be put in place to supervise the abuser. This should continue on after any sentence is completed.
Should we introduce a system of reducing sentences in order to entice abusers onto treatment programmes for abusers? The question I poses is this should abusers who refuse to do treatment programmes be allowed out of prison. The refusal to participate in a programme is a clear sign of the risk that the abuser poses to children. Even when it comes to those who go on programmes, we must accept that they succeeded in their crime by manipulating the world on the outside. They pose no risk while in prison because there are no children there for them to abuse. I believe that we should invest money in this field of work and that it is essential that the work continue indefinitely after they leave prison. This will require large sums of money to be invested into the field. What is at stake is our children safety.
The abuser who abuses children may not be a priest, but the depth of damage done is so deep, that one of the first casualties is a person’s faith and trust in God. I know that God loves me and that He has His way for me, and I want to follow it. Jesus said, when he was speaking about the little ones, “Let them come unto me”. He also said, “What you do unto one of them, you do unto me”. There is one other thing He said, “ the one who causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a millstone be hung around his neck”. I would hate to think that the legacy of Irish Culture would be that so many millstones would be tied around so many necks.
God wants us to face up to the wrongs, admit them, come out and be straight about thPosted by Colm at January 06, 2003 05:07 PM