Following the conviction today of Carl Beech, his blog posts for posterity…
Carl Beech’s blog posts were originally posted on his behalf on a blog called This Tangled Web, run by Kate Swift.
Carl later started to post directly onto his own blog carlchass.wordpress.com-
Published May 4, 2014 By kate.swift
Why did I not speak out sooner? *Trigger*
It seems that with all the abuse cases in the media recently, a common question seems to be “why did they not speak out sooner”, “why wait until now” etc. It’s true that some people did try and disclose what was happening to them, but they were no believed. I cannot speak for others, but I didn’t speak out, and I hope this explains why. I first disclosed that I had been abused 6 years after it had finished, and this was just to acknowledge that I had been hurt. 15 years or so after it ended, I was able to say that I had been raped but on both occasions I kept everything else to myself. 30 years after the abuse stopped, I finally disclosed everything.
So why did I not speak out sooner. Well picture a young boy whose father would beat him black and blue for not doing as he was told, when the abuse turned sexual, any resistance or questioning was met with extreme violence. So he exerted his control on me from the age of 7, but could I not have told anyone else? Well at 7 I did not really know what was happening, part of me thought it’s what fathers did. My mother did not stop it (I assumed she knew) so again this reiterated to that small boy that it was all normal. The blame was constantly being levelled at me, so how could I speak out when it was my fault. Could I tell my teacher? My injuries were evident and my teachers did nothing, so this again reinforced to me that it was my fault and I deserved it. Could the medical profession help me? They saw the state of my injuries and no one tried to intervene and stop it. If they did, they totally believed any explanation that my father gave. So there I was, 7 years old, no one to turn to and no one to help me. I knew it was my fault and I deserved what happened to me.
I was then given to the group (a paedophile ring) who totally controlled my life for the next 9 years. They said who could be my friend, they told me where to be at certain times, they took me out of school when they wanted me. If you broke their rules, the punishments were severe, and depending on the mood of the group at the time would lead to torture. To the average person, you cannot comprehend what that means, torture is a word used in war, or espionage . Well I (and other boys) were tortured on a regular basis to keep us all in line and obeying the rules. When you have this much fear in your life as a young child, you do as you are told and you don’t think about escaping, where could you escape to? I dreamt about it in my head, and that’s as far as it went. We knew that if we said anything, we would simply disappear.
Then for me there was the inner group to the paedophile ring. These were made up of very powerful people who were not afraid for you to know who they were, they were not afraid of repercussions because they knew they were untouchable. Hiding anything from them was impossible, they could do anything they liked, when they liked. This installed a new level of fear that penetrated right through to my soul.
This kept me in check throughout my childhood and teenage years. So why didn’t I say anything at 16 when it had finished. I spent the next few years looking over my shoulder, frightened at the slightest thing, frightened of my own shadow. When I did eventually start to come out of that and got myself into work, I threw myself into work as a distraction, I focused on burying my past, my feelings, who I was, meant nothing. Then as a man you are not encouraged to speak about issues like what happened to me as a child. My mother was the first person I disclosed to and she brushed it under the carpet, so I kept quiet. It affected my marriage so I said a bit more, and that too had negative consequences so I kept quiet again. Even recently I would not speak about the inner group for fear for my safety.
I don’t know if this will mean much to the average person, you cannot comprehend the control and the fear that abusers put onto their victims, this is what protects them and allows them to continue to hurt children. I can’t put into words the sheer terror that filled my life as a child 24 hours a day. I know that if I had spoken out, I would not be here today. It’s this silence that we must break in today’s children to give them the power to speak out. In a culture of openness and empowerment, abuse cannot flourish. When you have no comprehension or understanding of what I went through, please don’t judge me as to why I did not speak out sooner and don’t judge other survivors for their own reasons.
Counselling… It’s hard to accept you need help… *trigger*
Published May 4, 2014 | By kate.swift
It’s hard to accept you need help for anything especially when you’re a man, and it’s even harder when coming to terms with childhood trauma. About 6 years after the abuse stopped, I was almost forced into counselling. I was on the verge of a breakdown, but I still don’t think I was really ready for dealing with my past. I thought I had made a pretty good job of burying it, but I was kidding myself. I saw the counsellor for a year and hardly said a word during my sessions. I eventually managed to say that I had been hurt but that was it. For the first time I heard the words “it was not your fault” and “there was nothing you could have done”. She kept saying them to me, but they didn’t register.
I kept things buried deep inside and tried to get on with my life. Trouble was the abuse had left its mark and I had lots of issues in adult life and eventually helped to destroy my marriage. Trying to save the marriage, we went to marriage guidance. 15 years after the abuse had stopped I was telling the guidance counsellor and then my wife the reason behind my intimacy issues. Looking back, it was not unreasonable for my wife to want an intimate relationship, but for me it was my worst nightmare. I didn’t give any details and the only question she asked me was “was I raped”. When I told her I was, she lost all interest in me and a few years later walked out on me.
After another failed relationship, I put myself back into counselling to resolve the intimacy problems so that I could have a good relationship at some point. Little did I know (or the counsellor) that I had to go back and deal with my past because it was eating me up alive. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find help for childhood abuse when you are a man. Everything seems to be aimed at women and girls. I contacted my local sexual assault and referral centre, just to be told in no uncertain times that they were there for women and girls only and would not help me or even point me in the right direction. So I was left to find my own counsellor.
I met a few counsellors before I settled on one that I felt comfortable with, and this was so important. I would not have said I trusted them at that stage, but I felt comfortable with them, and they helped me to share what happened to me little by little. As I told her more and more over time, she said it was like looking at me through a forest, gradually as she gets closer she can see more of me, she was cutting through my past to get to me.
I was reliving hell all over again, the nightmares and flashbacks returned with vengeance and I hardly slept. I kept myself busy at work to try and keep my mind occupied . The more comfortable I felt, the more I told her. I found it so hard, I wanted to cry, but I can’t cry within anyone else in the room (another relict from my past, for fear of punishment) and I would get though each session and collapse in tears when in my car and out of sight. At times she cried at some of the things I told her, but at every session she was listening, encouraging and supporting.
Over the years it got easier and easier, we found that I could get respite from writing, so I wrote and wrote, my nightmares, memories, details, worries, poems, your name it I wrote it down. What I could never imagine at in those early days of counselling was how I would feel now. For years its felt like my mind was in a fog, but now I feel I am in the sunshine, I feel clear and yes, I think I feel happy (still trying to vocalise feelings, again another relict of my past).
I am now a different person, my own man. I am still in therapy, but it is so much easier now to comprehend and live with what happened to me. I am proud I carried on with the counselling, many a time I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. It has had such a positive effect on my life.
My Experience With The Police *trigger*
Published May 4, 2014 | By kate.swift
My experience with the police once I decided to report what happened to me has been nothing but positive in what for me has been a very distressing time. My case linked with several big national and ongoing cases and spanned a number of different police force areas. The ‘NSPCC’ encouraged me to report what happened and put me in touch with the special operations centre at the Metropolitan Police. The senior officer that contacted me was lovely and explained the process if I decided to continue, she took a few basic details and wanted to review with her colleagues who would be best to lead on my case. She gave me time to think about what I wanted to do and once I confirmed I wanted to proceed, she sorted it all out.
Within a week, a senior officer of the Police force who would lead on my case contacted me and arranged to meet informally to discuss how things would work. Every time we met they gave me the option of going to them, them coming to my home or meeting at a police station half way between the two. When I met the lead officer on that first occasion, we had arrange to meet at a special sexual assault referral centre attached to a police station, so the atmosphere was very homely and made me feel a little more at ease. He brought with him another officer, who if I decided to proceed would be my liaison officer for the duration of the case. They were both very sensitive to my feelings, allowed me time to talk and were very careful to explain all the processes, including how sometimes they can come across as uncaring because they are only seeking the facts for evidence and are not there to counsel. They checked that I was already receiving counselling and made sure I co-ordinated my appointments with theirs so that I had the support I needed. They also referred me to the independent advocate services who would support me if the case went to court.
I think it was this totally caring approach that helped in my decision to go for it. I contacted my liaison officer who seem pleased and was and has been very encouraging. He explained that it was important that my evidence was recorded on video as soon as possible which would help me in the long run if it went to court because it could be used in court and whilst I really did not want to give videoed evidence, I agreed.
My liaison officer has kept me up to date at every stage and will email me with updates, or when its important, he will phone me and arrange to meet to explain in person. When I had to do the video evidence, he was very careful to show me the rooms before hand, introduced the other officer who would manage the equipment, he explained all the equipment to me and most importantly gave me plenty of time. The questions were hard and I had to give very specific and detailed answers which was really upsetting. But throughout the officer was very patient and encouraging.
Overall, it has been an extremely hard thing to do, but I can’t thank the police enough. Since I contacted them, they have been supportive, encouraging and communicative. They have always taken me seriously, believed me and been very thorough in their investigation. For such a distressing thing for me, I could not have wished for anything more. I have heard that other people have not been so fortunate in their dealings with the police, but for me, I can’t praise them highly enough.
A Paedophile Ring, a Personal Perspective ***trigger***
Published May 6, 2014 | By kate.swift
I have written before about how hard it is coming to terms with abuse as a child and the lasting problems it leaves. However, I find it harder to deal with those emotions when your past is also being played out in the national media. I have seen so many messages recently about this rumour and that bit of speculation and it all seems so surreal. For myself and other boys (now men) we know what happened, it was very real and it was a living hell. So I thought I would share my personal perspective on the group (paedophile ring) that hurt me.
Over the last few weeks there has been in increase in the amount of messages, tweets etc, about EGH and its associated paedophile ring. Confirmation from the press and politicians (in a recent book) about possible members of that group, speculation from the public as to the others. The messages also seem to focus on the fact that these boys that were hurt were all in care at the time in various children’s homes. Well firstly I would like to say that the boys involved did not just come from children’s homes. We came from all walks of life, some from care homes, some from boarding schools, some from (what to the outside world were) normal families, except they were anything but normal.
It never seemed like EGH was part of the main set up for this group. It almost appeared to be an entry point for men who wanted access to the main group or to simply do what they want with a boy and leave. Some boys would be dropped off at EGH, whilst others would be kept predominantly for the exclusive use of the group.
So where was I taken? You never knew where you were going until you were on your way. There were numerous locations across London and the home counties. They ranged from private houses, hotels, military locations, private member clubs and other locations that would not be appropriate to mention here. They decided which boys they wanted and you were picked up and taken to whoever had ordered you. We were not privy to the addresses of all the places we were taken, some were obvious, some you saw by accident, some you only know by the number on the door and the insides, others will always remain secret. Sometimes you will see a location when you got back to a particular town or part of London (or recently seeing EGH in the press) and memories hit like a thunder clap.
So what was this group? The group is what I was told to call it, all those years ago. It was split into two main parts that I could see, the main group and the inner circle or inner group. There common interest however, was me, us, boys. Some of us were particular favourites of some men, and they would just order us like you would order a takeout lunch. Sometimes I would be on my own, sometimes with another boy and sometimes there would be lots of us. The same was true with the men, sometimes there would be one man, sometimes a few, sometimes lots of them, all with one thing on their mind. Actually, that is not quite true, whilst they all wanted to kiss, touch and assault us, some of them also got their kicks with extreme violence and if they could combine the two, so much the better.
At certain times of the year the men would come together for big parties (not a fun type party for us anyway). Two examples were Christmas (the biggest of the year) and valentine’s day. Other parties were held by some men, for example those men who were part of the military would hold a special party for remembrance. On each occasion we were subjected to drink, drugs, sex, violence, humiliation, pain and much worse.
There was an inner group to the main group, for the most part they kept themselves separate and rarely mixed with the main group. They liked things a little more exclusive and when they ordered you, their request took priority. In my experience, the men that were part of the inner group were a lot more kinder and never used violence
Even as a child you could see it was very well organised, we had to be at specific locations at specific times. Taken from home, from school whatever was required. But there was a hierarchy within the group, you could tell who the men where who gave the orders. Were they powerful, yes they were, the men in the main group were powerful enough, but the inner group, well you cannot imagine the levels of influence and power they held. Based on the men I came across, the main group consisted of senior military personnel, clergy, medical professionals, elected officials, law enforcement and others. Names were not supposed to be used within the group, although some men you got to know over time. Occasionally high profile guests would be allowed to participate, one of these high profile guests has since died, but it was a national scandal played out in the media, although links to a paedophile ring were not confirmed. As for the inner group, I cannot reveal here who was a part of this. However, these people were not afraid to tell us who they were, they knew then and then know now that they cannot be touched for what they did.
Can people create such fear even years on? yes, without a doubt. The groups reach was far and wide. They were able to find out anything and everything about you, they were able to remove me and others from school without questions being asked, they were able to make people disappear and I and other boys saw what they were capable of on a day to day basis. It was a living hell and one that unless you were part of it, you cannot imagine what took place. This group controlled and hurt me for 9 long years and robbed me of my childhood, subjecting me to the most horrific things. It has left me with PTSD, internal and external scars and a lot of issues that affect my adult life, and over time I have been able to address each of these live my life as best I can. I found the strength and I have spoken out about some of the men in the group, but not all and not the inner group. The Fear they instilled is very powerful even after 30 years.
Fear: Where did it come from? ***Trigger***
Published May 11, 2014 | By kate.swift
We are all afraid of things, some fears are rational some a irrational but to each of us, fear is an emotion and one that can have debilitating consequents either because we are afraid to do something or afraid not to do something. My fear kept me from speaking out about what happened to me. Yes I am still scared of a lot of things that were ingrained in me during those years as a child, but one by one I am overcoming them.
Fear was ingrained in me from the age of 7. If I did not do as I was told, the consequences, the violence would be severe. But as a child all those years ago, it was also the fear of the unknown. I almost found it easier when my father said was he was going to do after school, than when it came out of the blue. But it was the unknown that I feared more. Being left alone in a totally pitch black room not knowing what was going to happen next, having sharp objects stabbed into your feet not really knowing what or why but experiencing the excruciating pain that went with it. I don’t think the fear ever subsided, it just became part of me. The group were always finding new ways to increase the pain, increase the fear. Putting an animal into that black room took the fear to a new level. and holding your head underwater brought a new pain and new terror.
Then on top of the fear of pain, injury and death, was an all in composing fear that surrounded me like a bubble. The fear of knowing the group knew everything, could reach anywhere. To try and give you some sense of how this was done, I forgot once that I had to be picked up, I don’t know why I forgot, but it was not tolerated by the group. The punishment for that was my dog. She meant everything to me, she was my constant and my comforter. I came home that day to be told my dog was missing, she was being taken for a walk, and had disappeared. The group kept her for a week before they let her go, they didn’t harm her, but it was a warning for me and one I took very seriously.
Myself and other boys saw what some of these men were capable of, they took pleasure in seeing us in pain, they liked to think of new ways to hurt us and they would do anything to keep control. We knew that any of us could be killed without any hesitation. For me this threat would have been a release, however, the threat that you could simply disappear and no one would question it reached right into my soul. This scared me more than anything because firstly I knew they could do it and secondly it was the unknown. Did this mean you would die or what. I broke the rules a few times and paid dearly for it.
What made the fear worse was the almost normality of some things. Being taken openly to some locations reinforced certainly the inner group’s sentiments that no one questions what they do. Who could you trust, would there be anyone you could tell without the group finding out? Did everyone just know what was going on and just didn’t care. I use to ask myself these questions now and again, but what was the use, I was not strong enough to stop what was happening, I was just a boy controlled by these men.
The fear still exists today, but after therapy and time it’s not as strong as it use to be. Fear of the inner group, or certainly what they were / are capable of does still exist, but as more people speak out, this fear will start to lessen. I hope so anyway.
Published May 15, 2014 | By kate.swift
Most people will go through their lives only to go through what I would see as normal pain. Physical pain like a headache or perhaps childbirth or emotional pain at the loss of a loved one or breakdown in a relationship. Others will experience more severe pain such as a debilitating condition or mental illness. Pain is so hard to described and is different for all of us. What one person feels as pain, another might not. I just want to take time to share my own experience of pain, both physical and emotional.
This is harder to describe, but emotional pain for me was constant but occasionally would increase significantly with specific events. I don’t remember feeling in pain before the age of 7, but my first experience of emotional pain was realising my father was not the dad I hoped and longed for. I wanted a dad who would play normal games with me, I wanted a dad to read to me, I wanted a dad to guide me and be there for me. Instead I got a father who could not care less about me, I got a father who liked to hurt me, I got a father who hated me. The next for me would then have to be my mother, she was supposed to protect me wasn’t she? To that small boy, how could she let everything happen, unless I deserved it of course. That emotional pain severed a vital connection and for years I have hardly any memory of my mother.
Then there were the threats made to my dog, this sent my emotional pain to a new level. She meant everything to me, she kept that boy sane. I could talk to her, I could cry into her fur, with her wagging tail she comforted me, she never blamed me or hurt me. I could not bear the thought of losing her, but of course this was just another way of ensuring my compliance.
Emotional pain was then increased by some of the methods they used to torture us, like the pitch black room. This in itself did not hurt me, but the fear of the unknown, the fear of what was there in the dark was just pure terror. The times some of the men were nice and kind do me just before they hurt me, seeing those two sides to people and seeing their nature change in seconds. Lulling you into a false sense of security by their kindness and then striking with such hatefulness. Some men would treat me as though I was special, others just as a body to play with. All this culminated to totally destroy my ability to feel anything, and my ability to trust. Something I still have to work on to this day.
much pain can any one person stand, let alone a child. I was subjected to such severe pain it would not take long to loose consciousness. That in itself brought a bit of respite as the darkness closed it, but it was short lived. It didn’t stop them, just made things worse. And the different types of pain, more that I could imagine was possible to feel.
The sharp pain when something is stabbed into my foot, the short lived pain of a wasp sting, the continuous pain of broken bones that turned into dull continuous aches as they healed on their own, the burning of your insides as you drown, deep penetrating pain that fills every part of your body from electrocution so much so you think you are just going to explode and of course the indescribable pain of being raped over and over again. I was given lots of pain killers to mask my injuries and I was sometimes doped up with drugs or alcohol and that eased the pain for a little while, but it always returned.
I don’t know if this gets anything across, it’s so hard to describe and even harder to comprehend. I don’t know if it is possible for anyone to grasp what happened unless they have been through similar experiences. But I try to put it into words to try and give people a little insight into what it was like, what I had to live through day in day out as a boy.
Published May 21, 2014 | By kate.swift
I have been trying to write some more blogs recently, but they are all just so jumbled in my mind. There is one I really want to post, but don’t feel I can just yet. But I read someone else’s blog today and it mentioned forgiveness, and I found myself getting a little bit angry, not at the person who wrote the blog, but just of the word forgiveness.
I have been asked several times do I / would I forgive those men that hurt me. In addition to these comments, I see other messages that say forgiveness is part of your healing, and you have to forgive them and I have to forgive myself. Others suggest that if I do not forgive, I will not progress with my healing journey.
I know forgiveness is a very individual thing and one that can cause such conflict within people. For me the issue is very simple (I think), because can I forgive the men that hurt me – NO. I have thought about it a lot during my therapy, interestingly though when it’s raised by others, I don’t remember my counsellor ever mentioning forgiveness. To me forgiveness implies that there had to be some mitigating circumstances to what they did to me and I can’t accept that. I can’t forgive any of them because what they did was planned and calculated. They made the conscious choice to hurt me so badly. At anytime they could have stopped, they could have let me go but they didn’t. They could have protected me instead of hurting me and that is something I cannot forgive.
One other thing I cannot forgive, is God. In my very early years I was brought up within the Christian faith, went to church every week etc. But I remember pleading to God to make the pain stop, and then begging him to take me away from it all. It came to a head one day when I woke up in hospital and for a brief few seconds I thought I was dead and it was over. I was distraught to realise it was just hospital, not only because I knew nothing had stopped, but because not even God wanted me, not even he wanted to help me. From that minute on I stopped believing and stopped asked for his help.
One question mark is whether I forgive my mother. Throughout my childhood, I always assumed she knew what was happening, how could she not know. How could my mother not see my injuries, how could she let me go with these men. It’s only since I reported some of what happened to the police and they interviewed her that I was told she didn’t know what was going on. I now know the reasons behind this, but I still have trouble accepting it. I no longer blame her, but I can’t quite say that I forgive her just yet.
The people I have forgiven or rather show no animosity towards are the professionals that in my eyes did nothing. The doctors, nurses and teachers should have noticed, they should have done something, but to my knowledge they didn’t. I think though that I can feel this towards them because of the lack of information on my part. I don’t know if they asked questions and were ignored, I don’t know if they tried and things were just covered up by the group.
As for forgiving myself, I now know that I am not to blame for what happened, I now know it was not my fault and I now know that I could not have done anything to stop it. So therefore, I have nothing to forgive myself for, I didn’t do anything wrong.
I have made huge progress in dealing with my past, I can now see that and I don’t think that my journey has been hampered by my lack of forgiveness. It is not something my counsellor raises, and I trust her judgement. If you yourself feel the need to forgive yourself or those that hurt you, then I won’t judge you, but stand by you and you have my respect. But I also ask that you don’t judge me for being so adamant about not forgiving those that hurt me.
This is one of my poems I wrote as part of my therapy. The first time I expressed hate towards those that hurt me.
I look at the boy I use to be:
I was a frightened lonely boy and no one cared.
Used and abused, a sweat in a bag handed out and shared.
They came in the night, they came in the day
Myself and other boys were always their prey.
For years I endured the humiliation and shame.
The hurt, the guilt, the fear, the pain.
They hurt me a lot and broke my body.
Then the kissing, the touching, to them I was nobody.
They hurt and broke me each time I was raped.
But in my mind, I was elsewhere trying to escape.
My bruises and injuries were there to see.
But my teachers, doctors and my mum didn’t help me.
Years of hell I had to survive.
But I made it, I’m here and I’m alive.
It’s now over 30 years since the last assault.
Years of hiding the secret thinking it was my fault.
I was small and helpless there was nothing I could have done.
I had to do as I was told whilst they had their fun.
But they had the power, the power over me.
I was trapped, locked in and they have the key.
It’s now time to use the H word, the powerful word HATE.
I would like to say it to their face, but it’s now too late.
I HATE what they did to me, I HATE what they made me do.
I HATE remembering and reliving, but I HATE the secrets too.
I HATE the memories and the nightmares after all these years.
I HATE the pain, the guilt, the shame and the tears.
I HATE them with all my heart.
But I now have my voice, so for me it’s a start.
Letter to my abusers **Trigger**
Published May 26, 2014 | By kate.swift
Some of you took an oath to serve and protect your country. Some of you took an oath to uphold the law, others took an oath to protect or to heal. So what did I do to you that you broke all your oaths to hurt me so badly? Why did you choose me, was I just in the wrong place at the wrong time? What did I do to deserve such treatment and pain? Did it make you feel like real men to hurt me so much? Did it make you feel proud to make me bleed and cry? Did it make you feel strong to break my small body? Did you feel powerful to have such control over me? How did you justify what you were doing to me? did you think I enjoyed being kissed, touched, raped and tortured? Did you think I wanted to be drugged and injured so badly? I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to feel pain, like the pain you put me through. How could you as human beings treat another human in such a terrible way, especially me, just a child.
You said I was bad, you said I deserved it, your punished me for breaking your rules, but you set rules that were impossible to follow knowing that I would be punished again and again. But I had done nothing to you, nothing to deserve such hatred, nothing to deserve such horrors.
You all knew what you were doing, you made the choice to hurt me. You decided that as grown men, you had to use me, a small boy, to satisfy your constant demands. I was someone who could not stand up to you, I was someone who could not fight you off, I was the someone who took all your punishment and assaults . You probably don’t feel ashamed, and yet I did for years as a result of what you put me through. You scarred me for life by what you did. OK, my physical injuries have healed, but my physical and emotional scars will remain with me for the rest of my life. You took my childhood, your took my innocence , but you never took my will, my will to survive.
But do you know what, all those years ago you held the power, but no longer. I refused to let it, let you affect my life any longer. I survived what you did, despite your best efforts. The boy you hurt all those years ago, is now a man, a strong man. I am a man with a voice and will stand tall with other survivors of those terrible times and shout from the rooftops about what happened.
I don’t think I will every understand why you did what you did. I can’t begin to contemplate how you could do what you did and think it was acceptable. I will never forget what happened, you have given me a life sentence in that respect. But know this, I will never forgive you either. You made your choice and that made you as close to pure evil as I think you can get. But the world is not as cruel as you led me to believe. I have found people to help and support me and guess what? I no longer feel guilty, I no longer feel ashamed, I no longer feel to blame and I no longer feel controlled by you. It was all down to you, it was your fault, it was your doing, you were to blame, not me.
Questions I have been asked, easy for most, problematic for me: **trigger**
Published May 30, 2014 | By kate.swift
During my late teenage years and my adult life in various situations, there are some questions that I get asked. Some of them very regularly, others where only asked at certain times such as when I went to collage etc. For most people, these are such simply questions, but to me they always put me on the spot. Now however, I am in a different place, a more positive place in my recovery and now they make me laugh. I don’t change my response, but I now think that I would just like to say what a really want to say rather than my standard response. So I thought I would write them down instead, the questions, my standard reply and what I would really like to say.
Why don’t you drink alcohol?
Standard reply – I don’t like it
Truth – when you have been forced to drink it during your childhood and seen the worst it brings out in people, it changes your attitude towards it.
How old were you when you first had sex?
Standard reply – I don’t know, can’t remember.
Truth – 7
Why don’t you talk about your childhood?
Standard reply – nothing to talk about, very boring.
Truth – what childhood, I had 9 years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse and torture – that was my childhood.
Do you remember the good old days when you were a child?
Standard reply – Yes
Truth – Yes, but they were not the good old days. I’m just glad you didn’t have the childhood I had.
Have you ever taken drugs?
Standard reply – no
Truth – not willingly, but I have been forced to take them as a child
Where you ever smacked as a child?
Standard reply – yes (they then follow this up with , well it didn’t do you any harm then)
Truth – yes, smacked, punched, kicked and much much more. And yes it did do me a lot of harm
Why do you always go quiet?
Standard reply – sorry
Truth – It is a defence mechanism learnt in my childhood, I had to keep quiet for my own survival
How are you?
Standard reply – ok
Truth – really struggling at the moment thanks, but please don’t ask anymore.
Why are you so fat?
Standard reply – sorry
Truth – I wanted to be fat, I wanted to make myself unattractive and I wanted people to leave me alone.
Why are you crap at kissing?
Standard reply – sorry
Truth – as a child, kissing would always start and end an assault. It feels me with terror for what might be to come.
There are other questions, but I can’t post about those just yet.
Published June 1, 2014 | By kate.swift
Sometimes things can come out of nowhere, knock you for six and fill you with a total and utter sadness that it penetrates straight deep into the soul. This happened to me last night. I was just talking to a good friend about their day, they were chatting away about what they had done and it was something I related to very well because it was something I had done many a time. But all of a sudden my head was filled with images as a result of that conversation.
It was something that I had as a teenager that the group used sometimes as an excuse for my whereabouts and sometimes as an excuse for some of my injuries. It was something that meant a lot to me (not quite as much as my dog, but still was special to me). It was a normal part of my life at that time – if there was any such normality in my life at all.
But just like a lot of things, it was taken away from me. I still can’t remember why or what I had done or even why at that particular time. I remember screaming and begging them not to do what they were planning. I remember breaking free from the man who was restraining me and running to try and stop them. But I didn’t make it. As I heard the single shot, my legs gave way from underneath me and I collapsed to the floor. I remember my tears stopped and I just felt totally empty, nothing.
Reliving those memories last night upset me of course, but the overwhelming sadness came from seeing that boy, me just lying there on the ground, an empty vessel, devoid of all thought, all emotions and all feelings. I never thought about that moment again until my most recent therapy that started a few years ago. This is the first time I have been able to write about it, although I still don’t feel able to put the detail down. It was another experience that added to the trauma for that child, for me and one I’m not sure I’ve come to terms with yet
How did I cope as a child **trigger**
Published June 2, 2014 | By kate.swift
I have been asked several times how I coped as a child whilst I was being abused. Whenever I get asked this, it makes me think long and hard, and honestly I have no idea. I think I can look back now as an adult and think what might have helped at any given time, but who knows. As a boy, I could not tell you how I got through it, I just did. I just went from one day to the next, blaming myself. In the early days I tried praying for it to stop, but this didn’t last long before I stopped believing . I hoped they would kill me and release me from the pain, and whilst they came close several times, each time I survived. I don’t think I ever thought consciously about ending my own life, I don’t think I would have known how to as that young boy. When I was a teenager, I did play chicken a few times with trains, and I remember not caring if one hit me or not. However, I must have cared because I always jumped out of the way at the last minute.
Looking back however, I think there were at least four things that I can identify that I think made a difference to how I coped with everything during my childhood.
Firstly there was my dog, well my mother’s dog at first, and then I had my own dog. I never had to tell her when I was hurting, she automatically knew and she would always come and find me in my room. She would even crawl under the bed with me and just lie with me whilst I cried into her fur. She never said I was bad, she never told me off, she never told me how disgusting I was, she was just there, wagging her tail with unconditional love and loyalty. I use to just hug her and cry. I was not supposed to cry, it wasn’t allowed. So I use to cry into her fur to mask the sound. She never minded though even though she got pretty wet from my tears. Both my father and the group used my love for her against me in order to maintain control over me.
Next were school holidays, at least they were when I was at primary school, and the safety they provided, got less and less when I went to secondary school. I spent a lot of holidays with my grandparents or going abroad with my mother (I don’t actually remember those trips abroad, but she tells me we went). During those holidays I was safe, but I only remember actually feeling safe when I was with my grandparents. The holidays gave me a chance to gather my strength, to recharge my batteries for what was to come when I returned home. As I got older though, the abuse crept into the holidays and my safety net reduced and reduced.
Next were the other boys involved. Like me they didn’t have a choice and we were not encouraged to talk to each other, in fact they didn’t like it at all. But when you spent so much time together, you got to know them and some became my friends. The abuse was somehow easier when we were together. When it was over or in between assaults we were there to comfort each other. Some of us tried to support each other, some of us even tried to protect others. I remember during one session, I was ordered to hit my friend with an object. I hesitated and refused to pick the object up. I paid dearly for that decision.
Finally there was my own world that I would try and withdraw to. I don’t remember how I did it, but would find myself almost separated from what was happening, voices were muffled and I was back walking by my special river, staring into its dark waters, listening to the sound as it ran over the rocks. At other times, music filled my head, but it didn’t always work especially when pain brought me back to reality with a crash. I don’t think it was a conscious decision, it just happened. But sometimes when I really wanted it to happen, it didn’t and I never understood why. This special place I tried to go to in my mind still holds such power over me today. Whatever changes in my life, this river stays the same, it has been a constant in my life. It’s always been there, always flowing and always able to sooth my mind.
Looking back as the man I have become, I think these things helped that boy to cope with each day’s horrors. But what choice did I have as a child, but after everything, I did survive, I am here and living my life as best I can.
Why is it so hard to accept compliments? *trigger*
Published June 6, 2014 | By kate.swift
Everyone like compliments don’t they? I get compliments at work, I get compliments from friends, and I also seem to get compliments from other places like here on my blogs or twitter. My counsellor even gives me compliments about how well I have done or are doing. In return I also give out compliments all the time to my work colleagues, friends and fellow survivors. I enjoy giving people compliments, I enjoy making people feel good about themselves. But it is a totally different situation when it comes to me. I do not like receiving compliments at all.
So why then do I hate compliments so much, why do they unsettle me, why do they make me nervous, why for instance at work, when compliments are directed at me, I always direct them back at my team rather than accepting them myself. When people are persistent with their comments, I find myself wanting to accept them, but not wanting to take the risk of the consequences. This probably seems really strange to a lot of people reading this, but to me, it’s a very real feeling, and one that makes me incredibly nervous.
But where does this hatred of even general compliments come from. In my case, like all my issues it stems from what happened to me as a child. I don’t remember getting compliments at school or even from my mother. But the group, they liked it and I was complimented a lot as a child by them. The things that I can share include “your such a good boy”, “You are such a cutie”, “you look really good today”, “you’ve done really well this morning, keep up the good work”. All these compliments were given as an ulterior motive, by men that wanted to given an impression of being nice, but had only one thing on their mind, to hurt me. I received a lot of other compliments to, but these were compliments that no child should receive or even have to hear and it would not be appropriate to share them in this blog. One that really use to get to me, was “your such a beautiful boy, I’m not going to hurt you”, yeah right. I heard that so many times, and it always ended in pain for me. I think they use to like to lull me into a false sense of security by pretending to be nice but then they would change so quickly and the hurt and pain would take over. Compliments seemed to seal my fate, I associate compliments with being accepted into the group because they were so pleased with me, I associate compliments with being singled out as a favourite, I associate compliments with stuff that always ended with me being hurt so badly. I know this seems a little simplistic, because it was the men’s actions that did all that rather than the compliments. But to that small boy, it was the start of my association of compliments with pain, hurt, terror and all things bad. I never associated compliments with anything good happening. As I grew older, nothing changed, compliments always ended badly for me.
This association was ingrained in me, and whilst it is easier to cope with now, it is still there. I am at a stage now where I want compliments, but I don’t totally trust that they are for real. Depending on where they come from, I still wait apprehensively for the pain that follows. People even in this last week, have told me that I am courageous, brave, that I write well and that I am a remarkable person. Part of me wants to believe all that, but the biggest part of me is scared to accept them. I would still rather pass them off to someone else. I suppose I don’t know how to actually accept a compliment, how to internalise this without its negative associations from my past.
There were other forms of what I saw as compliments to, like being given presents if they were pleased with me. Initially I accepted these, but hope was soon dashed as they were destroyed in front of me. They just did it to increase their fun, to see my reaction and laugh. I soon learnt to not pay any attention to the presents and as soon as I did this, they stopped giving them and moved onto other forms of humiliation. I still prefer to get myself presents to this day rather than have anyone get them for me. It gives me an extra feeling of security knowing that if I get them myself, I will get to keep them.
Will these feelings get easier, well I think they have over time, but it’s something that I still have to work on, but with help I will get there.
Such mixed emotions – 70th Anniversary of D-Day ***trigger***
Published June 9, 2014 | By kate.swift
I usually only get these feelings in the run up to remembrance day in November, usually as soon as poppies go on sale. But I turned on the news today and got caught up watching the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy and once again I am filled with such conflicting emotions. One the one hand, I feel gratitude and respect for those that died in the service of their country and to protect the freedom we hold dear today, but I also feel incredibly sad, guilty and a lot of my emotions are just pure terror. What happened to me as a child has tarnished the way I see army officers.
Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for our veterans in general, especially those from the Navy and Air Force. But for me personally, I can’t bring myself to feel the same for the army. When I look at the veterans sat in their seats with their suits, its fine, but then I catch glimpses of current serving army officers in their khaki uniforms and various insignia and this respect turns into distrust and loathing. I realise that my view is very generalist and the officers that hurt me were small in number compared to the British army as a whole, but as a child, it filled my world and just as I have bad associations with other things, I associate the uniform with all things bad.
I don’t see the individual men serving their country today, I only see the uniform. I see the men who filled those uniforms many years ago, the uniforms, the men, the soldiers that surrounded me with only one intention on their mind. I have heard people say that the uniform conveys power, respect, integrity, family, morals and a particular code of ethics. But to me, yes it conveys power, but not in a good way. To me it conveys terror, pure terror and I am not even sure I can explain what that feels like. Soldiers were part of the group that hurt me, and a lot of time they were in uniform and to me, the levels of humiliation, pain and suffering increased when this happened. They enjoyed inflicting pain, they enjoyed the torture they put me through and it certainly seemed to get worse when they were in uniform. This is where my feelings come from, this is why I detest that uniform so much, and why when I see it today, it still causes such emotions for me.
What makes it all slightly worse is the poppy. The poppy and the uniform just go together for me. In the weeks leading up to remembrance day, poppies are sold all over the country, you can’t get away from them. Even walking into my local supermarket I am asked to buy one. I always polity decline and then feel the disgust of the people selling them that someone actually refused to buy one. Sometimes I can give my money but then turn down the actual poppy, which seems to cause just as much disgust. Last year I was actually asked about 5 times from a soldier in uniform to buy a poppy. In the end I had to leave the store before I broke down in tears. I know they are a symbol of respect for those that have lost their lives during wars, however, for me, they lost their meaning once the soldiers that hurt me physically pinned them to my bear skin. I see poppies as a symbol of their hatred towards me, as a sign of respect (they said) I had to wear a poppy. So they would pin one directly to my chest and then hurt me badly. Once one was done, the next would unpin the poppy and move it to another part of my chest and do the same. They would all take turns until they had all had enough. The pain from the pin, was nothing compared to the other pain, but it added to the humiliation.
So don’t judge me on my feelings at this time. The soldiers that hurt me, caused me such terrible pain and suffering and the terror they instilled, is still very strong inside of me. The memories for me are very bad, but it does not mean that I don’t respect those lost in war or our veterans and what they did for their county. I just feel sad that it was not an ethos shared by all those that served in the British Army.
Published June 19, 2014 | By kate.swift
I have had several things in my head that I wanted to blog about, but whilst I have written some, I have not been happy enough with them to share them with other people. I then had a conversation with a friend today and got around to talking about the constant pain that I have even today as a result of my childhood abuse. I have already written blogs about pain and fear, but I as I experienced it whilst the abuse was taking place. But I sometimes forget about the constant pain I have today and the constant reminder it is of those terrible years as a child.
I did do an exercise last year I think where I documented all the injuries I had sustained as a child on a body map. I had to colour code the drawing against the type of injury and when I looked at the final picture, it was really difficult to take it all in. I suppose because I was looking at all the injuries on one piece of paper, whereas in reality they happened over 9 years and were just part of my life, I had to live with them day after day, year after year. I remember each of the injuries, but suddenly seeing them all on one page was shocking.
Some of the injuries were done deliberately, some I think were accidental when some of the men went too far. I say accidental, but of course it wasn’t because if they had not been hurting me, they could not have gone too far and caused even more pain and suffering.
Before the age of 7, I can’t remember ever being hit or feeling pain. But from 7, I think I had more than my fair share of both. My father started it, using violence to exert his control on me. In a very short space of time, I suddenly had lots of bruises, cuts, grazes and was about to come close to losing my life. The first time he raped me, he did it with such force that he caused a lot of trauma down there, I lost a lot of blood and because I tried to scream and struggle during the assault, when we got home, he beat me unconscious. I sustained a lot of injuries that day and the ironic thing was I remember a member of staff, I think a nurse telling me that I was lucky because if I had not lost so much blood I would have likely died from my head injury. When I got home, despite have a plaster cast on my arm and still recovering from my injuries, it did not stop my father from raping me again as soon as I was home.
Things didn’t get any better when I was brought into the group. They inflicted some nasty and lasting injuries on me, all in the name of fun, their fun, not mine. Things seem to change quite dramatically at one point, and I think because some of the men did not want to see my body marked. Apparently I was not as cute when I had injuries! This didn’t stop things, it just meant they had to think up new ways to cause pain, but without leaving such visible injuries.
Some of the old injuries give me constant pain even all these years later. It’s not the sort of pain that is unbearable or even that you have to take pain killers for, it’s just a constant pain that is always present there in the background. Some days I notice it more than others, and some days it becomes more severe. Other pains come and go, some are worse in the winter, others are worse in the summer, but they are all just a constant reminder of what I survived. It has got to the stage now, where I have been thinking about getting advice for some of them. It’s something I have always been adamantly against for so long, because that would led to being examined and there are parts of my body I just can’t tolerate that. As it is, I have to make sure I see a female when I ever have to see a doctor.
As an adult now, I have a high pain threshold, which is probably good because if find it really hard to take medicines, even painkillers. The pain has to be bad before I will even take a paracetamol. But even this stems from being forced to take drugs during the abuse. But in a funny sort of way I have also drawn strength from my pain and my scars. I feel the pain today, I look at the scars today and yes I get sad about what happened, but I also realise that I survived it. The group threw everything it could at me, but I am still here, I survived my childhood and I survived the recovery (at least up to this point anyway). I don’t consider myself strong, but I am glad I am still here, I am glad I have a chance to help others, I am grateful I now have a voice and I am grateful for all those that have helped and supported me during my recovery and who continue to help and support me.
This is my body chart and what the colours mean is underneath. Some of them don’t show up very well on here.
Ghosts from the past come to life/National enquiry into organised child sexual abuse **trigger**
Published June 24, 2014 | By kate.swift
We know that childhood abuse leaves us, the victims with a lifetime of issues to deal with. We have to come to terms with what happen and gradually move to the position of survivor. I have found this hard enough to deal with, but for me it has been made worse when ghosts from those terrible years come back to life. What do I mean by this? Well I was hurt by lots and lots of men who were all part of a paedophile ring. Some of these men I got to know very well over the years, some of the men were relatively open about who they were. However, there were lots more that are just images in my head, some are very clear, some are blurred, but I don’t know who any of them are.
For some reason, I can compute dealing with things when I am talking about a specific man that has a name but it always increases my anxiety tenfold when thinking about the others that are nameless. For me, these men are the ghosts, they are there in my nightmares, my flashbacks, my memories, but I have no idea who they were. Then out of the blue, like today, I read a story about an individual in the national press, included with the story was a picture, and this picture leapt of the page and hit me straight between the eyes. I knew him, he was one of the ghosts, he was there in the group. It took a while for the picture to sink in, and on the one hand I now had a name to go with the face, it was one less ghost that could still come back to haunt me.
But nevertheless, my anxieties have been rising all day, but I am not really sure why. I have found it really difficult to concentrate on work today, been very fidgety and unable to settle. It’s also harder to keep myself ground in the present rather than letting my mind wander back to my nightmares. I know that there are likely to be more ghosts in the weeks or months to come and that makes me uneasy. But I suppose it is just something I will have to get use to, especially as momentum gathers for the national enquiry into organised child sexual abuse.
A lot of you may have seen the gathering momentum that was originally started by 7 MP’s and promoted by Exaro News in calling for a national enquiry into organised child sexual abuse. It started with these 7 MPs and at the time of writing this blog, it had risen to 100 MPs and looks like it will continue to rise. Other organisations such as the NSPCC and the British Association for Social Workers have also supported the call for this enquiry. Others are now also lending their support and I saw today that a member of the House of Lords has shown support. Despite this the government still refuses to have an enquiry and also very few of the national news outlets such as the BBC have even mentioned this.
I am a survivor of a very organised paedophile ring that involved very powerful and influential people and as such I have been thinking long and hard about this proposed enquiry. Firstly, I do support such an enquiry but also have lots of questions if it were to be given the go ahead. I had a good experience with the police when I reported who I reported, but it did not even touch the surface of the group of men that hurt me, and at the time I did not have the confidence in myself or them to report others especially the more high profile ones. It would therefore be very important to me and other survivors that any enquiry would have to be overriding one and have the power to get to the truth no matter who the perpetrators of the abuse were. The enquiry would have to give me and other survivors the confidence to speak to them knowing that we would be listened to and that they would protect any survivors that came forward and the evidence they might give.
My biggest fear about an enquiry would be the scope, I would worry about it concentrating on children who had been in the local authority care system. This would be a shame and would leave out so many others that were involved. Again I can only speak about myself and the group that controlled me, but there were lots of boys that were being hurt alongside me. But it is so important for people to recognise, know and understand that we were from all walks of life. Yes some came from children’s homes, but others came from other places to, including boys like me who were from on the face of it ‘normal’ family homes.
Organised abuse is so much wider than children in care, it affects children from all communities, and I saw this first hand during my childhood. But we all share a common bond, being hurt by men who like us their victims were from all walks of life. I do accept that in my case, there will be a few of the men that will never face justice because of who there are, however, the majority of the group could be exposed for what they were and what they did to me and others all those years ago. As survivors we deserve to be listened to and we deserve a national enquiry into this organised abuse. We all need to have reassurance that as a country we have listened and learnt from our past so that we can protect the children of today and that the survivors can achieve some form of closure and possibly justice.
A National Enquiry into Organised Child Abuse: A call to MPs *trigger*
Published June 29, 2014 | By kate.swift
My last blog touched on the momentum that has been gaining for a national enquiry into organised child sexual abuse. The number of MPs that now support this continues to rise, and I have noticed that it has finally started to be reported in the national press and radio. However, it still appears to be driven by the Exaro news organisation and its followers on Twitter and there are still hundreds of MPs that have not responded to the question “would you lend your support to the national enquiry”. So this is my message to you and anyone else who is doubting whether this should take place.
I cannot pretend to know all the in’s and out’s of police investigations, or even a national enquiry. I am just an ordinary guy that happens to have survived 9 years of organised emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child. I speak for me and from my own experience, however, I am aware that other survivors feel the same way. Whilst the statistics for child abuse are shocking (1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be subjected to abuse during their childhood) the majority of people thankfully will never experience such horrors. However, when you have not been through it, you cannot know how it feels to experience abuse as I did from the age of 7 years. You cannot know the fear that I experienced, the shame and guilt that I lived with for so long and the damage it did to me both physically and emotionally. People cannot comprehend the problems child abuse left me with or the constant struggle it is to deal with those issues day in day out for the rest of my life.
So why do I support a national enquiry as opposed to a police investigation? Well I support both, and feel there is a place for both. When perpetrators are found, they need to be brought before the courts and dealt with according to our judicial system (rightly or wrongly). However, there are already lots of different investigations taking place, and I myself have reported some of what happened to me. But individual investigations are just that, individual. We need an overriding enquiry to link all these investigations and join the dots so to speak. I am still fearful to report most of what happened to me directly to the police, and this fear is present in a lot of survivors. I am in no way criticising the police, in fact I have nothing but praise for the ones I dealt with. However, I don’t have confidence that they are able to get to the truth, I don’t have confidence that the different investigations talk properly to each other to establish if there are any links and I don’t think they have enough authority to really establish what happened.
I and other survivors need an enquiry that has the power and indeed the courage to go where ever the information leads. I need an enquiry to listen to me and others, to pull all the information together, to encourage other survivors that it is safe to come forward and most importantly of all, to get to the truth behind organised child abuse. This includes establishing who the perpetrators were and also who stood by and did nothing whilst children like me were being hurt. The enquiry needs to create an environment where survivors are not scarred to come forward, know that they will be listened to and know that the information will be used and acted upon, but that survivors will be kept safe. I need an enquiry to listen to me, treat me with respect and support others that need to break their silence.
Organised abuse reaches far and wide, it crosses borders, it crosses professional groups and it crosses all sections of our community. Organised child abuse is so much bigger than a single investigation, it needs to stop, and to help achieve this, it needs a single national enquiry. Yes I know it’s not that simple, there are so many questions to be answered on how this enquiry would run etc, however, we have to have agreement that it will happen before we can discuss those questions.
It is not about a witch hunt, but it is about establishing the truth and ending the secrets that people like myself have kept for so long. These secrets penetrate our very being and destroy us from the inside, they affect every aspect of our lives, they affect how we deal with situations and relationships. Myself and other survivors deserve to be listened to, we deserve the truth and we deserve an end to the silence.
I therefore call on the Home Secretary and other MPs who have not already shown support to hear my voice. I am not political, I leave that to you, but against all the odds, I survived the horrendous things that happened to me as a child and after a lot of therapy I have found the courage to end my silence and want to be listened to. As a survivor I ask you to support this national enquiry, it’s what I and other survivors want, it’s what we need and it’s what we deserve. We need to learn as a country from these terrible events and we need to learn together. If the BBC learns lessons and the NHS learns lessons then that’s great, but they are individual to those organisations and yet there will be principles that are applicable across all organisations. We need overriding lessons that everyone can put into place and learn from so we can protect today’s children and be able to hold our heads up and truly say that those terrible events in the past could not happen today.
For those of you that have not supported it, I ask you why? Why would you not support an enquiry that wants to get to the truth? Why would you not want to support survivors and make sure lessons are learnt across all organisations? Why would you not want to end the silence of organised child abuse? Is it not now the time to join together politically and listen to what survivors are calling for?
So I urge you all to please support this national enquiry into organised child abuse. Help end the silence, help get the truth out there, help protect today’s children and help support survivors of child abuse achieve some form of closure and where possible justice.
Finally on Monday we heard it, an Enquiry would be launched…
Finally on Monday we heard it, an Enquiry would be launched…
Published July 10, 2014 | By kate.swift
A National Enquiry is something I have dreamed of but never really thought it would ever happen. And yet to see the support that people have given has been truly amazing, and given me hope that it would take place. Finally on Monday we heard it, an enquiry would be launched. I could not believe it, we had won.
It’s only three days later and we know who will chair this enquiry. Baroness Butler-Sloss and already the criticism is coming in because of her brothers actions when he was attorney general and because she is part of the establishment she will be looking into. I now find myself fighting different feelings inside. I don’t think she can be held responsible for the actions of her brother, she seems to be an independent person in her own right and she seems to have respect in the wider world. But I am nervous, for all her credentials, she is a baroness and part of the establishment we have called to be looked into. I find myself asking will she be impartial when it comes to uncovering the truth within the political world? Can I trust this person to do the right thing and get to the truth? I just don’t know?
What I do feel is sad that the criticism is coming in so quickly after the announcement of the enquiry, and I start to question the integrity of the enquiry before its even begun. But then I take a step back and think. Firstly I am not going to trust anyone to do it properly, I can only have confidence that they will. Trust for me is a big issue because of the abuse I went through. I don’t know Baroness Butler-Sloss and therefore there is no way I can put trust in her, but that would apply to whoever led this enquiry. It’s about whether I have confidence rather than trust. The trust I reserve for those that support me, those who I feel comfortable with and feel comfortable to talk to.
As a survivor of horrendous and prolonged abuse, I have to believe and have faith that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary are genuine about this enquiry, I have to believe that they picked the right person. I always tend to air on the side of caution and think the worst, but if I did in this case it would destroy any hopes I might have for the truth, justice and perhaps closure. Surely I and others should give the enquiry a chance to deliver what the Home Secretary promised.
I do not at this stage join with others to call on Baroness Butler-Sloss to stand down as chair of this enquiry, but I am calling on her to make the right decisions. The credibility of this enquiry for survivors like me depend on it. The terms of reference and the panel appointments will be key to show me that it’s a serious enquiry and not just another cover-up. This is the governments chance to get it right. If they do that people like myself will come forward, and we will have confidence that the truth will be made available.
But be warned, get it wrong and that will be it. You will lose the confidence of survivors everywhere, and the wider public at large who have stood with us in calling for this enquiry. I would not have faith in you again to hold another enquiry and your reputation to deal with such an important and emotive issue will be tarnished forever.
But despite what I have seen in the press about her brother and a previous report with inaccuracies, I try my best to remain as positive as I can. I have to believe that this enquiry will be everything I had hoped for. I have to believe that it will involve and engage with survivors like me, that it will listen to us, protect us and the information we give, that it will follow that information where ever it leads in order to get to the truth, that it will be open and transparent at all times and it will support us to assist in police investigations that might arise into any perpetrators. This enquiry is something we have called for, something we have hoped for and something we deserve. Please don’t let us down, give the country the truth, allow me and other survivors to speak, have justice and perhaps closure. Most importantly make sure the things that happened to me can never happen to other children today. Learn the lessons from yesterday to make it a safer world for our children today. Don’t let the country down, don’t let survivors down, don’t let me down.
My Voice is Growing – lets stand together again *trigger*
Published July 21, 2014 | By kate.swift
I have been writing some blogs and tweeting now for a few months and I have been constantly amazed at the almost daily increase in people following me on twitter. I have also been truly humbled by the kind comments people have posted from both survivors and non-survivors alike. The kindness of the human spirit is not dead.
I know there is so much rumour and speculation out there as to who was involved in abusing children, especially the so called ‘VIPs’ and where these acts took place. But to those of us that lived through this it’s all too real and whilst it’s great to see it finally coming out it’s also very scary. I know people want confirmation on who the abusers where or confirm locations, but I hope you can appreciate why myself and others cannot speak freely as yet. The information will come out, and I have waited so long for my voice to be heard. I always hoped that it would happen one day, but never really thought it would. I don’t want to ruin any chance of justice that myself and others may have, but I do hope that others will come forward so that we can stand together once again. As boys, we did try as best we could to look out for each other, we had a bond, an unspoken bond that gave a little bit of comfort to each of us during those dark times. It’s now time we stood together as men to tell the world of the unspeakable secrets we hold.
So my call goes out to all those boys that were hurt alongside me. You may have seen on all the press coverage recently and I know it will have caused a whole host of emotions that will be made worse depending on where you are in your journey of recovery. It may have come as a bolt out of the blue and your struggling to deal with your feelings / emotions. It may have been expected but the fear that surrounded us as boys just takes over and stops you from coming forward. All I can do is say that I am standing with you just as we did as boys. There are people that want to help and there are people that want to see justice done. We somehow found the courage to get through what they did to us, so dig deep and find the courage to come forward now.
We supported each other as boys, we can do so again as men. The silence we held back then has to be broken and we can now take control instead of being controlled. If you have seen the press, you will recognise the group, so come and add your voice and be heard.
The Abuse: How it all started ***trigger warning graphic content***
Published July 24, 2014 | By kate.swift
Looking back at what I can remember, I don’t think my father ever actually loved me, he wanted me for one reason and he was not the dad that I wanted. The violence came out of nowhere, there was no routine, but when it came, it came with force. He was a strong man and he didn’t hold back when he punched or kicked me.
The first time I remember being hit was just after I turned 7. I wanted to tell him something but in my excitement I knocked over his drink. The first punch came so fast and out of nowhere. It caught me on the side of my head and knocked me to the floor instantly. The punches came thick and fast to which ever part of my body he could get to. The following morning I was shocked by what I saw in the mirror, the boy staring back at me was hurt, dried blood on his face, bruises and cuts – surely this was not me.
The beatings grew and I was constantly told how I deserved it because I was bad and not doing as I was told. I had to learn my lesson he use to say to me. But this small boy, me was punished for not getting home from school quickly enough, or sometimes for just walking into a room. Things quickly progressed into sexual activity with him kissing and touching me and forcing me to do things to him. Any resistance or hesitation was met with severe violence. So as that boy, I quickly learnt to bury my feelings deep inside, fear and pain became my life and I had no understanding how he was grooming me for more.
I remember the first time I was raped like it was yesterday and yes I do use the term rape. Others seem to use the words buggered or sodimized when it comes to boys and rape only when it comes to girls. Rape is forcing another person to have sexual intercourse against their will, and sexual intercourse is sexual contact involving penetration. So it applies to male and female survivors alike and I now am not ashamed to say I was raped.
The first time he did it, he used so much force that it caused a lot of trauma to my body in additional to the indescribable pain that came with it. I was being ripped open and even now I struggle to put words to how I felt. His hand was over my mouth, so my screams could not be heard, he was so strong that my feeble attempts to struggle free had absolutely no effect. On the way home, I was numb, the pain was intense and my bleeding had soaked my underwear and trousers. My day was not over and I was beaten unconscious because I had dared to scream and struggle.
It was my first experience of near death. He nearly killed me that night, and sometimes when the dark clouds come, I wish he had. But despite my injuries, the hospital released me back into his care, and my fate was sealed. He had broken me to give me to the group, he and they could do anything they wanted, he had my compliance and he guaranteed my silence. The fear I felt of him was so intense, and I had no comprehension of what was to come, how worse things could get, how long it went on for and how no one would step forward and protect me.
I was just 7 years old, my childhood had ended in an instant and my life changed forever.
Going back and exercising some ghosts **trigger**
Published July 28, 2014 | By kate.swift
When I was being hurt as a child, I was taken to so many different locations. Some of them I got to know very well and remember everything to this day. For others I remember bits and pieces and there are still some that I hardly remember anything about. During my adult life, it has been a constant battle with my emotions and nightmares when I either go back to one of these locations by accident or I am forced to for work etc.
Sometimes even just visiting the town / city can be a problem, whereas for others they do not seem to cause me the same anxiety. I think I can associate one city in particular with good memories, and whilst these don’t cancel out the bad memories, they do make it easier for me and reduce my anxiety.
Some places however still hold such terror for me and for those places I have not been back since I was a child / teenager. I have even taken detours to avoid them. Last year however, I found myself having to go back to one particular place because of work. I could not refuse to go and my counsellor and I arranged a trip back so she would be there to support me. I decided that I had to drive, really just to give me something to do rather than just sit in the passenger seat. As the name of the town began to appear on the road signs, my anxiety started to increase and became stronger the nearer we got. It was my first time back since leaving as a child. As we got nearer, I was fighting back the tears and went quiet (something that is a survival tactic for me in times of high anxiety).
As soon as we entered the town, there was my old school and it didn’t seem to have changed much. I saw the place they used to park when picking me up and even after all these years, I could still retrace my walk home, and could still find our old houses. We went to look at another location nearby and after a while and with my counsellors help, the anxiety started to reduce and I was able to talk about the significance of everything.
I realise that there was nothing to be scared about now, yes bad things had happened there as a child, but it was many years ago and I was not that scared boy any longer. As a man, it held no fear for me now. Because this had gone reasonably well. I decided to go back to another location that is normally closed to the public. I did not feel the same level of anxiety driving to this location as I had done previously, whether that was because I had learnt there was nothing to be scared of, or whether it was the circumstances in which I was taken to this particular location, I don’t suppose I will ever know for sure.
However, this changed when I arrived and saw the buildings once again, my anxiety shot through the roof instantly and it took all my strength to continue. I was approached by a volunteer who wanted to make sure I was ok, and then asked me if I wanted to know about the area and have a tour. Without knowing it this broke some of my anxiety and I wanted to tell them that I knew the area very well unfortunately and perhaps I should give them a tour. They left me to roam myself and I went into a few buildings that as a child had been the site of torture, terror and pain. In one building there were still the hooks on the wall where I had been tied and all I could do is stand and stare at them and let the tears flow. I had to move outside to get some air and gather my thoughts and this in itself was such a surreal experience. It was a lovely warm day, and there were people, couples and families all enjoying a day out. Some people had brought picnics and the children were playing. Sounds of talking, laughter and excited screams from the children playing their games. All I remember was the darkness and the silence. The only screams that were heard were mine as they pierced the night and they were not screams of pleasure.
Here I was looking at all these people enjoying themselves with absolutely no comprehension of what had taken place there many years ago. And why should they, it was in the past, my past and they are much better off not knowing what their fellow man was capable of.
This was to be the end of my blog, but I wrote this blog on the train whilst on my way to a meeting. When I got to the meeting, I was asked if I would be prepared to look at several possible addresses of where I might have been taken as a child to be hurt. I agreed, and I was not told the actual address, we just went for a walk. As we turned into one street, I saw the name of the road and found it quite ironic because it bore the same name as the town where the abuse first started. Apart from that the name meant nothing to me, but as we walked into the street, my anxiety hit so unexpectedly, I had been here before and such vivid pictures started coming into my head, the flashbacks were starting again. My breathing increased dramatically, and I found myself gripping my hands so hard it was starting to take the skin off. I was fighting the flashbacks, but not to stop them from happening, but to work with them and try to remember my feelings and reactions. The tears were starting, but I had someone with me so was trying desperately to hold them back. We stopped the walk and headed to a coffee shop and gradually my anxiety reduced. After a break we headed for the second address, but it meant nothing. It was just a walk down a street, buildings, cars, but no bad feelings. Finally I was asked to go to a third location that I already knew about and therefore agreed.
As we approached the building, I recognised it instantly, but it looked wrong, it was not what I remembered. Parts of the building were exactly the same, but the entrance was not what I remembered. We walked around the building and when we approached the opposite end, my anxieties again rose dramatically. I could see myself getting out of the car, and being escorted inside. My tears started again, but as soon as we rounded the next corner, my anxiety had reduced because there was a car right in front of me with a registration of ‘SAD’ and that just about summed it up.
What struck me both last year and today was how very little had changed even after all these years. They all looked normal, and not places of nightmares. It was a very weird feeling. But to revisit them as an adult, was actually quite liberating. It did help realise that it was in the past and not the present and I had no reason to be scared of them anymore. With the first road today, it was another piece of the jigsaw that is my past. I remembered the house, the inside, what happened and some of the people that were there, but I did not know the actual address. Now I do, and I can finally fit that particular piece into place. I still have big gaps but I am putting the pieces together slowly where I can.
Each time I am able to get rid of a ghost from my past, a little bit of the fear goes to and leaves me more room inside for more positive things. I think it has been an important part of my therapy despite it being really tough to do. No doubt there will be more challenges ahead, but I will face them as best I can knowing that I am a man now, I am safe and I am in control.
Introduced to the group ***trigger warning***
Published August 4, 2014 | By kate.swift
This is the continuation from my blog ‘How it all started’. I was 7 years old and had already suffered physically and sexually at the hands of my father. Now however, I was going to be introduced to the group, something I think that was always his intention. I never saw him as happy as when they seemed to like and accept me into the group. I was in, which meant he was to.
I don’t remember anything unusual about the day, except I suppose for the fact he was being nice to me. I should have suspected something was wrong. I had to wear my school uniform even though I was not going to be going to school that day. Instead I was going to my father’s work. I remember as though it was yesterday him telling me to do exactly as I was told and to not say a word. I don’t remember feeling scared or anything, but I was confused that he was being nice.
I was taken into this office and there was another man there waiting, he seemed to know my father. I remember they talked for a bit, but this other man never stopped looking at me, and I think it made me nervous. The man came over and said hello and even shook my hand and he told my father to leave. It was just me and him and I had to stand before him. He started touching my hair and face and then all over my body. He kept saying how beautiful I was and that I was a good boy. I do remember it was quite nice to hear that I was a good boy. He started to undress me and then do some of the things my father did. Despite all that I had been through already with my father, I don’t think I expected it to come from a stranger, I just assumed it’s what fathers did.
This man only kissed and touched me and didn’t hurt me like my father but I was still glad when it was over. When my father came back, they talked again which is when I saw how happy he was. On the way back home, he even told me I had done really well. I don’t think this really registered, although it did add to the confusion that small boy felt. How could he be so nasty one minute and nice the next, why did it make him happy when another man liked me like that, was this all normal? it didn’t feel normal, or it might have been I didn’t want it to feel normal, but it was happening nether the less.
It wasn’t long after that first meeting that I was taken to this house, I was ushered into the back room, and that man was there again together with two others. He was pleased to see me and again my father left me there. I was told to undress and do various things in front of them. One of them was taking pictures. I didn’t feel right to be standing there naked in front of these three men, but they seemed pleased, which I didn’t quite know why. The man the office, told everyone to leave. He started kissing and touching me again, but this time made me do things to him as well. At the end he held me down on the carpet and raped me. He was the same as my father but unlike him he was saying all these nice things to me as he was hurting me. I still didn’t understand what was happening to me, except it was hurting and I didn’t like it. My face was wet with tears as I was pushed into the carpet.
He was not as rough as my father, but it still took me a while to get myself dressed. Just before my father came back, this man told me that I was going to make a lot of people happy. I didn’t appreciate what this meant at the time. I was only 7 years old and had no idea what was happening let alone any comprehension as to what was to come. My father had given me to the group to be hurt at their leisure, and the group were more than pleased to accept me as one of their new boys.
Intimacy **trigger warning**
Published August 10, 2014 | By kate.swift
I have just read a really powerful newspaper article on the intimacy issues faced by a fellow survivor and his wife, stemming from the abuse he suffered as a boy. I found the article really struck a cord with me and showed that if two people are meant to be together they will find a way to overcome any difficulties and support each other. My deepest respect and admiration goes out to them both.
It also got me thinking about my own intimacy issues, again stemming from the abuse I suffered as a child. I hated anyone getting close to me, in fact I did everything I could once the abuse was over to keep people at arm’s length and preferably away altogether. As a child the men constantly told me how gorgeous, beautiful and cute and this was something I had to change as an adult. I piled on the weight so that I was no longer attractive, and people would leave me alone. Eventually, I did meet this one women, and over time I allowed her close enough to be my friend and after a few years I ended up marrying her. Intimacy was a real struggle for me for the whole of our relationship. She of course wanted an intimate relationship, but the only thing I felt comfortable with was holding hands in public.
Every time she tried to kiss me, I pulled away, French kissing was out of the question and went it came to physical sex, that is all it was. No love was involved and I had to detach myself just as I did as a child and for me it was just a mechanical act. I suppose the problem was she never ask questions, she seemed on the surface to be ok with the fact we hardly ever had physical contact. But over time her acceptance turned to resentment, humiliation for me, a lot of anger for her and finally me being forced to have sex when she demanded it. She once told her friends (in front of me) how crap I was at kissing and in bed). This was a real double edge sword for me, because this was contrary to what the men told me as a child. But I hated it, I didn’t want to be good in bed, I didn’t want that physical contact and even though I was being controlled yet again, it was my little way of protest and trying to resist the demands of others. I would rather not have had her tell all her friends though. Later on she started getting angry that I didn’t want sex, which had a huge negative effect on me.
Eventually it affected our relationship and she demanded we go to marriage guidance. I could not bear the thought of being alone, so agreed to go. But of course the counsellor wanted to know what was at the route cause of my intimacy issues. Eventually in a one to one session, I told her that I had been abused, and she had already suspected that it was the case. The counsellor encouraged me to tell my wife the reason so she could understand and help me work through things. So I did and that was the end of our relationship. When I told her, I didn’t tell her any details, but she didn’t react and we didn’t talk about it at home either. At the next session, she asked if I had been raped and all I could say was yes. That was it, from that moment on, she lost all interest in me and wanted nothing to do with me. Eventually one night she just told me that she didn’t love me anymore and was leaving me.
I didn’t react, and simply said ok. I felt rejected, but strangely not upset, whether I was just numb I don’t know. But now looking back on that relationship, I was glad she walked out and it made me realise that she probably never really loved me, but loved the material things I could provide her with. From my point of view, I went into another relationship not really knowing what love was and just feeling like I had to please her all the time.
About a year after that, I met another women who I had known for a while and she wanted to get to know me better and have a relationship with me. I didn’t want to be hurt again, so thought I would be honest with her right from the start. I told her that I had been abused (again no details) and that it had left me with intimacy issues. Her reaction was “I’ve never met anyone who has been abused”. It was almost like a trophy statement from her, but she went to say that she wanted to be with me and would be patient and help me as best she could. A few months later she sent me a card in the post saying she was not prepared to wait for me and wanted an intimate relationship now. It was over, and I was dumped in a card, not even in person. Actually I was quite glad about that, because the feelings of rejection were 100 times worse than when my wife left. She contacted me again a few weeks later wanting to know if we could still be friends, and rightly or wrongly I never replied.
So now I am the other side of therapy, and I don’t miss the lack of intimacy. It still causes me great anxiety, but one of those things that I cannot work on until I have another relationship. Do I want another relationship, yes I think so, I do miss the adult company and someone to share things with. But I now know how to look after myself too, so need to find someone who will accept me for who I am and help me work through the issues that I still have. I know that partners want and probably expect intimacy and I know that some people enjoy intimate relationships. That is a foreign concept to me, I just can’t imagine enjoying it. Perhaps one day, I will let someone get close to me again.
National enquiry into organised child sexual abuse and People’s tribunal *trigger*
Published August 10, 2014 | By kate.swift
There has been such much on twitter recently about this new people’s tribunal, I thought I would write a blog about me feelings, views etc. I am not trying to get any anyone, I am just trying to get across how I feel about it as a survivor.
I have written before about the national enquiry into organised child sexual abuse. It has been something that Exaro and 7 MP’s called for and something which I as a survivor put my support behind. It was something I hoped for but never really thought it would actually happen. A chance for my voice (and others) to be heard. What I forgot however, was the power of the human will. The MPs and Exaro pursued this issue together with survivors and then one particular MP started a petition which attracted over 100,000 signatures supporting this enquiry. I am still amazed today to think so many people supported it. Finally in July we got the news we had been waiting for, the Home Secretary announced that the enquiry would be held, a chair would be appointed, then a panel then terms of reference. The enquiry would have the ability to be transformed into a full public enquiry if the chair deemed it necessary and it would have access to government, police and security files. Of course there were still lots of questions that needed to be answered eventually, but we had got the enquiry we had fought for. It was a start and a very good one.
I personally think the government was forced into an early decision because of public pressure and therefore made a rash appointment of the first chair that could not command the respect and confidence of survivors. However, thankfully she stepped down and we await the new chair to be announced. It has been disappointing waiting for so long for this announcement. I think we all hoped that the panel and TOR could have been agreed over the summer period so the enquiry could start, but we have been waiting for years to speak, so a few more months is really neither here nor there. The government seem serious about having this enquiry and it will be up to the chair and panel appointments and the TOR that will gain the further confidence of survivors. It will be us that judge the success of this enquiry.
Suddenly out of nowhere we hear of the People’s Tribunal that appears to be wanting to do the same thing as the national enquiry? It appeared out of nowhere, and I and other people were invited to attend the first meeting in London chaired by a QC. However, where has this come from, who are the organisers behind it, who is paying for it? These are just some of the initial questions that people has asked, but not had answers to. I can’t speak for anyone else, just myself. I was approached via twitter and invited to attend the meeting. This raises my anxiety and my defences immediately because I don’t know who these people are, they are from an anonymous twitter world and I am being asked to put faith in them and attend a meeting.
There is no way I could attend such a meeting out of nowhere with people I do not know. Especially when I don’t understand the real purpose of the tribunal. The first meeting however, according to those that were there, went well. But for those of us that were not there, it remains a mystery which just adds to the feeling of miss-trust. As a survivor, I would like to know what was discussed at this first meeting, what its purpose was, where its heading. But I asked to see the minutes for the meeting and was ignored. Something is then circulated on Twitter but its password protected, others say the whole meeting was audio recorded. My requests for minutes go unanswered but I am informed that several people have written their own accounts of what transpired? Not sure this is very comforting to know. You don’t organise something so important and have people make their own accounts, you have an official account, anonymous of course, but a true record to maintain transparency and encourage confidence, particularly for those that the tribunal wants to attract – survivors.
In response to some of the questions, I get the reply, this was discussed at the meeting, which is great, except we don’t know what was discussed because we are unable to see any record of it. Finally days later I am told that minutes do not exist. This knocks the confidence yet again, how can you have such a meeting on such an important issue and not have minutes, what about the audio recording? This leads me to think that if they can’t do the basics, how are they going to protect people’s information if they came forward? This has all created confusion for me, created further questions that need answering and created further miss-trust. Not good for something that is supposed to be a people’s tribunal accountable to the people, to survivors. I may of course be a minority in my thinking, but I would be surprised if I was. So I continue with my questions, my concerns and I am accused as being a ‘dissenter’ (later retracted and apologised for).
This upset me a lot, not only because it was resorting to name calling and making judgements on my motives not to support the tribunal, but also because it showed a division had appeared in the best way forward. But it is odd to get this reaction from a group that says it stands for survivors and the people? I fought to survive 9 years of horrific abuse in my childhood, I fought to survive the effects it left me with, I fought to survive my recovery and I fight every day with the constant pain the abuse has left me with. Therefore, as a survivor I feel I have the right to ask questions and an expectation that they will be answered promptly and openly. When this doesn’t happen it shatters my confidence and my attempt to understand what it is all about. Now of course, I may be thick, I appreciate that, other people might be fully understanding of what it is all about and feel that questions have been answered, but for me, they haven’t.
All this does is throw up red warning flags, it could comprise my safety, it could comprise the national enquiry. Certainly the people involved in hurting me and other boys were powerful people, I have seen firsthand what they capable of and it would be naive of me to think they would just sit back and watch themselves be exposed without trying to intervene. I can only speak for myself and from my own experience and as a result of what happened to me I am extremely cautious about anything I don’t understand especially when it’s trying to get me to give information about what happened to me. Someone also told me to trust this tribunal, however, I think this just highlights how little they understand survivors.
It does not matter how good the tribunal was or the national enquiry for that matter, it is something that I will never trust. I had my ability to trust totally destroyed in my childhood so much so that if I say I trust you, it will be the greatest compliment I can pay because it happens so rarely. It takes years for me to establish trust with anyone. What I need is to have confidence in something. I have confidence in some people and organisations and I have to have that confidence in processes to. Therefore, I have to have believe that the national enquiry will be everything we hoped it will be and what we deserve. I can’t sit here today and say it will be a success because no one knows the answer to that yet, it’s too early. But I have to believe or what is the point?
I do however, have confidence in certain people / organisations that have been calling for this national enquiry. I know they genuinely want it to take place as a forum for survivors to get the truth out there. They have been vocal in their support for survivors and more importantly have actively listened to us, and I mean properly listened. I have confidence they won’t let my or other survivors down and have stuck their neck out to help. That alone deserves my support.
The people’s tribunal say its “a timely, rare opportunity to facilitate truth and justice”, they say “it will provider survivors with ownership of what has happened, it’s their tribunal” and finally promotes three aims
(a) Correlating evidence which may not be otherwise be heard into one document.
(b) Evidence with integrity already given in any other way would be incorporated.
(c) Provide arena for those that were unable to give evidence at any other hearing to give their evidence.
Now again I accept I might be stupid, but is this not what the national enquiry could and should be doing? That was the whole purpose of calling for the enquiry in the first place, that survivors could come forward be fully protected and supported and where necessary and appropriate to provide evidence to the police. So I can’t understand what the purpose is to have both these things running in conjunction. So far I have not seen or heard anything that would give me confidence to come forward to a people’s tribunal and I am extremely cautious about it. Other survivors will have to make up their own mind and do what feels right for them as individuals.
What I can say, is there are people out there who genuinely want to help survivors have their voice in preparation for the national enquiry and I would urge people to put their confidence in people that other survivors have placed confidence in. For those that decide the people’s tribunal is for them, I really do wish you well with it. For me however, it is not yet the answer.
We don’t know what the national enquiry will be like, but I have to believe it will be what we hoped for and I will fight with others to make sure it is. Survivors will judge its success and hold it to account along with the 100,000 other people that called for this enquiry. For me to support any other enquiry at this stage would I feel be letting myself down and letting down the others that fought for the enquiry in the first place. I need my voice to be heard in a safe and protective way, not just for me, but for the other boys hurt with me, some of whom didn’t survive. My view is the national enquiry needs to be given a chance, we can’t right it off before its begun, and I can’t see how having a tandem process will be beneficial. I would however like to clear up one bit of confusion which I have seen people make on Twitter, the people’s tribunal is not the enquiry that over 100,000 people called for, it is a separate process from the national enquiry.
I am still left asking myself what is the real purpose of this tribunal? The sceptic in me feels it could be a ploy by the state to encourage survivors to come forward, identify them and assess the level of threat their information might pose, or it could be a ploy by lawyers jumping on the support for the national enquiry as a way to sign people up for a class action. Or it could simply be a good thing to represent the people’s voice as it claims to be. I reserve judgement, and will wait to see. The vibes I am getting at the moment though are not good. I remain to be convinced of the purpose and validity of the tribunal and how they can say they represent survivors voices when they don’t appear to actually listen to what survivors are saying.
Therefore, I pose the following questions to see if they are answered.
Who are the organisers behind the people’s tribunal?
What is their background?
Why are they doing this?
Who is financing this tribunal?
Why have not minutes been taken?
Does an audio account of the meeting exist?
What power does the tribunal have for accessing information from government, police etc?
Why have no documents been released explaining the purpose of the tribunal?
Why have systems not been put in place before asking survivors to come forward?
Why do what the national enquiry is hoping to do?
How will you protect survivors and their information?
The people’s tribunal is a “generic idea” – from where / who?
How are you going to build trust with such a bad start?
How are you going to physically support survivors, some of which may not have had access to counselling?
How to you propose to work in conjunction with the national enquiry?
Where is the face book page? (can’t see it on the search results for FB)?
Is the face book page open to all, or is it again something you have to join, so you will see our own individual face book pages?
Meeting the Group ***trigger warning***
Published August 18, 2014 | By kate.swift
This follows on from my other blogs, how it all started and being introduced to the group. This is a very basic view of what a session with the men involved. I have written other blogs and poems that give a sense of how terrible it actually was, how much pain and suffering was involved.
The only way I can describe it, was it was like ordering a take away, you choose what you want, order it and its delivered. Well that was me, the take away. I don’t know if the main group actually ordered me specifically, but it felt like that, in reality I think they just had whatever boys they could when they wanted. The only time I was specifically ordered was from the inner group. I was one of the favourites and when they wanted me, everything else came in second place.
When the group wanted me, I had to be there. Whether it was a pre-planned meeting in which case I would have to be ready to be picked up or it could be unexpected and they would suddenly arrive to pick me up. It was usually in the day or early evening and I could be gone from anywhere from a few hours to days. On this particular day, it was unexpected and I had just sat down in my class, the register had been taken and suddenly my teacher called my name as someone had come to pick me up. I don’t remember the teacher asking me where I was going, or whether I would be back, or even who was picking me up. I think a lot of kids would be glad to skip class for a bit, but for me it was a regular thing and not something to either look forward to or enjoy. I didn’t want to go and I didn’t leap from my chair with excitement. I couldn’t keep them waiting, that would just invite more punishment, so I grab my bag, avoid eye contact with everyone and leave the class.
The drivers (our minders) hardly ever talked to me, sometimes they would say hello, and I remember one asked me if I was alright when he was taking me home. Their job was to get you to where ever you were supposed to be and then to get you back again. No small talk, no feelings, no caring. We arrive at the location and I’m escorted to the door and handed over to the men inside. I’m shown into a room, two other boys are already there. I recognise them both and we give each other acknowledgements and fake smiles. None of us want to be there, we all know what’s coming. Some of us became friends, but we were never close enough to each other to be what most people would regard as friends, but we did have a common bond and we tried to support each other as best we could. We would comfort each other and the more experienced boys would try to give tips to the less experienced to try and make it more bearable. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, but we did when we could, when we knew we wouldn’t get caught. To be caught meant punishment and we all knew what that would mean. Some boys I would see regularly and others I might only see occasionally or even just once.
Looking at the other boys in the room, I have no doubt we were all thinking the same things, we were all scared, we were all vacant in our expressions and we tried to prepare ourselves for what was to come. We all jump though when its finally time and a man walks in to call us through.
As we are shown into another room, the men that are there, make their comments, we try to ignore them. What happened next really depended on how many boys there were, and how many men, what the men wanted to do to us and how much time they had. On this occasion there were six of us and probably about 12 men. The first part of the session involved each of the men picking a boy and ordering them to do something in front of everyone. This could be anything from getting us to dance, dress in particular clothes or to expose ourselves to them. The men in response would clap, boo or make other comments depending on how well we did. I don’t know if any of you have been to team meetings or away days and you had an ‘ice breaker’ session to start with. This is what I liken it to, it was an ice breaker for the men, I think, not us. Perhaps its why I feel so uncomfortable with ice breakers now, and won’t participate in them today.
Once each man had had a chance to give their orders, they would vote on which boys they wanted to see perform sex acts on each other. Again they would watch, shout out their comments and take their pictures. Whilst all this was going on, each man would pick out his ‘special boy’ to do stuff with. There was a few of us, like me who were popular, and this meant I (and they) would simply be shared out amongst the men. Then it depended on what each of the men wanted. Some of the men liked it when they were causing as much pain as they could, some like to hear you scream, some liked you to be afraid, some wanted to tie us up, some wanted to be loving. Whatever they wanted, we had to do, we had to perform for their pleasure, not ours. If you broke the rules, did something the men didn’t like then you would be punished. This could be in front of everyone or drawn out over time to ensure maximum terror for us.
When it was over, I could be driven home or school like nothing had every happened. Sometimes if they hurt me badly, the doctor would have to attend to my injuries before being returned. Then it was time to transform into my other life and try to get on with it as best as I could. This could a typical day during those 9 years, some weeks it was every day, sometimes it was just a few times a week, but one thing was for certain, it would happen. Living one day to the next wondering what was going to happen that day or that night just increased the fear the group had over me. They could do, they did do what they wanted, when they wanted. I meant nothing to them, I don’t think any of us actually meant anything to them. We were commodities to be used, to be traded at will. We had no choice, and we suffered in silence and in my own case this continued for most of my adult life.
Things change though, the boy that was me is no longer, my childhood gone. Today I’m a man, growing in strength every day, gaining control of the nightmares and the flashbacks, and coming to terms with what happened. But I do know that I could never have achieved this alone. I have been so lucky to find a great counsellor who has helped me such a huge amount. I have also been lucky enough to have drawn support from trusted friends and other survivors alike. After all these years, I am starting to feel happy, I am starting to look forward to things. As for my childhood, I have found my voice and find myself using it more and more as my confidence grows.
59 Days since a National enquiry into organised child sexual abuse was announced
Published September 3, 2014 | By kate.swift
As I write this, it has been 59 days since the Home Secretary announced we were going to get a national enquiry into organised child sexual abuse. I think everyone knew it was a rush decision given the amount of public support and the speed in which that support was given. The appointment of an unsuitable chair confirmed the rushed decision, but never the less we had hope, and enquiry had been announced. But was this false hope, I really hope it wasn’t. I got the sense that people (including me) hoped that a chair would be appointed, followed by the panel and then Terms of Reference over the summer so the enquiry would be ready to get going in September. But here we are 58 days later and counting. We have heard nothing from the Home Secretary, except it will be as soon as possible. So we wait, but for how long?
The trouble is the longer we wait, the more suspicious people will get, the less confidence survivors will have, the more other alternative tribunals will gather momentum and more rumours will circulate about who will be the possible chair or panel members. With such an important issue, I don’t think this is healthy and rather than encourage people to come forward, I feel it actively encourages people to stay silent.
It is interesting however, to see other things develop. Ed Milliband has suddenly started asking why the enquiry has been delayed for so long, and yet when we were all calling for the enquiry in the first place, where was his voice? He could have supported the enquiry right from the start, but what did we get – silence. I have also seen recently that some people seem to know the names of people that have been put forward for the proposed panel and have started to say some are unsuitable? This just helps me to lose more confidence because its being trashed before it has started. We don’t know yet who the chair is or the panel for that matter, and shouldn’t it be for survivors to judge the suitability of those appointed? Is it not survivors of abuse that has to have the confidence to come forward and share what they know? Is it not survivors that are seeking to get justice for themselves and others that cannot or have trouble finding their voice? Where is our voice in all this process? If national organisations that represent survivors are being consulted, then that’s great. But where is the consultation with us directly?
Another thing in my view that puts a spanner in the works is the growing momentum of the People’s tribunal . I hear rumours that they have met again, and elected their own panel already. All seemingly in secret which is odd as it claims to be a people’s tribunal accountable to the people. I have already voiced my concerns about this tribunal, and yet I still see they are using the hash tag on twitter #CSAinquiry in some of their tweets. But this is not the national enquiry we all called for, it’s a separate process. There still seems to be confusion about this tribunal and so much secrecy unless of course you are willing to release your identity and attend a meeting or sign up to facebook. I don’t have confidence in this tribunal, I tried to ask questions and yes some were eventually answered. But others were just simply ignored / blocked so perhaps it is a people’s tribunal but only for selected people who agree with them. My intuition is usually correct, and this tribunal , how it has been established, the reactions from some towards it and the total lack of transparency just send up too many red flags for me.
Having this tribunal running in conjunction with a national enquiry causes me and possibly others a great deal of confusion, and when confusion sets in, my defences go up very quickly. The combination of the delay in the national enquiry and the instigation of the people’s tribunal is actually making me want to remain silent, rather than encouraging me to speak out. Perhaps it is just me, perhaps I am just stupid (a distinct possibility) or perhaps I just read too much into things and see danger where perhaps there is none. But the latter is something I cannot help, it has kept me alive and reasonable sane all my adult life. With such an important and emotive topic as child abuse, we have to maintain clarity and purpose, things have to be transparent and what survivors want and need. I feel this is being lost, or it might just be me.
I felt I had to believe in the national enquiry, I had to hope that it was going to be what we wanted, what we deserved, but as time goes by, my hope and belief start to disappear. I am struggling to maintain that hope now and that sends me into a world of despair and what next. I do really hope that things progress soon, and that people are appointed that we (survivors) can have confidence in, but I don’t think I will hold my breath, just wait and see. I suspect that anyone that is now announced will face such public scrutiny that the enquiry will be unlikely to start this side of Christmas. I hope I am proved wrong.
Day 60 we finally have another announcement
Published September 8, 2014 | By kate.swift
Well 60 days after the Home Secretary announced the national enquiry, we have an announcement of a new Chair and several panel members. I thought I would be happy to hear this announcement finally but I’m not. Ever since the announcement twitter has been frantic with people commenting and whilst I hear a few people are in support of the new Chair, most people are not. I am not sure I understand it and I suppose we all have different expectations or aspirations as to who the Chair would be. So I try and step back a little and look at the bigger picture.
The government was forced to have this enquiry because of public pressure, I think that is clear and most people seem to support that view. But if a government is forced to do something, then of course they are going to have a chair person of their choosing, there is a lot at stake here, and they are not just going to give us cart blanche with this, or make it easy for us. So they announce their first choice of chair and there is an uproar and again after public pressure, the chair steps aside. So now the government has conceded twice. Two months then go by before then announce the second chair, and we are all surprised that it is someone they choose, of course it will be. Whilst we live in a democracy, the government cannot be seen to be dictated to by the people, so it is unlikely that they will concede again.
However, I am always sceptical, I suppose its inbuilt in me. Perhaps they government is choosing these chairs, specifically to cause anger amongst the public and ultimately to the delay in the enquiry. The general election is just around the corner, and I would think they would like nothing more than to delay it until after this election. However, they cannot be seen to be delaying it, but they don’t have to, if they pick inappropriate people without consultation with survivors then the chances are they will be rejected and of course the enquiry will be delayed as a result, but delayed because survivors / public call for new people, and so it goes on.
Twitter has been filled with comments on the chair, how inappropriate her appointment is, that she is part of the establishment and then an announcement by a national paper showing her links to a well known politician. Initially, I wanted to just get on with it. I thought it would be better to wait until the Chair, full panel and TOR are in place before we judge it? It seemed to me that until these are all in place, everything else is just speculation. I didn’t want further delays, I just want it to get started.
Now however, I really don’t know. My confidence and my hope have been destroyed. I suspect the government is not really interested in holding a true open and transparent enquiry, there is too much at stake for them, especially with an election coming up. Survivors could have been gathered together quietly right at the start, together with their support organisations and together could have agreed a list of names that would have been acceptable. But perhaps this is me being too simplistic and to naive. But for me personally now, I feel I just want to give up with it. Sometimes when things are upsetting or when I’ve lost confidence etc, I just shut down. Not literally, I still am able to continue with my day to day life, but my feelings such as they are shut down, almost automatically. It takes so much for me to believe, to have hope and to have confidence, and yet it can be shattered in a matter of seconds and it is always such a struggle to come back from that.
On top of everything, the rumours are that the enquiry (if it ever gets going) will not actually hear from survivors. We have not heard officially that this will be the case, but it just adds to my feeling of uncertainty and find myself thinking ‘what’s the point’ and ‘I don’t care anymore’. Then you get encouragement from others trying to reassure me that the enquiry will take place etc, but it just doesn’t sink in. I put so much of my inner strength into hoping the enquiry would start imminently, and I am not sure how much more I can do. But what is the alternative? Do I just go straight to the police, do I start to name people in public or do I just revert to my normal and stay quiet?
But I can’t do it alone, and I know that a lot of people will say that I am not alone, that a lot of people will stand with me and other survivors. But I don’t mean it in that context. It is great to have other people show their support and encouragement, but at the end of the day, most of those people will not be with me in the witness box. The group was so powerful that I could not even hope to take them on alone, I need just a few of the other boys that were also hurt to come forward and stand with me, and so I can stand with them. These men have to answer for what they did to us, and we all deserve justice. However, because it effects the so called establishment, we are fighting against a government that is just not serious about uncovering what went on. However, with any other organisation, the government would be insisting on investigations and lessons to be learnt etc, but when it effects them, they remain very quiet in their actions.
So at the moment, I just feel totally numb about the enquiry. I really don’t know what to think about it anymore. I would love the opportunity to meet Teresa May or even David Cameron face to face and discuss it with them, but I know the chances of that are very slim. But to the government, you stood up and announced a national enquiry into organised child sexual abuse, you said it showed how serious you were, but without actions, your words are meaningless. It’s a shame that the government does not seem to have the strength of some of the MPs that speak out and have shown survivors how serious they are by their actions.
So I asked the question to Teresa May and David Cameron, meet with me and other survivors to talk this through. No press, no cameras, no publicity gimmick, just you and us and see if we can agree a way forward together.
Child abuse – a male survivors perspective, my perspective: **trigger**
Published September 29, 2014 | By kate.swift
Ok, I am a man and a survivor of childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse. So this is my perspective based on my own experience and the problems I have faced. Others may have faced similar problems or completely different ones, our journey and our recovery are our own and will be different for each one of us. Now any survivor will tell you how horrific their abuse was and the effects it left that we have to live with day in and day out. But for me, a boy, now a man, there were things back then and there are things now that made it worse for me.
I start with the act of the sexual abuse itself. As a boy a lot of the time my body reacted to the men’s touching. I couldn’t help it and it was not something I could control. But it was a visible reaction, not something you could hide and it is one thing the men used against me as part of their control. I was constantly told that because my body reacted the way it did, it meant I liked what they were doing, which just encouraged them to do more. This threw up such confusion for me as that small boy. I didn’t like what they were doing at all, I hated every minute of it, but they were telling me that I liked it because of how my body reacted. Their bodies reacted in the same way and they were obviously enjoying what they were doing. I just could not understand how my body could ‘like’ it (their words) but my head told me it was wrong and I hated it. It took me a long time to understand it was something I had no control over and it was in talking to some of the older boys that I came to understand that this was how bodies reacted whether you liked it like the men did or hated it like we did. I suppose this whole confusion was increased when some of the men wanted me to say things, positive things about what they were doing to me. They thought this was great, I was offering encouragement to them, but I was a young boy being told what to say and suffering the punishment when I didn’t obey. I think this all did add to my feeling that I deserved what was happening.
For me, there was then the whole ‘be a man’ thing. It’s a masculine thing and all the crap that goes with that. Boys don’t cry, boys have to be strong and of course the myth that boys can’t be raped. This continues into adulthood, when its seen as a sign of weakness for men to cry, men have to be men, strong and tough. This attitude was reiterated to me constantly during the abuse. “stop crying Carl”, “take it like a man”, “your such a wimp”, “cry baby”, “sissy”, “your such a girl” where just some of the things said to me on a regular basis over the course of my abuse. I tried really hard to be strong as a child but it was something I failed at many a time, and suffered the punishment as a result. As a man however, it doesn’t get any easier, when men are seen as weak when they cry, and we are not suppose to talk openly about our feelings. As a man, I was certainly not encouraged to talk about what happened to me. As an adult, I tried to tell some people what had happened, tried to get them to understand there were reasons why I had problems today, but they didn’t want to know, brushed it off and rejected me. One person even said forget it, it’s in the past, just count yourself lucky that you don’t live in a war zone now and have to fight for your life every day. Little did they realise that actually battling childhood abuse and the PTSD was like fighting your own internal war every second of every day, year after year.
But the effects of the abuse eats you up little by little, day by day and so there comes a point where you either have to try and confront it in whatever way best suits. In my case, I wanted help, I needed help but just didn’t know where to turn. And that is another problem for men, when we do find the courage to speak out and ask for help, there are very little services out there for us. Within a 35 mile radius from me, I have found 10 organisations that provide help, support and sometimes therapy for survivors of childhood abuse. However, not one of them will help men, they are all exclusively for women / girls. The only help available for men in my area is a telephone help line, if you want anything else you have to travel to find it.
So why is help not available for men? Surely we are survivors just as much as women are, and yet we are not offered the same amount of help. I found a number of female only group therapy sessions, but men were not allowed to join in. Apparently according to so called professionals experienced in dealing with abuse, it’s a safety thing. Now I can understand this, because let’s face it the majority of abusers are men, all my abusers were men. So I can understand women might not want to be in a group with men present. But the actual reason I was given recently was because “men can often act the victim when in fact they are the perpetrators”. I could not believe this when I read it, and yes we all know that child abusers will seek out children, however, when was the last time you heard a perpetrator had infiltrated an adult survivor group? So it’s ok to not allow men into therapy sessions for women because men were more than likely the abusers, but it seems to be ok to put men into all men therapy sessions when strangely enough the majority would have been abused by men? I know from my point of view I just would not tolerate men only groups, it would send my anxieties to high. So there seem to be some inequality there, and I can’t confess to understand it. What it does do however, is add to the misconceptions generated around men who have been abused and helps to prevents men from speaking out about what happened to them for fear of being labelled.
I don’t know if it is harder to cope with abuse if you are a man or women, and would not presume to judge others. I only know what it has been like for me both as a boy and now as a man. What I do know is that people who abuse children don’t discriminate, it happens to boys and girls, it happens across religious beliefs and across social groups, it even crosses international borders. So why should therapy discriminate? I am lucky I can afford (most of the time) to pay privately for my counselling, but a lot of people can’t. Why are there so few resources for boys / men out there. I suggestions perhaps is that all the organisations that support survivors of abuse come together to have a consistent approach across the country for both men and women, boys and girls. An approach that is funded by the government or perhaps from money that is taken from high profile abusers once they are proven guilty.
However, I stand here today and despite the difficulties, I survived the abuse and obstacles put in my way to seek help. I somehow found the strength to carry on regardless and I am glad that I did. I can look back at what happened and yes I would be lying if I said it doesn’t still affect me, but I am in a position where I can speak out, I can search for justice and I can encourage others who have found themselves in a similar position. If I can bring some of my abusers to justice, if I can help one adult survivor and if I can prevent one child from going through what I went through it might bring some meaning to it all. I survived for a reason, not quite sure what the reason is, but I think it could be to do with speaking out especially for those that can’t, raising awareness of abuse and the effects it leaves people with and helping others. I might be naive, it won’t be the first time, but I think it’s a good place to start.
Who is the real me? *trigger*
Published October 1, 2014 | By kate.swift
Yesterday I was filled with so much admiration for people at the 20th Anniversary celebration for the Southmead Project in Bristol. I was debating for ages whether to attend or not, but I really wanted to and the opening speech and the key note presentation made me glad I did. But it made me question who I am, who is the real me – why, because my anxieties got the better of me. During the abuse it was dangerous to show my feelings, I shut myself down and hid things deep inside me. It was ingrained in me, and something that proved incredibly difficult to overcome and change the habit. It’s inbuilt within me, and I am desperate to change it.
Despite having no discerning qualifications, I have been very lucky with my career. I have risen through the ranks, taken opportunities to study for a degree and become very good at what I do. I am knowledgeable, can speak with authority, lead a team and calm under pressure. My appraisals amongst other things always say that I am confident, a good communicator and a people person. I think nothing of speaking at a conference, dealing with people from all walks of life, making tough decisions and argue a position. It’s something I do day in day out for work. So that’s all good then, what have I got to complain about?
The problem comes in my personal life, it’s like chalk and cheese and I don’t understand why. I am not confident within my personal life, certainly not confident in expressing how I feel. I find it incredibly hard to meet people or initiate conversations. I avoid confrontation at all costs and when scared or worried, my default position is to keep myself to myself and go quiet.
It brought it home to me attending the Southmead conference yesterday. Standing there at the registration desk my anxieties where already high. They must have thought I was strange when I refused to write my last name on the form, and then nearly crumpled when they asked me which organisation I was from. I had to find a space to myself before I broke down in tears. I think thankfully in the main entrance there was a Zumbathon going on and I was able to listen to the music. Music has always been important in my life and does help to calm me down. At this point I was already upset and frustrated with myself for feeling the way I was. I saw someone that I knew and they came over and said hello and that was great, but I knew them so it was within my comfort zone. The conference was due to begin so I made my way through to the hall. Like in all these situations, I have to sus it out, look for exits, get a seat where I can see what’s going on and make a quick exit if I needed to. As I enter the hall, there is a person that I specifically want to say hello to, someone I had communicated with on twitter and someone I had total respect for. I am glad I did this and would have liked more time, but everyone wanted his attention, so didn’t envy him that.
I listened to the opening speech by the CEO of the project and it was very strong and passionate about the project and the survivors of childhood abuse and trauma. The fact that these organisations exist solely because of grants and charitable donations is a national scandal and it was sad to hear that they exist year on year not really knowing if they will secure enough funding to continue helping people who are desperate for support services.
Next was the key note speech from a male survivor, and his words were so powerful, I think because as a fellow survivor, the words he spoke struck a deep and personal cord with me. But as a fellow survivor I know how much it takes to find your voice like that. I have started to find my own voice, but here he was standing on the stage and talking to the audience about what happened to him. His words, his emotions just held the audience so they actually listened to how horrific it can be for a child and for a man. Following these speeches were the workshops and again find my anxiety returning and not quite sure why. It sounds really stupid, but I didn’t really know what to do, I wanted to speak to people, but I couldn’t. I wanted people to speak to me but they didn’t, so I chicken out and find a spot where I can be on my own again and just observe what’s going on. As I stand there, I think why can’t I just put my work face on and be confident, but it doesn’t appear to be that easy. Perhaps it’s a subconscious thing or a deliberate thing, I am really not quite sure. Why does my work face only work at work? Why can’t I use those skills in my personal life. All this time I am just getting more frustrated and cross with myself, and this makes me more upset. What I really want is someone to come and say hello, check if I’m ok, stay with me, introduce me to people, be a support, but it doesn’t work like that and I certainly would never have asked for that. So I leave and head for home, reasoning with myself all the time that I have work to do and must get on with it. Rather than the real reason being that I was just too nervous and lacked the courage to see it through.
I did have a one observation from when I was actually there, which possible raised my anxieties, as I arrived, there was a police van parked right outside the entrance. I found out that they were holding a stand for information etc, which is great, but they were not in an ordinary police van, but a CCTV marked police van, which instantly raised by anxiety given who my abusers were. But I tried to ignore it, and I would think the majority of people would not get twitched about it being there.
So here I am in deep thought and possibly reflection about the event. I am glad I went, but still frustrated with myself. I consider myself in a relatively good place after my years of counselling, and I expected more from myself. I felt I let myself down and should have tried harder. I think the day did teach me a lot, and perhaps it’s what I needed to make me think about it, and so deal with it. I want to be the confident person I am at work, I want to be able to speak out publically about what happened to me and not hide behind the anonymity of social media and I will, I am sure of that. It won’t be long. I feel I want to do it now, but there are reasons why I must maintain my anonymity for a while longer so I have to be patient and continue to draw strength and inspiration from others.
I am the Duck *trigger*
Published November 17, 2014 | By kate.swift
I haven’t written a new blog for a over a month, so a little bit rusty and I have missed the writing. It’s been a very difficult month for me, culminating in one of the worst weeks of my life since the end of the abuse. But I have been extremely grateful for the encouragement and support from my friends, both in real life (i.e. those of you that I actually know) and my twitter followers and friends.
I have thought about what I wanted to write about first, and thought I would do it on being calm and collected. This stems from all the comments that I have received recently, and one day I really hope that I feel as strong as everyone else keeps telling me I am.
I ask myself if there is a stereo typical survivor of child abuse, should we all be a total mess and unable to cope with daily life? I ask this because recently I heard a comment that eluded to surprise that I was able to give an account of things that happened to me? This combined with comments about being strong, being a hero and being brave. I don’t consider myself any of these things, especially a hero. But I find myself wondering why people assume that people who have suffered abuse should be in a world of turmoil and unable to function in daily life and why there should be surprise when some of us can speak out about what happened to us. So here goes, this is my take on it based on nothing more than my own experience.
Of course people see what I present on the outside, you cannot expect people to look inside to see what is actually going on. In my case, the one thing the abuse taught me very early on was that it was dangerous to show my feelings and so I learnt (not quite sure how) to bury my feelings deep within me and to try and disassociate myself with what was happening to me. So now as an adult, people look at me and see a calm and collected person, someone with a good job and a confident personality. And as I explained in my last blog, it is one of the faces that I present to the world to hide what I really feel and as a self defence mechanism to protect myself.
And that is where the duck comes in, I am the duck, I give the impression of being calm on the outside but underneath I am paddling like hell to deal with all the issues the abuse left me with. But why? why am I like this, why have I been so lucky in that I have been able to have a career etc, and to be honest I don’t really know. I know we are all individuals and as such we will all have different paths to how we react and recover from the abuse. Yes I do consider myself lucky to be where I am today and not in the care of the mental health system, but it is still a constant battle dealing with my anxieties.
So I look at my feelings first. To show my feelings would mean severe punishments as a child, so I had to bury them. Combine this with the horrific abuse I disassociated myself as much as possible with what was happening to me. What this did do was allow me to get on with my life, it allowed me to find work and develop my career. It never left me though, and whilst the memories never left me I was able to keep them in check. I didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol as an escape from my demons. This was a conscious choice because of the drink and drugs I was forced to take as part of the abuse. My distraction, my addiction became work and eating. I threw myself into both with enthusiasm. I did have several moments in my adult life where I nearly lost control of my feelings, but I somehow managed to hold it all in. What I didn’t appreciate at that time however, was that it was eating me up from the inside, and at some point it was all going to come out.
Secondly, there has been my therapy. I have had two previous failed attempts at counselling, but my latest counselling has been the most effective and has enabled me to talk about what happened, whilst maintaining my public face and carrying on with my job. The counselling had been very good and help me to ground myself in the present with my memories rather than as the boy I was. It has helped me to realise that I am safe, that it was not my fault and that there was nothing I could have done. It has given me coping strategies for dealing with flashbacks, it has encouraged me with writing to help get the bad stuff out of my head and it has increased my confidence to deal with what happened to me and now to speak out about it. I do however acknowledge that I have a way to go, I still have to explore my feelings, I still have to explore the tremendous guilt that I still feel and I still have to talk about some specific events that even now I find so traumatic.
So yes I appear calm on the outside, but inside I struggle all the time to control my anxieties, deal with my memories and deal with the physical pain the abuse has left me with. I find this easy to do during the day, sometimes things catch me out and I start to struggle, but usually in the day it’s ok. At night however, it’s a different matter. Nights are when I struggle and it’s not uncommon for me to crumble when I am on my own and the house is dark and quiet. What I don’t have is anyone to just sit down with in the evening and just talk, and I miss that, especially now. My counsellor and some of my friends offer to be there all the time just to talk, but I just can’t bring myself to call. I sometimes stare at my computer or phone wanting desperately to call someone but I don’t. They all say the right things and I am sure they mean it when they say I can contact them at any time, but something inside of me won’t allow it. There are times where I still feel I need or have to deal with things on my own, so I don’t become a burden or nuisance to others.
So what is the point of this blog, and that is a good question and not sure I can answer it other than the ramblings that are being transferred from my head. I think I would just ask people not to make judgements, as a survivor I have dealt with what happened to me in my own way, it’s not good or bad, it has just been my way. Other survivors will deal with their past in their own way. Some days will be good, some days will be a struggle and some days we will just need to be left alone. Some of us will be able to speak out about what happened to us, some of us won’t. Some of us will be triggered by things that won’t trigger others. Don’t treat all survivors as the same, we are all individuals, take time to talk to us, listen to us, see what each of us is comfortable with and what triggers us. You will then be in a better position to start to understand what we go through each and every day. Just because I look calm on the outside, does not mean that I am on the inside, so be gentle, kind and patient.
Sharing the Pain *trigger*
Published November 24, 2014 | By kate.swift
It is well recognised that being abused as a child by either someone who was supposed to protect you or a stranger causes such lasting damage. It’s something as survivors we struggle to put into words, we struggle to vocalise the feelings it created at the time and the feelings it has left us with. Indeed we might not be able to vocalise things at all, but they are they in our minds day in day out.
Confusion, shame, guilt and fear are only the tip of the iceberg of the feelings that survivors can feel. For boys, I think it is worse to some extent because abusers use the fact that our bodies visibly react to touch to say that we like what is happening, indeed sometimes touch can create pleasant feelings, which in turn just adds to the confusion and shame we already felt and contributes to the feeling that it was somehow our fault.
Learning to accept that abuse was not our fault takes time. Just having someone saying “it was not your fault” doesn’t work. It has to be reinforced over time until one day you realise that they were right, it wasn’t your fault. For me, this took years to realise that it was not my fault and that there was nothing that I could have done to stop it. The adults held the power, they choose to hurt me and the blame was theirs and not mine.
So we (especially boys and men) bottle these feelings up inside of us, we bury them but they never leave us. We each have to find our own way of getting the bad memories / feelings out of us, disclosing what has happened, and try to rebuild our lives. How we do this is different for each of us, some people will talk to a loved one (partner, parent, sibling etc), some talk to their friends, some like me talk to a counsellor. Some will turn their feelings into music, some with draw, and again like me, others will write.
For me I didn’t have anyone that I could safely talk to, so I had to find myself a counsellor. Just being able to talk about what happened has been beneficial for me, it didn’t happen overnight, but took time for me to trust her enough to tell her everything. But over time I told her a bit at a time and now she is one of only a few people that knows what happened to me. But it still felt that something was missing in my therapy, my recovery. Talking helped and still does but my counsellor can never truely understand the pain I carry, thankfully because she has not been through it. Don’t get me wrong, she does a fantastic job and has made a real impact in helping me to deal with what happened, I could not have wished for more, and know that I have been so lucky to find such a good counsellor. But sometimes you just need to talk through things with someone who has been through it, and who can truly understand the feelings and reactions to things. I think that it is so important for all survivors to have some professional help i.e. a counsellor, but also to have almost a mentor / friend who has been through similar experiences, someone who can understand the unspeakable. Perhaps this is particularly important for boys and men.
So what else, well for me it’s writing. Now personally, I hate writing per say, I can’t spell, my grammer is appalling and when my counsellor suggested I try writing to aid my recover, I just laughed. I did however agree to give it a go. I brought a notebook and started writing. I draw occasionally usually in conjunction with my writing, but I am worse at drawing than I am at writing. So what do I write – well everything and anything to do with my past. I write about my memories, what happened, the people and places that I remember, where the blanks are, what my feelings were at the time, what they are now. I write down my flashbacks, my triggers and how I react to them. I write poems and more recently my blogs. It has been a release for me. When I wake at 3am in a cold sweat, I can write down my thoughts, this helps get things out of my head and allows me to get on with the day. Sometimes, I use writing to express things that I just can’t verbalise and this is incredibly powerful for me and will sometimes help get things across to my counsellor before I physically talk to her about an issue.
Everyone needs to find something that works for them, to help them in their recover from abuse. Its not an easy journey, but one that is well worth it. It’s easy for me to say that now, because of where I am in my journey. I remember being scared to go into counselling, I didn’t know how it would turn out, but now, I am glad I did it and would urge all survivors to do what is right for them at that particular time. You can only start therapy when you are ready, it’s not something that can be forced upon you. Small steps is all it takes and big results can come of it.
To one particular survivor, I dedicate this poem. I don’t know who they are, I was just told they read what I write. I know they are a child with a bad past, and I felt truly humbled when I was told they looked up to me.
I don’t know you, but I imagine it’s been tough.
You’re only young, but I think it’s been rough.
It sounds like someone is there for you to love and protect.
That is sure to have such a positive effect.
It can sometimes be hard to survive abuse.
But is a fight you will win, you will never loose.
I was told you read what I write.
I hope you like it, or at least think it’s all right.
Draw strength from others as you go.
It will help with your healing as you grow.
All survivors of abuse share a common bond.
We unite together, today and beyond.
My Idea & Your Feedback Wanted: Stop, Look, See & Impact for Change
Published November 26, 2014 | By kate.swift
The last few months tens of thousands of people have been visiting the poppies at the Tower of London as the visual representation of those who died serving in the UK forces during World War One. This display had such a powerful impact on people and I want to do something similar for child abuse.
I want to create a visual exhibition to instantly show the scale of child abuse in the UK over the last 50/60 years. To do this I thought of creating a photographic exhibition in time for next April which is the national child abuse awareness week.
The exhibition would consist of three sets of photographs – one set which would be generic but each photo would represent a child / adult that has been subject to abuse. The next set would be photos that survivors can send in if they want to have them displayed. The final set would be used for any survivor quotes similar to those done in the USA where survivors have held up signs with a key sentence etc that was said during the abuse. They key however is that each single picture would represent a single individual who had suffered from abuse.
I would also hope it would be a bit of a fundraiser for a charity or charities such as NAPAC.
I’m preparing a project brief at the moment and have people willing to help. But I really want to know what people think and also suggestions as to the charity / charities to benefit – there are so many good causes out there fighting to prevent abuse today or helping survivors etc.
I know some of the public just want child abuse to go away, but it’s not going to until we end the silence and this was one way I had of bringing it to the attention of the country and perhaps get it across the scale in a meaningful, instant and perhaps shocking way.
I would really appreciate your feedback on this… if you can answer the following questions I would very much appreciate it… if you don’t want to reply on the blog, you can email me via email@example.com
1. What do you think of my idea & my thinking behind it?
2. Is this something you would be interested in either visiting & or taking part by submitting something to the exhibition?
3. Where do you feel any money raised should go to?
Proposed project to raise awareness of Child Abuse in the UK *trigger*
Published December 1, 2014 | By kate.swift
I am a survivor of child abuse and I wanted to organise something that would raise awareness of the prevalence of child abuse in the UK , but also to honour the memories of those children that died as a result of abuse. I wanted to highlight that even as survivors, we live with the effects of abuse every single day. It was only after seeing the impact of the poppy exhibition at the Tower of London that I realised what was needed.
I would like to hold a photo exhibition, where every single picture represents a victim / survivor of child abuse in the UK. Why pictorial? Well initially I thought of white flowers and balloons, however, this would increase the expense and it is not as personal as photographs. Pictures can be much more personal and therefore have a bigger impact.
As part of the exhibition the intention would be to provide other information such as the types of abuse, charity information, survivor stories, the affects of abuse etc.
Name of the project:
I am open to suggestions, but to start the ball rolling, I have thought of:
Raising Awareness for Victims and Survivors of Child Abuse or RAVSCA
It would be possible then to use #ravsca for twitter.
What photos would be used?
• I propose two different sets of pictures. The first set would be sent in by survivors or the families of victims themselves. This would be a very personal choice and could either be a picture of them as a child at the time of the abuse, or it could be something meaningful to that person – a picture of a special place, a toy, an animal – literally anything that represents an individual victim / survivor.
• As an example, I might not want a picture of me as a child on display, but might choose a picture of a horse which I know would represent me. Or it might be a toy that represented a particular person’s favourite
• The second set of pictures would be for those that remain unknown and would be generic photos such as white flowers or balloons or anything else that people feel would be appropriate – I am open to ideas on this one.
• As an example we might find out that a child was killed during abuse, but did not know who that child was. We couldn’t use their picture or something that represented them because it would be unknown, so we would use a generic picture.
What we would need from survivors / families of victims (if they wanted to participate):
• A picture of them as a child when the abuse took place (this is recognised that it is a very personal choice and we would need consent should these be submitted)
• If they did not want to submit a picture of themselves, they could submit a picture that means something to them, a picture that represented them.
• If people wanted to included their first name and the age the abuse took place, we could add this to the photos.
• A quote or quotes representing things that stuck in the mind that the abusers said at the time.
How would to contact the project:
• I have established a secure email for this purpose. The tangled web have also kindly agreed to have a page on their web site dedicated to the project, this would save having to set up a totally new web site etc.
• As well as raising awareness, I would hope we could also raise funds for appropriate charities. The exhibition itself would be free to attend, but we could ask for donations for the charities. Given the initial feedback it is currently proposed that two charities benefit – NAPAC and The Survivors Trust. These two charities offer valued services to survivors of child abuse nationwide and available for both male and female.
• If anyone has other suggestions on charities please let me know.
• I have approached NAPAC and they have confirmed they would be interested.
• I have approached the Survivors Trust but not heard back from them.
• People have also suggested that if the exhibition is successful, it tour the country. If this did take place, we could add a fourth charity for a local one where ever the exhibition happened to be.
• Once the charities are agreed and have accepted, I would set up a just giving site to make it easier.
So what needs to happen now:
• probably lots of things, but here are the things I can think of so far.
• We need accurate statistics on child abuse in the UK. We need to break it down by year going back as far as we can, broken down into the different types of abuse if possible and the numbers of children that died each year as a result of abuse.
• We could do with a logo that we could possibly turn into a pin that people could buy to raise funds for the charities, or we could sell existing items from the charities mentioned.
• We need companies to sponsor the project either with funds or goods in kind. Particular for photographic printing, display materials and stands etc.
• We need to agree a timescale to launch this exhibition – currently it is suggested for April which is national child abuse awareness month in the USA. The UK does not have such a month, and the there is a thought that we should be raising awareness every day, not just for one month. But we have to launch it some time and so far the suggestion is April 2015.
• We need to arrange a venue to host the exhibition at its launch
• We need publicity about the project itself but mainly so that survivors know about it and can contribute to it if they would like to.
If you feel you could help with any of this or have thoughts of your own, please get in touch. I can be contacted via twitter in the first instance.
Thank you to those that have already offered support and for the very kind words of encouragement for this project. It really is appreciated.
Christmas 2014 ***trigger***
Published December 23, 2014 | By kate.swift
Christmas is never a good time of the year for me, but this year feels worse. I am sat here looking at my lovely Christmas Tree a friend came and did for me and I have been deep in thought about the last few years. I know I have written before about people constantly saying how strong I am and yet it still does not register with me, I don’t feel strong, in fact quite the opposite. In my own way I manage to deal with the issues the abuse left me with and I know I have been so lucky in that I have a good career, I am good at what I do and have been able to maintain this, my home and family even through my darkest days. But this year something has changed. I am struggling to hold everything together. Family and home are more important, so for the first time, my work is suffering and it’s just not good enough.
I have been in counselling now for three years and it has helped me such a lot. At the start I had regular sessions and as I was able to talk about what happened to me and comprehend it, the sessions gradually reduced until earlier this year when I started looking at the issues the abuse left me with. Talking and dealing with what happened also gave me a new found freedom – my voice. I wanted to say what happened to me and I wanted to find others that were hurt alongside me (although I don’t think I had thought through what happens if I found anyone).
But how, how was I to get my voice out there? I didn’t have a clue. I tried to contact a few people to try and help me, but I was either ignored or I was asked “was I willing participant in the abuse”. This left me stunned, how can a child be a willing participant in abuse? So this was my first reaction to finding my voice, and it almost put me off altogether. However, a friend of my gave me words of encouragement and suggested I joined twitter and blogged. So I did. Had not done either before and it was a bit daunting, but people started following me on twitter and people read my blogs and it gave be confidence to carry on.
As a result of my blogs I was contacted by a few people who wanted to help me get my voice out there and help encourage others to come forward. Over the next few months that is just what they did, and then suddenly in July we heard about the national inquiry into organised child sexual abuse. Brilliant, this was my way forward to share what happened to me. I didn’t have the confidence at that stage to report everything to the police, so the inquiry gave me a focus, something to prepare for. However, to through confusion into the mix, I was also contacted by the police to ask if I would be prepared to talk to them. This was a huge request and through my anxieties into overload but over the following weeks, I thought long and hard about it and considering the national inquiry was going nowhere, I decided to take the chance.
The last thing I really wanted to do was to stand alone and report what happened. It was massive, and alone I would be more vulnerable. But then I suppose someone has to go first, and I had seen from other cases that others then might come forward once the police were investigating. I was nervous, but I agreed. I met the officers and agreed to tell them what happened to me. I eventually spent days giving my statements on video, and although it was extremely hard, I was pleased I had done it. For the first time, I had named names, something which I thought I would never do. But the officers seemed dedicated and wanted to investigate despite who the abusers where.
What I was not expecting however, was what happened after my third day of evidence. I was prepared to tell the police everything. But there was one bit of my past that I had kept to myself, I had not even really talked about it with my counsellor. The police didn’t push me, but on the third day I decided I would tell them about the deaths of my friends. This was the hardest thing I had done, I had never spoken in detail about the incidents before. I cried in front of the officer, a man, something which I never do, ever. The following days I had very busy days at work and was doing 14 hour days, but by the time the weekend arrived, it all caught up with me.
I had kept the death of my friends to myself for so long, I had buried my feelings and although they were with me every single day, it was manageable. Speaking about them though in detail had ended all that. Every day since, I am reliving their deaths over and over again every single day. I am scared sometimes to sleep because of what the night then brings. I never expected it to hit me so hard. It was like someone had ripped out my heart and lungs, a huge empty space existed where they should have been. I am unsettled, very emotional and feel my concentration has reduced so much so that work is suffering for the first time ever. Disclosing about my friends has literally blown me apart.
People are supportive and say the right things, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I write , it doesn’t help. I try and talk to my counsellor about it but it’s just to upsetting so end up talking about everything but. It has opened up my grief, it’s opened up the trauma, it’s thrown up so many questions that I don’t have answers to.
“The murder of three young boys”, I think I understand why it’s media sensation, why it’s such a story. I know there are a lot of people that care deeply about these issues, but I think the press in particular need to realise that there might be families out there of those boys reading these things. To me especially they were not just three boys, they meant everything, they were my friends. We shared a common bond (horrific as it was), we shared each others fear and pain and we know what each other was thinking when no words were allowed. The trauma of watching them die, of holding them in my arms, of having their blood on my hands and the total helplessness of not being able to stop it. I feel guilty every day that I survived and they didn’t. The grief is overwhelming , I have had no closure, I didn’t get to say goodbye.
The worst part now is that I am in limbo, I have to wait, which given how long I have waited to share all this, I should be use to by now. But it is eating me up bit by bit and I can only take one day at a time at the moment. Despite all this, I would not go back. I was ready to talk to the police and encourage others to come forward with any information no matter how small. Others might be in the same position as I have been, am in now, but there are people out there who want to and can support you. I have come to far now to give up, I owe it to myself, I owe it to my friends.
So it will soon by Christmas Day and I will be there with my fake smile trying to make it as good a Christmas as possible for those around me whist grieving for my friends. I know Christmas can be a difficult time for a lot of people for various reasons, and my thoughts go out to you all. In particular though this year, my heart belongs to my friends.
Survivor Guilt and Grief **trigger**
Published January 5, 2015 | By kate.swift
People tell me I should not feel guilty, people say it was not my fault, people say I could not have done anything to stop it and whilst I can recognise and accept all that when it comes to the abuse I went through, I simply cannot accept it for the death of my friends. The guilt surrounds me and feels likes its soaked into every part of my body and I just can’t shake it. I feel guilty for each of their deaths but in different ways.
XX died because of me. I was warned by the group and I took no notice. People tell me that at that age I would have had no idea what the consequences would be then, and that is probably true. However, I knew what they were capable of, I experienced what they were capable of and at the end of the day, I did not do as I was told and because of that my friend died. I knew the rules, you had to do as you were told, without question. So why didn’t I do it then? If I had, he would be alive today, but because I was selfish they took him from me. We the other two it was different but I was still to blame. I cannot publish the details here, but I was not strong enough to help my second friend, I tried so hard but I failed. My third friend died because I kept quiet when I should have spoken up. I had an opportunity to put myself forward, but I was to scared and because of my silence, he died.
Last year, I had reach a point in my counselling where I had come to terms with the abuse, and I had gone through quiet intensive counselling to more of maintenance therapy dealing with recognising feelings, looking at the issues the abuse has left me with and ways of looking after myself. I was in a happy place, a strong place and it felt really good. Now however, it feels like I have gone back several years. I am back to having sleepless nights, lack of concentration and my head is filled with the memories of my friends and the police investigation.
The coping mechanisms that I have learnt over the past few years are not really working with what I am going through at the moment and because I have already been in this dark place, I know it will eventually clear, but when? Will I be strong enough to deal with such waves of emotions this time? How difficult it is to cope with when the mechanisms for coping are simply not working as they did before. I almost regret reporting what happened to my friends to the police, I think deep down I know it was the right thing to do, but I didn’t think it would affect me so badly.
At the moment I can’t see an end, I know there will be eventually, but when? I am in limbo at the moment, waiting to see if the next stage will help me or make things worse. All I know is that it is taking every bit of strength I have just to keep going, and my guilt is ripping me apart bit by bit. As for my grief, I have never been able to grieve for them, I have never been able to say goodbye. Will identifying them bring me relief from my pain, will seeing them get justice bring me any comfort? I just don’t know. How long will it all take, I just don’t know. I keep going one day at a time.
Guilt and grief:
I was badly hurt, my friends died
I will always feel guilty that I survived
I see their faces every single day
I should have stopped it, found a way
I hear their cries all the time
I feel their hands gripping mine
When they died, a piece of me died as well
But I had to speak up, I had to tell
I have to remember them, they were my friends
I have to get them peace, justices, an end
For me it is still so traumatic, even today
Especially describing what happened, having me say
Their memory lives on inside of me
Perhaps sharing it one day with their family.
I’m struggling big time with my grief
Its constantly on my mind, no relief
I didn’t expect it to hit this bad
Or to find it so dreadfully sad
It’s the bit I always kept to myself
The police interviews forced it off the shelf
There were always on my mind every day
The memories are there, they never decay
It now fills my mind day and night
As I watched them die and give up the fight
My coping strategies are not really working
My friends gone, the men smirking
I am desperate to know who their name
It might help relieve some of my shame
Effecting other People
Published January 18, 2015 | By kate.swift
Ever since I first disclosed I have been acutely aware of the reactions of other people. But last week I heard something from the people that support me that I think surprised and shocked me. One person told me that following one meeting with me, they hadn’t slept. Another person told me that they had also experienced similar reactions in response to things I had told them. To compound this, an LBC presenter saying that their first reaction was to not really want to hear the story of a survivor, but then realised that they had to tell their story.
During my adult life I have witnessed both positive and negative reactions to what happened to me as a child. Some people simply didn’t want to know, their ears closed to the possibility that child abuse takes place. They deny, they ignore and they simply can’t cope with listening to the truth. Then I have seen the reactions of some people on social media where they actively think some forms of child abuse simply don’t exist, or that somehow the child themselves is to blame because they didn’t speak out sooner about it, as adults, survivors simply want compensation and of course from our Prime Minister that we are conspiracy theorists.
In contrast to this, I am very aware of my own reactions to the stories that other survivors have told me. I don’t find myself being shocked at them, they don’t seem to add to my own trauma, but I do feel an immense sense of empathy and understanding. This may be because I have been through similar experiences, and whilst the abuse we suffered and our journey to recover is different for each and every one of us, we do share a common bond and a shared understanding of the effects its left us with.
What does leave me feeling confused is the reactions of those that care. I would never have thought in a million years that someone listening to my story could be affected by it themselves. People have told me that what happened was horrific, awful, horrendous, unimaginable and terrifying and yes it was all those things and so much more. But living it day in day out it just became part of my childhood. It was an experience that had to be got through and was just part of what happened to me. When people tell me how listening to my story has effected them, I feel glad that they have taken the time to listen but also sad that I have upset them. I hate upsetting anyone and knowing that people have had sleepless nights etc, but it means they care, it means they have some understanding of what I went through.
[THE ABOVE IS THE LAST POST ON THISTANGLEDWEB. POSTS BELOW ARE MOST RECENT FIRST AND FROM CARLCHASS.WORDPRESS.COM MADE PRIVATE 25/08/15]
Investigate or ignore?
With the latest allegations of child abuse hitting the press, some people seem to even more vocal about either saying that the allegations should not be aired in public or questioning whether crimes should be investigated at all after so long. So I wanted to ask is it important that we investigate crimes from the past? Should we have a cut of period (a statute of limitations)? And is investigating crimes from the past taking away resources from the police preventing them from dealing with current crime? And finally should allegations be made public?
Now of course I am probably biased on these questions, so as ever they are just my own personal opinions. But I have reported to the police what happened to me as a child, so of course I hoped that they would investigate them, and of course that is exactly what is happening. But isn’t it everyone’s right to have crimes that were committed against them investigated no matter when they happened? Crimes across the world that happened in the past do seem to be investigated sometimes even stretching back 70 years to the second world war, so should crimes against children be any different?
And yet people still seem to question why it is investigated when it happened in the past, or what some call historical child abuse, they assume that the people making the allegations are simply liars. But do these same people deny that child abuse takes place in the first place, surely not, or is it just that they don’t want to accept what survivors are saying? But we as a society now acknowledge that child abuse happens both now and in the past, and we also acknowledge child abuse is secretive and that it is bound by silence. So again why are people so unable to accept what might have happened, and tear into those that make the allegations? Are they really suggesting we should ignore the crimes that have been committed, that we should refuse to try those responsible just because it happened years ago. Let’s not forget that I bet the following people wished that had been the case – Gary Glitter, Max Clifford, Rolf Harris, Chris Denning, Stuart Hall, Fred Talbot and Michael Salmon. But luckily people came forward, spoke out about the abuse they had suffered and the individuals were found guilty and sentenced to prison.
So don’t we have a duty to investigate crimes that have been committed against the most vulnerable members of our society? Should we not be aiming for a society where child abuse is a thing of the past and where people not matter what their age (child or adult) is not afraid to speak out about crimes committed against them?
What about a time limit on when you should report these crimes? Well you might have expected that I don’t agree with a time limit. I suppose I am against it because who would sent the time limit, how long would the limit be, would it be different for different crimes. There are just to many variables and of course there are genuine reasons why people don’t speak out about crime, especially about child abuse.
As far as does investigating these crimes take away valuable resources from the police, is something that is not up to me to answer. It is right and proper that any crime is reported to the police as the law enforcement agency in the UK, it is then their decision whether to investigate and what resources are allocated to that investigation. The burden of these decisions should not be placed at the door of those that report the crime. The police are in the best place to decide about the investigation, resources and time allocated to each reported crime. The government and home office are responsible for ensuring the police are resourced for the work they are undertaking, whatever that might be.
Finally should allegations be made public? People better versed in the law are probably better placed to answer that one than myself. But I think there are circumstances that yes they should be made public. People, especially those that were directly affected by the abuse need to know that the police are willing and in fact are investigating people who had influence and power. It gives them the confidence to come forward and report their own concerns. Now I know some will say that putting information info the public domain contaminates, however, it’s the allegations that are out there not the detail and the evidence behind those allegations. What of course we can’t and shouldn’t have is trial by social media, and presume people are guilty until the evidence has been proven. Conversely we cannot have people assuming the people that make the allegations are liars. It is not for anyone else to demand the evidence and we must remember that the only people that know the whole truth are the abusers and the victims and it is up to the police to uncover the necessary evidence to proof or disproof either way.
Everyone must surely agree that child abuse is an abhorrent crime whenever it took place. Abusers already place to much guilt, blame and shame onto their victims and we should not add to that by questioning those that do find the strength to come forward. It’s not a witch hunt, it is a hunt for those that abuse children past and present.
AUGUST 9, 2015 3 COMMENTS
It’s not entertaining, it’s child abuse – my message to Dan Hodges at the Daily Telegraph.
I read with interest an article from Dan Hodges at the Daily Telegraph, and he started his article by basically taking the piss out of the allegations about Edward Heath. He wants to know when it’s going to end and questions if this is who we are or who we want to be.
But should we be asking if we should continue to keep child abuse secret, is this really who we as a society want to be? Do we really want to live under the mistaken belief that child abuse does not happen, or that celebrities, people with influence and power etc are just not capable of committing such crimes.
Now Mr Hodges doesn’t believe that there are any victims of Mr Heath but is is also gracious enough to say he will admit if he is wrong if necessary (thanks for that). But why print such words in the first place and why does a national newspaper print it. This choice of words can discourage people from coming forward and speaking out about what happened to them.
So I say this to you Mr Hodges, have you any idea, any idea at all of just what it takes to tell someone that you have been abused as a child? Do you have any idea of the effects that abuse leave you with, the issues that survivors have to deal with every single day? I am a survivor of child abuse, the things that happened to me you would not be able to comprehend but actually I don’t expect your first thought to be for victims of abuse, what I do expect is for you to at least respect people as individuals, respect what they have to say and let the police do their job to ascertain where the evidence is. It is not your place to say that an individual survivor of child abuse is mistaken etc, in fact how could you possibly know? You were not there, so you have no place making such judgments as to what did or didn’t take place.
I don’t expect you to understand or to care, but I kept quiet about the abuse that was happening to me because of the fear the men instilled in me. Fear that you probably can’t imagine and I hope you never experience. I was 7 years old when the abuse started, some of my abusers are dead, some are alive. So is it simply not the right thing to do to investigate all those that committed the abuse? Don’t we owe it to children today to make sure lessons are learnt from past abuse cases to make sure it can’t happen again?
Over 8 million people in the UK today have experienced abuse as a child, and we as a society should be encouraging them to come forward and speak out about their experience. Your article just criticises them for coming forward. Child abuse flourishes with the silence it generates, don’t add to that with your words you have said today. You are in a privileged position, you write words people read in a national newspaper, encourage people to speak out, help to end the silence that surrounds abuse and let the police decide if there is a case to answer. Whatever your views and opinion of a national psychosis being played out, just remember that at the heart of every allegation is a survivor of child abuse, someone who has experienced horrific things and carries the burden of that every single day. Please don’t disrespect them, it takes more courage to speak out than you can possibly know.
AUGUST 6, 2015 5 COMMENTS
Available dates for the RAVSCA exhibition – 17 July 2015.
Raising Awareness for Victims and Survivors of Child Abuse
Available exhibition dates
If you would like to host the exhibition in your town / city, check out which dates you want. Put a hold on the venue and then check with me. Once I confirm that the date is ok, you can go ahead and arrange. Not every week may end up being available because of transporting the exhibition between sites. Please don’t confirm a location until I have confirmed the date is available.
You should aim for the exhibition to start on a Monday and finish on a Saturday.
04 – Bristol (Southmead Project)
27 – Cardiff (TST Cymru)
26 – Nottingham (East Midlands Survivors)
12 – reserved for a London venue
19 – reserved for a London venue
JULY 17, 2015 2 COMMENTS
RAVSCA – frequently asked questions – updated 17 July 2015
Raising Awareness for Victims and Survivors of Child Abuse
Where do I send my submissions?
You can send your submissions to me via facebook, email or twitter.
What can I send in to represent me in the exhibition?
Anything. So far people have sent in a variety of photographs (of animals, favourite places, things that mean something to the individual, pictures of them as an adult, pictures of them as a child), poems, drawings we have even had a song submitted. Most people choose to send in a photograph of some sort. However, even if you can’t think of anything and still want to take part, let me know and we can always get a picture for you.
How can I help?
If you want to physically help, I ask you to get in touch with Mike Pierce at the Southmead Project so that we can co-ordinate offers of help. However, you can also help by donating money to the project at http://www.justgiving.com/teams/ravsca and the biggest help is spreading the word about the exhibition so as many survivors have the opportunity to take part as possible.
Is it just for the UK?
Because of the numbers involved, yes. However, if you now live abroad but the abuse took place here in the UK, then you can take part.
Is it just for sexual abuse?
No, the exhibition is for victims and survivors of all forms of child abuse – sexual, physical, emotional, neglect and exploitation
Do I have to give my name?
No, you can submit something to the exhibition totally anonymously if you want to. But when it opens you would know that a particular picture / submission was yours and you would know you were represented even if you didn’t use your name. If you want to use your name you can, or use a different name, just whatever you feel more comfortable with doing.
I know I wanted to raise awareness, but wanted to raise it for survivors and for victims. Some people don’t see themselves as survivors yet and of course those that died through abuse will never be survivors. So I came up with ravsca which pretty much sums it up for me.
Why the Wall of Silence?
The overall project name is ravsca but the exhibition name is the Wall of Silence and this represents the silence that surrounds abuse whether it’s the child that is forced into silence or society that keeps quiet.
When does it start?
The exhibition launches at the Colston Hall, Bristol on the 4 to 9 January 2016. It will then tour the UK during 2016
Is there a closing date for submissions?
There will not be a closing date, even when the exhibition starts, people can still send in their submissions. I wanted this to be a living growing project as more people find their voice or have the confidence to submit their own photo for the exhibition.
Do you have sponsors?
Yes we do, but we always need more. Currently we have the following sponsors – Travis Perkins Builders Merchants, Lyons Solicitors (Bristol), Giacomini UK and Clifton Media Lab
How can I host the exhibition in my town / city?
I will be putting a list of dates up soon of when the exhibition will be available. If you think you can host a particular week, just let me know and we will see what we can do. Ideally the tour will follow a logical route around the UK, but that might not be possible depending on availability. You will need to have at least 150 square feet of floor space to host the exhibition and a separate area where visitors to the exhibition can sit and leave their comments.
Each display board will be 2.4m long and 1.2m high, it is made with an extremely light but robust material meaning that it is very easy for one person to lift each panel with ease. Once the panels have been mounted it will be 2m in height. The panels lock together easily.
Where will any money raised go?
As a project as a whole we are raising money for NAPAC and The Southmead Project, however, we will continue to raise money each week the exhibition is held. So as an example, the Survivor’s Trust Wales is looking to host the exhibition in South and North Wales. Any money raised during this time will go to the Survivor Trust Wales.
JULY 12, 2015 LEAVE A COMMENT
Raising Awareness for Victims and Survivors of Child Abuse (RAVSCA)
The Wall of Silence
RAVSCA is an idea I had last year. I wanted to do something initially to remember my friends who died through abuse, but since my idea has grown, it has turned into so much more.
The wall of silence is a photographic / art exhibition that is intended to:
• Raise awareness about the prevalence of child abuse in the UK
• Honour the memory of those that died as a result of child abuse
• Celebrate the strength, resilience and courage of survivors of child abuse
• Give hope to those yet to find their voice and start their own recover. You are not alone
The idea is very simple, survivors of child abuse in the UK or the families / friends of victims can submit something that they would like to represent them in the exhibition. So far people have submitted photos, drawings, poems, quotes and even a song. These submissions will then form the exhibition, in conjunction with information on the different types of abuse, the effects it leaves us with, information on support organisations etc. So every picture that you see in the exhibition will represent a victim or survivor of child abuse in the UK.
With the help of the Southmead Project, we are launching the exhibition in Bristol in January 2016. It will be in Bristol for a week and the tour the UK. The idea is that it is handed over after a week to the next charity / individual to host in their own town / city before it moves on again.
People can visit the exhibition for free and will be able to leave their comments. These comments will be collated and given to all the contributors so they can see just how much of an effect the exhibition has had on people and how much awareness has been raised. As well as leaving comments, we will also be asking people to answer this question – What can I do to prevent child abuse? We don’t expect them to answer before they leave, just to have that in their mind as to how they can help end child abuse once and for all. It will help to make people aware that it is everyone’s duty to protect children.
There are over 8 million people in the UK alone that have suffered from one form of child abuse or another and it would be great to open the exhibition with all 8 million submissions. However, this would be impossible and therefore there will be no deadline for people to submit items to the exhibition which will mean it will be constantly growing over time.
So I am calling on anyone and everyone in the UK that has suffered from child abuse to take part in this exhibition. It will be the first in the UK and you will have an opportunity to raise awareness of child abuse in such a personal and powerful way. All you need to do is contact me to either send me your submission or to ask any questions. You can contact me via the following:
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/ravsca
Twitter – @carl_survivor
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
or via this blog.
JULY 12, 2015 3 COMMENTS
My own views on the now open, national inquiry into child sexual abuse
The national inquiry into child sexual abuse is open:
Just over a year ago after the Home Secretary announced the launch of the national inquiry into child sexual abuse, it finally opened today. Justice Goddard gave a statement and whilst listening, at various points I just was in tears. I have now had a chance to read the statement in full and digest what was said.
I realise that not everyone is happy about the inquiry and I am truly sorry for that. People will need to make up their own minds about the inquiry, but here are my own views following what I heard today and as always this is just my own personal opinion.
I think, no that is not right, I was extremely anxious about what was going to be said today. I think after the years delay and the two inappropriate chairs, it was make or break time for the inquiry for me personally. Was it going to be the inquiry I hoped for or was it finally time to walk away.
I am going to start with the areas that I was particularly pleased to hear:
JG acknowledged that the inquiry was be as transparent as possible, but recognised that some things might have to remain confidential. She would however, put as much into the public domain as possible. – – I know some people will not accept that everything is not in the public domain, but having led independent reviews in my own line of work, I understand that somethings have to remain confidential, but it is right and proper that they put as much as they can in the public domain. Perhaps the only thing I would add is to explain why when they don’t release things, just so we know its not being covered up, but that there is a genuine reason.
Aim to complete the inquiry within 5 years with regular annual reports – – now five years is a long time, and of course I would like it completed sooner, but this is such a massive inquiry, the scale is enormous and I accept that it will take a while to get through all the evidence that could be provided. All I ask is they say true to their word and keep us updated on progress.
No cut off date – – I think this is important, as who can you give a cut off date and then ignore things that happened before. I support that there is no cut off date and is something I know others called for.
The range of organisations covered – – The inquiry has shown it is willing to look at all institutions from the NHS to the Armed Services, Westminster to Children’s homes. It’s very important that all these be covered and lessons learnt across the board to protect future children.
A national support help line – – The NSPCC are providing the national help line and I personally can understand why the NSPCC was asked to do this, they have experience in running national helplines and their staff are specifically trained. I know some are not happy that the NSPCC is running the helping, but personally I have no problem with it.
Funding support for victims and survivors who come forward – – I hope this is offered to those that really need it and will mean that people are not just expected to give their evidence and then left to flounder with the consequences that speaking out brings. I also hope that survivors such as myself that already have access to good counselling will be able to continue to use that and not take valuable resources from those that are in more need.
Protection from prosecution for WB – – we have been calling for this for months, and finally it was confirmed that people that come forward to give evidence will be protected from prosecution under the official secrets act. This is so important, and I hope this offers reassurance to police, security service staff and others.
VSCP – – I have covered this in another blog, I didn’t see what was wrong with the first panel, but we are where we are. I personally don’t see a problem with survivors not actually sitting on the main panel. I think that was the right decision, again using experience in my own profession to guide my judgement. We do however, have a survivors consultative panel and judging by the few names I know on this new panel, I am reassured at the expertise of those concerned.
New website and twitter account – – The website is certainly a lot better, and I see they have put up the statements etc, already. They starting tweeting updates from the speech and I just think this shows they are wanting to engage and get their message across as widely as possible. I certainly saw it as a positive.
Investigating the under reporting of sexual abuse among boys and young men – –I was particularly interested to see this, but being a male myself, I am probably biased. It is so important that society in general recognises that abuse takes place across genders and we need to work harder to break the silence for boys and men.
Given security clearance to access files from the intelligence services – – This is something else we called for, so pleased to see it included. It is vital that the security services be held to account for their part in the act and cover up of child abuse. Whether documents still exist, I remain sceptical. I would imagine they have used the last year to cover their tracks well. But at least the willingness is there from the inquiry to go there.
No one would be able to escape scrutiny no matter who they are or where – –Given who some of my abusers were, this was an important statement for me to hear. The fact that they won’t let anyone hinder the inquiry or escape scrutiny is vital, and reassurance for me personally. People in positions of trust or power must realise that they cannot abuse this position and get away with it.
So these were the things I was particularly pleased to see, and of course there were a few things that were disappointing.
The inquiry will only look at sexual abuse occurring within an institutional setting – – This is disappointing because abuse is abuse whether it is sexual or neglect. The effects are just as devastating for the individual concerned. However, given the scale of child abuse in the UK, I can understand why they have to limit the inquiry to one aspect, which in itself will be massive. There is hope however, that recommendations from this inquiry will prove useful in protecting children from all forms of abuse whether it is within the family or institutional setting.
Kincora and Jersey abuse scandals will not be included – – I know there was a call nationally for these to be included, and I for one wish they were. But again I can understand why they were not included because of the separate powers that Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands have. It does however, sound like there are information sharing protocols in place between these inquiries which is surely the next best thing, so that information can be fed both ways when appropriate. I know people are concerned that certain things wont come to the inquiries attention, but I know that certain aspects will.
What I heard today has reassured me that actually over the last few months they have been working hard to get processes in place ready to start. They have used the time in my view wisely to get systems in place, get confirmation from the Attorney-General, get security clearance, appoint staff, review their communication strategies, and much more. The work streams and projects are a good idea and mean that work can be done in tandem rather than wait for one to finish before the other starts. We should have had this a year ago, but we are where we are and it is better late than never. I certainly get the sense that Justice Goddard and her team are serious about this inquiry and have no fear in uncovering the truth. I am encouraged by where the inquiry is willing to go and that it is prepared to use its powers when necessary. I have had my hope level raised that this inquiry is now finally what I and others hoped for, what we need and what we deserve. I hope others will rally around and those that are able will come forward and give their evidence to the inquiry. This is a once in a lifetime chance to really make a difference to improving the future safeguarding of children in this country.
We need this inquiry, the country needs this inquiry. We need to get behind it, scrutinise its work and have faith that they will deliver a robust inquiry. Words of course are one thing, and we will see by the actions of the inquiry over the years if they live up to our, my expectations. But judging from today, finally I think they are on the right tract and I am pleased to see if finally open. It has for me been an emotional year watching this inquiry, but now again for me personally it has sealed my decision to support the inquiry and to testify before it so they and the UK can hear my evidence.
Finally I would finish by saying to the inquiry, do what you say you are going to do and please don’t let me down, don’t let others down and don’t let future children down. Mistakes have been made, but now it is now the time to get it right.
JULY 10, 2015 2 COMMENTS
I call on David Cameron to support a national memorial for victims of Child Abuse:
A national memorial for victims of child abuse:
Ok, I am sorry if this offends anyone, it is not meant to, but I had to write it.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings that killed so many innocent people. Lives lost needlessly, families destroyed forever and all under the banner of terrorism. We also remember those that died simply wanting to enjoy their holiday in Tunisia before a terrorist again shatters people’s lives and once again kills innocent people. My thoughts are certainly with all those families that lost loved ones and all the survivors that made it through such horrendous events.
Quite rightly, David Cameron calls these acts ‘brutal atrocities’ and he is absolutely right. However David Cameron has gone one further and has announced the Government will fund two separate permanent memorials. One will honour those killed in Tunisia and the other will commemorate Britons that have been killed in other terror attacks. Firstly, I support this move and it is right and proper we as a country show respect and honour for those that died.
But it also got me thinking, why do this for victims of terror attacks, and yet we ignore others such as the children that die through abuse. I have been looking at some statistics and I have to admit that I am not a researcher or statistician, but I have been looking at information from reliable sources such as the NSPCC and the Governments own figures and it suggests that on average 5 UK nationals are killed each year through terror related incidents. However, on average 100 children die each year in the UK as a result of child abuse, 100 kids each year!
How can our Government and we as a country as a whole forget these children and fail to honour their memory in the same way. 100 children a year die through another brutal atrocity – child abuse, and yet we have no national memorial for them.
Wanting to remember my friends who died through abuse was what spurred me on to start my exhibition. If we don’t speak out for them, who will? We cannot let these children simply be forgotten or accept that fact that so many children died needlessly. We have a duty to speak out, raise the profile and make sure that ZERO children die each year as a result of child abuse.
I set up RAVSCA (Raising Awareness for Victims and Survivors of Child Abuse) and the Exhibition ‘The Wall of Silence’ to:
Raise awareness about the prevalence of child abuse in the UK
Honour the memory of those that died as a result of child abuse
Celebrate the strength, resilience and courage of survivors of child abuse
Give hope to those yet to find their voice. Reassurance they are not alone
So I call on the Government, help me turn this project into a national memorial to remember those children who died as a result of abuse because we as a society failed to protect them properly. I call on David Cameron to support a national memorial for victims of child abuse in the UK.
We cannot ignore 100 children a year
JULY 6, 2015
When are we going to learn that unity is better than devision?
By the very nature of what happened to us, to survivors of child abuse we are effected in some way or another, some would say damaged. Some suffer debilitating effects, others are able to lead relatively normal lives and of course a whole lot of variables in between. But regardless of what abuse each of us suffered, it is something we all share.
But we cannot use what happen to us to turn on or behaviour badly towards other survivors. Last night on twitter, this seemed to be exactly what was being implied. People were trying to suggest that because of trust issues they felt recording a meeting secretly was appropriate. Well my own view, and that’s just what it is my view, is that we cannot use what happen to us as justification to act in a way that causes other survivors harm and distress. Now of course we will all at some point say or do something my mistake that upsets someone, but you apologise and usually all is good. But to intentionally do something that you know will cause distress to other survivors is not acceptable. We cannot argue for openness and transparency when we are not willing to practice it ourselves.
All survivors of abuse have been through horrendous things at the hands of abusers and in that we all share a common bond. And yet despite this survivors are still turning on each other, using underhanded tactics, trolling, calling each other names and using such condescending language just to cause offence. Is this really what we want to portray? What must people think of our infighting. It reminds me of an edition of the West Wing. The Communications Director, Toby Ziegler was sent to listen to a hall of protestors so that they could have the ear of the White House. When he gets there, the protestors are so caught up fighting with each other about what issue to raise etc, Toby just sits in a chair and reads his newspaper. The protestors had an ideal opportunity to get their message heard at the highest levels, and they blew it fighting with each other.
I heard someone just today saying that we are in a war, and they are right, we are in a war but it is not one that is going to be won by aggression, control, devision or underhanded tactics. We will win this war through unity, perseverance, a strong voice and sheer determination. If you don’t like a particular person or don’t want to interact with them, don’t follow or respond to tweets etc. It doesn’t mean we need to get nasty with each other.
So I call on all survivors and those that support them to put and end to this, draw a line in the sand and start afresh. I am not asking you to make up when I know that that might be impossible. All I ask for is unity. We have all gone through to much without adding to each other’s burdens. We all want an inquiry fit for purpose, we all want lessons to be learnt from what we went through, we all want justice and we all want to put an end to child abuse.
We need to stand together, we need to be a strong voice on behalf of children everywhere. Alone we are strong, together we are stronger, and can achieve anything.
This quote seems appropriate for this blog. From Mahatma Gandhi
Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviour
Keep your behaviour positive, because your behaviour becomes your habits
Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values
Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny
So lets each of us see if we can use unity over devision, tolerance over intolerance, understanding over aggression and support over distress.
understanding over aggression and support over distress.
JUNE 27, 2015 3 COMMENTS
CSA Inquiry: My latest thoughts
It has been a while since I have written a blog about the national inquiry into organised child abuse that was announced on the 7 July 2014 by the Home Secretary. But I have seen a lot of comments on the inquiry recently and wondered if there was more to things that we are willing to accept at the moment. So here are my views, and that is all they are, just my views. I know some people will not agree with them and that is fine.
It is almost a year now since the inquiry was announced. It was of course something that I suspect the Government didn’t want in the first place, but the public pressure, together with some vocal MPs and a news site helped to push the Government into a corner, and the inquiry was announced. So is the delay a deliberate government ploy or total incompetence to set it up properly in the first place? Will let you make up your own mind on that one.
Since then so much has happened. We have seen two chairs come and go, we have seen the appointment of a panel who held some listening events and who were then subsequently disbanded. Now we have a third chair appointed, a new panel, and a survivors consultative panel being established. But all this and a year later, we still do not have an inquiry ready to start.
But with things being a bit of a struggle for me at the moment, I thought I could look at what has happened and see if there is any light at the end of the tunnel with the inquiry, try to look at the wider picture and wonder whether I would still give evidence to the inquiry, or whether it is just too late now.
So firstly the chairs, and yes Teresa May got it spectacularly wrong with the appointment of the first two chairs. They didn’t seem to do due diligence on either of them and we still don’t know whether it was a deliberate attempt to delay the inquiry or whether it was just sheer incompetence. But to appoint one chair whose brother was involved allowing abusers to go free, and then to appoint another chair who was friends with a man who was also an abuser is beyond belief. But both chairs stood down after overwhelming pressure from survivors. Eventually a third chair was appointed from New Zealand, and I know some people are not happy with her appointment , but so far I have not seen anything that leads me to think she would be unfit to do the job.
A panel was established which included survivors of abuse, but again some people were not happy with the lack of openness and transparency with the selection of the panel and despite the panel members experience and credibility in their field, eventually the panel was disbanded. I had no problem with this panel, and now I personally don’t quite understand what went on and I don’t need to know. We are where we are and we still need to get the inquiry going.
Now of course the new panel does not have any survivors on it. But is this really a problem, personally I don’t think so. Instead a survivors consultative panel is being established, so the survivors do have a voice, and it could be a powerful panel which can advice Justice Goddard and her panel. I am not quite sure why this would not be good enough or different from being on the main panel?
I also saw an article last week about the number of barristers the inquiry is getting, and there seems to be an uproar about it. But I find myself asking so what? I think to myself, that the inquiry should know what they are doing, and if they feel they need more lawyers then thats what they need. It is not my place to say what they need and what they don’t. I try to stand back a little, why would they need so many lawyers, and perhaps it just shows how serious they are about the inquiry. Perhaps it means they are really going to go through with their statutory powers and in which case they would need legal minds to pursue this. Wouldn’t they? or am I being too naive which could be a possibility.
Could it be perhaps that Justice Goddard and her team know how big this inquiry will be, how important it will be in getting to the truth where it can. It could be that they want to make sure everything is in place before it starts officially, because if of course it isn’t, we would again all criticise it.
Over the last year there has been so much infighting around this inquiry, some of it still continues. But this is a once in a generation thing and yes there are questions on the governments motives and timescales but we still have an inquiry. So many people called for this inquiry, it is our one and only chance and we have a choice, we can either keep fighting over it and loose it, or we can get behind it and judge it by its actions. This inquiry is and will be under so much scrutiny, and I for one will be judging it on what it actually does from now, and trying to forget the mess in how it got there.
The government has certainly not helped boost this inquiry, and I think that just demonstrates their lack of seriousness in uncovering the scale of abuse in this country. But the people involved in the actual inquiry itself could well be very serious individuals and very serious about getting to the truth wherever that may lead. Should we give them the benefit of the doubt and wait to see how the inquiry progresses?
I hope the delay has been because they are intent in getting everything in place, so that once it starts taking evidence, they will have systems in place to protect and support survivors, and everything else that goes with such a massive inquiry. So lets see what happens.
So I call on the inquiry to make a statement to us all, tell us what has been happening and where you are heading. Keep us informed or we will make our own mind up and rumour and speculation will flourish. Nearly a year has gone by, too much time for anyone to wait. I would like to think that I would still give my evidence to the inquiry, but you need to show me that you mean business. So it’s over to you now to show how serious the inquiry really is and will look forward over the coming weeks to seeing something happen.
Don’t let survivors down, don’t let me down.
JUNE 21, 2015 1 COMMENT
How I am feeling at the moment (too much for 140 characters):
Feelings and grief:
Feelings is something I struggle with even today. There are some feelings a recognise such as feeling sad or the unconditional love for my son. I can feel kindness towards people and when I think of the men that hurt me and my friends I can feel hate. But when it actually comes to me, I always get stuck. People say “how are you” and I always tend to use my stock answer “I’m ok”. I say this because half the time I really don’t know how I feel when asked that question because I can’t vocalise it, the other half of the time I just wish people wouldn’t ask and the ok thanks usually means they don’t ask any further questions.
My counsellor is trying to get me to look inward with my feelings, but when I look inward to what I am feeling, I am just numb, they just aren’t there, I’m empty. My counsellor tells me this is normal for me because I buried my feelings so deeply as a child. I did show some feelings with family but with the group, it was very dangerous to show any feelings, if I did it would attract more punishment and pain. This in turn just strengthen my resolve to hide what I could. But it has caused me a lot of problems in my adult life mainly in how I react to certain situations and how I view myself.
I can’t really write much about this topic because it is such a foreign thing to me. My counsellor wants me to work on my feelings, getting me to recognise feelings including the effects they have on my body, but it all seems very scary and I simply don’t know where to start.
I suppose this lack of feeling has protected me to a certain extent, helped keep my sane (if there is such a thing). But I do know pain, and I am certainly feeling a lot of that at the moment. Those of you who follow me know that I had to witness three of my friends die in front of me at the hands of our abusers. I have written about it, tried to talk to my counsellor about it, reported to the police about what happen to them and even written poems and you tube videos, but nothing seems to help.
When it happened, I was devastated, but just like the abuse, I shut myself down emotionally whether by design or whether it was my mind’s automatic protection I don’t know. I couldn’t cope, understand or comprehend what I had seen, all I know is that my friends were no longer with me. But shutting down allowed me to carry on, to live, to survive. Again as you know that changed dramatically last year when I reported everything to the police. Yes it was upsetting talking about the abuse, but I was still glad I had been able to do it. The last day of interviews though I was to talk about what happened to my three friends. One by one I had to describe what happen in as much detail as I could remember. At the time I thought I was strong enough to do it, but now eight months down the line and I know I wasn’t and I almost wish I had not said anything about them.
Releasing such memories, such private dark secrets to a third party tore me apart. It felt like a surgeon had literally cut me open whilst awake and ripped my insides out and left me lying there with a massive open wound, slowly bleeding out. Some days are better than others, but the nights are always the same. When the house is quiet and dark, I cry, and cry, and cry. I suppose this does release enough emotion to help me get through the next day, but that to can go to pot if I am triggered by a news article an update (or not) from the police or some other trigger.
But for the last eight months it has not been getting any easier and in fact with the constraints I have about what I can say about my friends, not knowing / not being informed about my friends is just making it worse.
My counsellor says I experiencing grief, something I was able to do as a child when it happened, but I have experienced grief before and it was nothing like this. I know about the five stages of grief (denial & isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and I experienced them all when my grandfather died, but it seems like if it is grief I am just stuck on the first four and it is a never ending emotional turmoil going on inside my mind and a feeling of complete emptiness in my body.
I want, no, I need answers, I need to be free to speak about them, to shout about them and honour their memories. Most of all however, I need to speak to any remaining family members. There are things I need to say, there are promises I have to keep and not after coming forward, it’s the silence that keeps me in limbo, keeps me from continuing recovery, keeps me up at night in utter desperation and keeps me from attempting to find peace. The police are working hard, I know that, but that doesn’t actually help me though. I have been left on that operating table with a massive wound and slowly getting weaker as each month drags by. I draw on my inner strength, but even that is running low now and I can’t afford to crumble.
I know I need to talk to my counsellor about what happened to them, but every time I try, I shut down and later breakdown.
If there is one word that just sums up how I feel at the moment, it is ‘HAN’. It is a Korean word that has no literal English translation, but it is a state of mind and soul. A sadness, a sadness so deep that no tears will come and yet there is still hope. I do have the tears though and have lost hope.
It doesn’t mean I give up, I’m not, just trying to explain how I am at the moment but how long it can continue for is another matter.
JUNE 17, 2015 3 COMMENTS
They didn’t see the side I saw. (missing)
JUNE 14, 2015 1 COMMENT
Trust and what it means for me?
Trust is a funny word that a lot of people seem to use with little thought of what it actually means, and yet to survivors, certainly to me it is so very important and right up there at the top for me with Honesty. Trust means ‘the firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something’. From the very early stages children are shaping their view of the world and their place within it. This is (in a normal environment) built on a strong foundation of trust, built in a loving and caring home. When trust is broken as a child, it severely hinders our ability to trust and love others.
So why this blog, well I here the word trust so many times, whether it is people saying to me “do you trust the police in your case”, or the media saying “survivors need to trust the national inquiry into child abuse”. To me personally, this must makes me smile and highlights the true lack of comprehension with the word and what it means to survivors, or at least to me anyway.
When I was very young I trusted the adults around me I trusted the world around me, I had no reason not to. But when the abuse started, when I experienced and witnessed the horrific things men can do to children, it totally blew all trust right out of the window and destroyed by ability to trust, not just adults but the world in general. It was not only that trust had been broken, but also for me about not knowing anymore who I could trust. In fact throughout my whole childhood, there were only three adults I trusted and that was it.
As an adult it has taken me a long time to I suppose learn to start the trusting process, and even now trust is not something I give easily. First of all I have to let you close enough to get to know the real me, then I have to see if you can cope with the baggage I still carry, I have to see if your going to let me down or hurt me and only then do I start to lower the barriers a little at a time. Very few people get this close however, either because I don’t let them, or they give up on me long beforehand. So when people ask me do I trust the police in my case, the answer is simply – no. When the press say survivors must trust the national inquiry, it just is not going to happen. I would not trust anyone to run it unless they were already in my trust circle, and that is a very exclusive club. It did get me thinking though as sit here writing, so I counted up how many people are in my trust circle and it amounts to the grand total of 5 people. Admittedly there are another few people that are getting very close to gaining my trust, but it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
But does this lack of trust matter, does it stop me, in short no because I can have confidence in people without having to have trust in them. Take the police for instance, I have confidence in them as individual officers and I have confidence that they are doing what they can on my case. I can have confidence that the national inquiry will be what survivors deserve without having to trust it or the people running it. So for me, having confidence in someone is a huge compliment from me to them. From confidence trust can grow if the conditions and actions are right.
What I do know from my own experience is that from my own experience, if I have trust or confidence in someone it can be broken in an instant and that destroys something inside of me and makes it virtually impossible to have confidence or trust in them again. I shut myself down and try to protect myself from the pain, sadness and regret.
Trust takes years to build, second to break and forever to repair
JUNE 14, 2015 LEAVE A COMMENT
Hope is another strange word for me and one that most people take for granted. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
Normal people have hope all the time, whether its for fine weather, having a good day or winning the lottery. If they don’t get what they hoped for they move on and hope again. But don’t seem to suffer any damage as a result.
For me however, hope is different. As a child I hoped all the time, I hoped that someone would notice, I hoped that the pain would stop, I hoped for a normal week in school and I hoped that the men would not want me any more. My hope never worked and each time it was dashed a piece of me was destroyed. Over time as a child my ability or willingness to hope was erased, which means now as an adult I hardly every hope and when I do, I hate myself for doing so. When I do hope now (or what I think is hope) it always ends badly. When I reported things to the police, I had have my hopes raised. I hoped that I would finally find out about my friends, I hoped that I would finally see justice done for us all and I hoped that I would get answers to questions that still linger in my head. But now however, I hate myself for being so stupid to have hope again.
During the last 8 months my hope has been raised and dashed numerous times and it is taking its toll. I can’t cope with the not knowing and the waiting and I can’t cope with the not knowing about my friends. My liaison officer is very good, he updates me with what he can, and he is understanding. But it is effecting me a lot and I have to look after myself and my own well being.
So for the time being I have to step back from what the police are doing, I need to let them get on with what they need to do, and they will probably enjoy the peace without me emailing every five minutes. I don’t feel like I can ask for updates any more and I have asked that they only update me if anything significant has happened. I have to make sure I am strong enough to look after my family and to work.
People say they understand my frustration, but is has gone way beyond frustration now. It is reinforcing things I felt as a boy during the abuse. Now I am not suggesting for one minute that the police are the same as my abusers, quite the opposite. They are a dedicated team of officers working hard to uncover the truth. But the whole process reinforces feelings of isolation, secrecy, loss of control and the loss of freedom to say and do what I want to do. The process has and is making me feel anxious, isolated and vulnerable.
I am not giving up, I can’t give up. I owe it to my friends to do as much as I can. I still have confidence in the police team investigating my case and I have confidence in my liaison officers. But my hope has gone. Will it return, we shall see.
JUNE 7, 2015 1 COMMENT
Open letter to David Cameron, Prime Minister
31st May 2015
I doubt if you will ever see this let alone read this, but I write it anyway. I know as an individual I will mean nothing to you, I am just a citizen of the UK, a voter and one of over eight million survivors of child abuse in the UK.
Rightly or wrongly we have you as our Prime Minister, you are the leader of this country and the buck stops with you. The child abuse scandals have not just happened on your watch, but have taken place back through the decades but they are now starting to come into the public awareness and that certainly is happening on your watch.
You have the power to actually do something, you have the power to look into what happened and make sure lessons are learnt, you have the power to make sure we can have a safeguarding systems that actually protects all children and young people. I have listened to the spin the government put on things, the emphasis you place on paying down the deficit so our children are not paying for our debt. Doesn’t the same apply to child abuse, is it not just better to acknowledge what went on in the past and learn lessons. Do we really want today’s children to experience abuse because our government was to weak listen to survivors of abuse and to put proper safeguarding measures in place.
You said that it was the responsibility of local councils, social services departments and police forces, but you made no mention about the responsibility of Government. It feels like you are ignoring the issue, perhaps hoping that it will go away. You don’t seem to accept that abuse could have taken place by powerful and influential people, let alone taken place by MPs.
Currently you are failing survivors of child abuse, you are failing today’s children and you are failing the country. It wasn’t local councils etc that failed me, it was my government who allowed those within its ranks to hurt me and other children so badly.
So I call on you here and now to do something to show what sort of a leader you truly are. Don’t suggest to people that there is no cover up going on, because your actions just add to the conspiracy theories of a cover up. Change it, change it now for the sake of survivors, for the sake of the country but most importantly for the sake of children today across the UK.
Official Secrets act:
We know there are police, members of special branch and possible members of the security services that want to come forward and say what they knew of child abuse. You have given verbal assurance that they won’t face prosecution under the OSA if they came forward, but you must realise that verbal assurances mean nothing. If you are serious, bring in a change to the law, a new law whatever it needs to be to allow these people to come forward without fear of prosecution.
National inquiry into child abuse:
I still think that you never wanted this inquiry, and yet you felt you had to concede to public pressure following the 100,000 people that called for it. But it has successfully been delayed for almost a year now and is still not fully up and running. You could have led this from the start as Prime Minister, but you failed to act. You choose to walk away despite saying in March this year that “we should be intolerant to abuse and not walk on by as happened in so many cases before”. You need to through the weight of the Prime Minister, the weight of the Government to get this inquiry going now. We have waited long enough.
What is stopping you releasing documents, nothing unless you are trying to hide something. You supposedly gave Peter Wanless access to review documents relating to child abuse, but then after his report was published, someone else finds documents that the cabinet office did not disclose. These related to Peter Hayman and showed that a previous prime minister knew about what he was up to. The state cannot cover up for the abuse of children, these are not state secrets and if the documents really do contain state secrets, then redact them. You have the power to release any and all documents that might shed light on what happened years ago in relation to the abuse of children. You have the power to make sure the security services co-operate. Stop suggesting there is no cover up when we hear that police operations were closed down, documents were destroyed or lost, document suddenly found etc.
You cannot comprehend what it is like to be abused as a child, the daily struggle that survivors face with the issues it leaves us. We deserve better from our government. We are over eight million people in this country who have been through the trauma of abuse. We need to know what happened, we need to know lessons have been learnt, we need you to accept what took place years ago and we need you to make sure we have a national safeguarding system so that no child ever has to go through what we did.
MAY 31, 2015 CARL_SURVIVOR
Cover-up, who knows, but it just reinforces what I believed as a child:
OK, I’m angry, disappointed, upset and probably many more other feelings that I’ve yet to understand. Last week the DPP announced after months of waiting that a certain person would not face charges of child abuse. People are now making all sorts of accusations about this decision, but for me it just reinforces what was instilled and what I believed as a child.
So you can understand what I mean, I need to go back over 30 years. I spent 9 years at the hands of a paedophile ring that had absolutely no fear of being caught. But how do I know that they had no fear. Well their actions pretty much spoke for themselves. Some of the men openly told me their names, some their professions, I was taken openly to various locations to be abused, no attempt was made to muffle our cries or screams. I was even taken abroad through a major airport with no questions or passport. Then there were the threats, the threat that me and others could simply disappear and not only would no one question it but they would not care either. On top of all this I and others experienced first-hand what these men were capable of. I would be punished in the most brutal way imaginable, my friends were killed and all done without hesitation or remorse. From what I have learnt about human nature since becoming an adult, you just don’t do these things unless you’re sure of the people you are with and the protection that you have.
Now I don’t know the names of all the men that were involved in hurting me and others, but I know enough to them to realise they were serious individuals with a serious amount of power and / or influence. So what I saw as a child is turning into reality, they knew back then that they could do what they wanted, when they wanted without fear. They were protected then, and it would seem they are still protected now.
Something always seems to happen before they can be brought to justice, dementia, death, what is next I wonder. Part of me just thinks how stupid I was to speak out, I knew deep down that none of them could face court. As a child I knew how serious these men were, I knew what they could do, how much power they had over us and everything over the last 6 months just seems to be confirming that. It has severely dented my confidence in the system, so does this mean I should give up? no not a chance, I still have confidence in the police investigating my case, and will see what happens over the next few weeks.
APRIL 19, 2015 1 COMMENT
The evil that some men do
It pains me to use this title for this particular blog especially being a man myself and I do realise that women commit evil deeds as well as men. However, all my abusers were men and therefore I can only speak from my own experience.
When I hear stories in the press about anything evil, I always seem to find myself emphasising and in some cases having a shared understanding with the victim, but I also find myself not entirely surprised. I think this is because I have seen what men are capable of and I have experienced the evil that some men do.
During my childhood, I experienced first-hand what men were capable of doing to children. Things I never thought possible. I lived through what they did and I really don’t understand what makes men hurt children so badly. My abusers all appeared well educated and intelligent men, some of them had risen through the ranks of their chosen profession to become very influential, powerful and respected individuals. So what turned those men into what I can only describe as pure evil and yet maintain their respectability with the wider world. Where they abused as children themselves, is it something to do with genetics, was it simply a power and control thing or where they just evil people at heart.
I am convinced that they were not abused as children themselves. I may be very naïve and I probably am but I cannot see how anyone that can be abused and suffer the effects it leaves then pass that pain onto another child. How could they put a child through the same thing, it’s not something you would wish on your worst enemy. So where they just evil, possibly, but humans are not born with evil intentions, so what led them to behave like that but remain outwardly respectable but inwardly evil. So could it be genetics that causes someone to behave the way my abusers did. Is it something in the DNA that makes someone want to hurt children like that? I just don’t know, genetics is well above my intelligence levels so I will leave that to others. So therefore that just leaves was it simply a power and control thing? I did think that this was what it was at first, but some of my abusers were very powerful people, so what additional power could they get from hurting me?
I have come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to understand fully why my abusers did what they did, why any man or woman for that matter chooses to hurt a child. I wonder if I actually need to understand it? I survived horrific abuse and torture, I endured things that most people could not even imagine and I experienced the pain that went with it. I understand that the men hurt me and others very badly, I understand the effects the abuse has left me with, I understand that there was nothing I could have done to stop it and I understand that it was not my fault.
So I think that it is OK that I don’t understand their actions and I wonder if they understand what they did themselves, although they must have done. It takes a considerable amount of thought and action to hold my head underwater so I can’t breathe, or to burn me or even to rape me. So how did they rationalize it to themselves? How does a grown man think that raping me, boys, children was OK? How can a man inflict unimaginable pain on me and others and live with our screams in their head? How can a man kill my friend and look at themselves in the mirror as though it was the most normal thing in the world? How can a man do those things to another human being let alone a child?
I really think that we, me didn’t matter to them, I don’t think they saw us as human, we were more like commodities for them to do with us as they wanted. In one of my poems I described us as sweets in a bag and that’s what we were, to be handed out, shared, used and disposed of at their leisure.
So it’s OK not to understand and at points it is beyond comprehension. They were just evil, they were just monsters whatever they appeared to other people. I got to see the ream them, and it was bad, very bad.
APRIL 15, 2015 2 COMMENTS
A Paedophile ring, my own rambling thoughts.
A paedophile ring:
I have been doing a lot of writing over my holiday’s and have seen a lot of comments from people on child abuse allegations in the press over the last few months, questioning what took place, questioning people who make the allegations and of course questioning who possible took part in abusing children. I make the obvious statement here about not being able to comment on anyone else’s experience, just my own.
People talk about VIP paedophile rings, and in reality there is no such thing, no matter who my abusers were, they were not VIP’s, they were men who got their kicks from hurting children, plain and simple. People have speculated on which men were involved, some names have been printed in the national press and some have speculated at others. For me however, I know who some of them were and I have given that information to the police. However, there were also lots that I just don’t know who they were and there are those that I will never speak out against.
There were many men who I only saw once or a few times, or who I just never got to know who they were. Some I knew what they did, just could not put a name to a face. The saddest thing is that the men who were either really kind towards me or at the other end of the extreme, very nasty, stand out. The others just blend into the normality of it all if that makes any sense to anyone apart from me.
I mentioned above that there were some I will never speak out against, and yes this is the case. Some of the members of the inner circle I will never report and never name them because of who they are. If I made their names public, I would be unlikely to last a week. Maintaining my silence on them maintains my safety .
People still find it hard to believe what adults are capable of doing to children, the abuse which I endured through my childhood is not isolated. Hundreds and thousands of other children suffered and are still suffering from abuse from adults who are suppose to protect. I suppose I read comments in the press and don’t really feel any emotions towards them and it really doesn’t matter whether they believe them or not. In my case, I know what went on because I lived it day in day out, I lived with the pain, and I still have the emotional and physical pain today, all these years later. The other boys that were hurt alongside me also know what went on and of course my abusers know what went on because they made their choice to hurt me and others at their leisure.
However, here we are all these years later, I can’t believe that I have actually spoken up, and I would think my abusers can’t believe that one of their boys has spoken out. I know some of my abusers are dead, indeed some of their victims are dead also, including my three friends. Any of my abusers that are still alive of course are not going to come forward and admit what they did, although it would be refreshing if they did. So it is up to the police to investigate and to see if there is enough evidence for a prosecution. If that happens, then it’s up to a court to decide if the accused are innocent or guilty.
For me, I will do fight as much as I can to get the truth out there and I know my abusers that are alive will fight as much as they can to maintain their innocence. The difference now however, is that as a boy they took my innocence and I had no choice, but now I am an adult and I am able to say what happened.
APRIL 13, 2015 2 COMMENTS
Devastating and positive news all in one – IPCC investigation:
It is such an emotional roller coaster journey that I have been on since reporting what happened to me to the police. Just when you start to feel positive, another bit of news comes to smack you in the face and bring you down with a bump. Last week was a good week, so much positive things, and today I read about the IPCC investigation and I’ve just been crying for ages as I try and get my head about it all.
The IPCC is to investigate 14 allegations of historic corruption relating to child sexual abuse from 1970 through to the 2000s (copy of the press release is below). I find it difficult to understand and to take in. It is something I lived through day in day out, I saw and experienced some horrendous things. I knew what the group were capable of and at the time it was evident they were not afraid of getting caught. But today I read that the police might well have known what was going on and for whatever reason didn’t help me, didn’t help us.
All I find myself asking is why? Was I not worth protecting, did I really mean nothing like the group said. I was a child, and needed your help, and you just left me to be hurt. All of the boys hurt with me needed protection, and you just confirmed they could get away with anything. Would my friends still be alive today if you had acted? I don’t know, and to be honest too upsetting to think about. If it was your children would you have protected them? You left me and other boys to the wolves, you abandoned us and reinforced the power of the group to continue what they were doing unhindered.
But, as I calm down, I try and look on the positive – but it’s hard. What happened all those years ago is starting to come out, I hope it means more people will come forward and now this investigation might give the answers as to who ordered what, who looked the other way, and perhaps why. We must also remember not to tarnish the current police with the actions of officers years ago. I have and continue to have confidence in the officers working on my case within the metropolitan police and I am slightly reassured by the fact that the Met have referred these allegations to the IPCC themselves, I think this shows they are dedicated to getting to the truth of what happened.
I wish the same could be said from our Government and elected officials. It is clear from their actions, that the government wants all this to go away until at least after the election. But guess what, I for one am not going away just because it makes you feel uncomfortable. The leader of our government remains silent and I say to you Mr Cameron, you are a father, and I presume you would do anything to keep your children safe? So as leader of the country, why are you not shouting from the top of the House of Commons about this issue. Why have you allowed such a delay in the national inquiry into child abuse, why have you continued to allow the cabinet office to keep files secret and why to you continue to remain silent. Why is it that only a few MPs have been vocal on this issue, raising questions in the HoC and helping the voice of survivors to be heard. Why is not every member of parliament demanding action? All current MP’s – this is happening on your watch, and apart from a few of your that speak out, I am ashamed of my own government for remaining silent. Why don’t all the leaders of all political parties come together and make a cross party statement on this issue?
If it makes you feel uncomfortable, how do you think it made me feel to be so badly raped and tortured, how do you think it made me feel to watch my friends die, how do you think it made me feel to see these people hurt me and others so badly with impunity. I have risked so much to come forward, and yet you all have nothing to lose in speaking up about abuse and demanding openness, honesty and transparency from your colleagues and the cabinet office.
It is about time we put child protection first, do we really want another child to be writing blogs like this 30 years from now, or are people brave enough to acknowledge child abuse happened and that it still happens, are people sensible enough to listen to survivors of child abuse to learn lessons from the past, are people innovative enough to design systems that truly protect children today and are we as a society ready to say enough is enough when it comes to child abuse.
IPCC to investigate allegations of historic corruption relating to child sexual abuse in the Metropolitan Police
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is to investigate 14 referrals detailing allegations of corruption in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in relation to child sex offences dating from the 1970s to the 2000s. The allegations, referred by the MPS, include: • suppressing evidence; • hindering or halting investigations; and • covering up the offences because of the involvement of members of parliament and police officers. Parallel investigations being conducted by the MPS into the original allegations of child abuse and the new criminal investigations looking at alleged police corruption are closely linked and well underway. Therefore, after careful assessment, the IPCC will manage the investigations being conducted by the MPS’s Directorate of Professional Standards. The IPCC Deputy Chair Sarah Green said: “These allegations are of historic, high level corruption of the most serious nature. “We will oversee the investigations and ensure that they meet the terms of reference that we will set. Allegations of this nature are of grave concern and I would like to reassure people of our absolute commitment to ensuring that the investigations are thorough and robust.” The decision to conduct this as a managed investigation remains under review and can be amended at any time should it be deemed necessary.
Notes to Editors The referrals are:
1) Allegation of a potential cover up around failures to properly investigate child sex abuse offences in South London and further information about criminal allegations against a politician being dropped.
2) Allegation that an investigation involving a proactive operation targeting young men in Dolphin Square, was stopped because officers were too near prominent people.
3) Allegation that a document was found at an address of a paedophile that originated from the Houses of Parliament listing a number of highly prominent individuals (MPs and senior police officers) as being involved in a paedophile ring and no further action was taken.
4) Allegation that an account provided by an abuse victim had been altered to omit the name of a senior politician.
5) Allegation that an investigation into a paedophile ring, in which a number of people were convicted, did not take action in relation to other more prominent individuals
6) Allegations that a politician had spoken with a senior MPS officer and demanded no action was taken regarding a paedophile ring and boys being procured and supplied to prominent persons in Westminster in the 1970s.
7) Allegation that in the late 1970s a surveillance operation that gathered intelligence on a politician being involved in paedophile activities was closed down by a senior MPS officer.
8) Allegation that a dossier of allegations against senior figures and politicians involved in child abuse were taken by Special Branch officers.
9) Allegations that a surveillance operation of a child abuse ring was subsequently shut down due to high profile people being involved.
10) Allegations of child sex abuse against a senior politician and a subsequent cover-up of his crimes.
11) Allegations that during a sexual abuse investigation a senior officer instructed the investigation be halted and that that order had come from ‘up high’ in the MPS.
12) Allegation of a conspiracy within the MPS to prevent the prosecution of a politician suspected of offences.
13) Allegations against a former senior MPS officer regarding child sex abuse and that further members of the establishment including judges were involved. It is claimed that no further action was taken.
14) Allegation that police officers sexually abused a boy and carried out surveillance on him. Further allegations of financial corruption in a London borough police force.
An Audience with Jimmy Savile – My thoughts on this play:
An Audience with Jimmy Savile:
Well, I don’t really know where to start with this blog. After a failed attempt a few weeks ago, I have actually now been to see this play by Jonathan Maitland. When I first heard about this play I was very sceptical, was it really just going to glorify the celebrity status of JS, make a mockery of the allegations made by so many people or was it going to treat the subject with sensitivity and show JS for what he really was? I suppose I could just not envisage how someone could write a play about this sort of thing and make it meaningful.
I was in two minds about actually seeing the play. I had heard things from others that had been to see it, but it was just something I needed to do, I am not sure if I can explain why, I just had to see it for myself. The theatre was very small and I think that makes the play more effective, more hard hitting. However, with that in mind (I had been forewarned) the theatre gave me back row seats near an exit.
As the play opened, my heart sank as they started to introduce JS by his accolades, his charity work, his celebrity status and all round legend. I felt to myself that my suspicions had been realised, but as things went on I realised that they had to start with this because it was behind how he got away with things for so long. 10 minutes in and I realised that looking back on this was appropriate because it was exactly what people saw and how he was able to hide his more sinister side. However, it was not long before JS (Alistair McGowan) put in an appearance himself and I froze. For the first time in over 35 years, I was with him again. Alistair plays him very well, and this probably made it worse for me. Suddenly I had an abuser right there in front of me, risen from the dead.
We meet Lucy (Leah Whitaker) the play’s victim turned survivor and we witness the struggle she faced with acceptance from her own father, the responsibilities of speaking out as examples for children today, especially her own daughter and the consequences of speaking out about someone so famous. I could relate to all of this and whilst really upsetting for me to watch, it was all done in a very sensitive and powerful way.
There were several awkward, perhaps heart stopping moments for me during the play. At one point, JS entered the stage right next to me. In an instant I had powerful feelings to just attack him and to run out of the theatre in floods of tears both at the same time. But I couldn’t do anything, I was frozen, I couldn’t move. Tears falling silently and playing with my hands (something I do in periods of high anxiety). Another moment was when JS showed his anger, his power, whether this was against his victim or the police. This was the side I knew, and as soon as he raised his voice, I was transported instantly back to when I was a boy – not good memories. The play finished of course with his death and a heartbreaking moment, a silent moment when the father realised his daughter had been telling the truth all along about JS and he reached out to her in just a silent ‘I am sorry’ moment that we all wish for from our own relatives.
Overall, I am glad I went to see it, and perhaps it puts another ghost to rest for me. Jonathan Maitland approached this subject with sensitivity and encapsulated what JS portrayed to the world and what he was really like in reality. The sensitivity even extended to not sharing photographs of Alistair McGowan in his role because of how triggering it would have been to survivors, and I fully support this move. Alistair McGowan played JS incredibly well, as I said, for me perhaps a bit to well. Leah Whitaker was able to show some of the struggles a survivor of child abuse goes through and the added problems that occur when your abuser is a person who not only has the power to abuse a child but also had the power to control those around them to cover their tracks or just simply to ignore what was right in front of their eyes.
Was there anything that could have been done better. Well only two things for me. Firstly I personally would have like more reference to the fact that boys were abused by JS as well as girls. There was reference in the play to a vulnerable adult, because of course JS abused them to. But only one passing mention of a boy. I think that is not a big deal though as there is only a certain amount you can do within a play and of course being a male survivor, I would like people to acknowledge more that it happens to both sexes. Secondly, I think there could have been a warning to people in case they were survivors that if you were seated in the front row, you may have interaction with JS during the play. If this had happened to me, I would have lost it.
I feel that it is a very important play and I hope it carries on in other theatres across the country. Jonathan Maitland must be commended for the way in which the play has been written and the actors commended for how they get the message across in such a brilliant way. Whilst the play is of course about JS, it also applies to other abusers that feel they can use their power, their influence and sheer contempt for others to abuse children with impunity. As a survivor of child abuse myself, and someone who unfortunately came into contact with JS through the group that hurt me, I offer my thanks to all the cast and crew, but especially to Jonathan Maitland, Alistair McGowan and Leah Whitaker for getting such an important message out into the public domain. I would certainly recommend people see the play, although I realise it is coming to the end at the Park Theatre very shortly, to both survivors and non-survivors. However, if you are a survivor of child abuse especially of JS, then I would recommend someone goes with you for that extra support. I hope the play gave an insight to people about just how even famous people can commit dreadful acts against those most vulnerable in our society. It is the secret everyone knows about, but no one wants to talk about it. But we must talk about it, to keep silent is to aid the abusers, to speak out destroys them.
On a separate note, this was the first time I had been to the Park Theatre, never even heard of it before, but what a fabulous theatre, very personal (because of its size) and an excellent cafe. A perfect venue certainly for this play.
The chair *** trigger warning ***
I am going through all the stuff I wrote during my therapy to decide which I am comfortable enough to share. There is so much I can’t share because it would either identify people or places or it’s simply too distressing for others to read. Wasn’t sure about this one so I’m sorry if it upsets.
Tied to a chair in a room full of men.
Forced to open my mouth for every one of them.
It’s hard to breath as each takes his turn.
My mouths so sore, my throat just burns.
I have to swallow I have no choice.
I’m under their control, I have no voice.
I want to be sick, if I am I’m punished.
I can only wait until they’ve all finished.
At last it’s over and I’m untied.
My wrists hurt, I feel sick, wish I’d died.
I get a short break to have some tea.
Then they all want their private time with me.
I’m taken upstairs, put on the bed.
Raped by each of them, the sheets turn red.
It’s the last one who helps me get clean.
But I’m still dirty, survivors know what I mean.
As a child this was a part of my daily life.
The hurt, pain, terror and threat of the knife.
I just wanted to be normal and for men to let me be.
You’ve no idea as a child what it was like to be me.