Suffolk Children’s Homes
A survivor’s story: Trapped in a subculture of child abuse
With numerous inquiries into alleged child abuse either up and running or poised to begin, is there a risk the individual voices of victims might get lost? One survivor believes so. This is his story.
“I was trafficked to Wrexham, Cornwall, Plymouth and London and forced to perform sex acts on men there.”
The person making the claim – we will call him Michael – was at the time a young teenager in the care of Suffolk County Council.Now in his late 30s, and still living in Suffolk, Michael’s is a case which demonstrates the great difficulty survivors face in trying to get their voices heard.
He told the authorities about the abuse 20 years ago. He claims nothing was done. He raised them again with both Suffolk Police and the county council again last year.
Michael claims again, nothing has been done. Worse still, he maintains the authorities have actively worked to discredit him in order to ignore his claims.
His allegations against the police and the county council have been put in detail to both organisations by the BBC. Suffolk Police said it would not comment on individual cases and the council said an investigation was under way.
“It wasn’t quite a paedophile ring,” says Michael. “More an affiliation of abusers who all knew each other.”
The physical and sexual abuse, Michael says, began at the hands of his sister when he was aged between three and four and continued later when a boyfriend of his mother allegedly seriously sexually assaulted him.
He was taken into local authority care aged 13 to be housed at a now-closed adolescent unit in Suffolk where, after refusing to perform a sex act on a visitor, he was locked in a cupboard for 32 hours. On finally being released, he was sexually assaulted.
He was then moved to a children’s home – again, now closed – where, he says, a number of adults, including uniformed police officers, abused children.
He told of one man who gave sweets or cigarettes to children who masturbated him.
Young people were taken from both the unit and children’s home to north London to perform oral sex and were anally raped by men.
In 1992 he was moved to the Stowmarket home of a single male foster carer where he was to remain for about six months.
The abuse started on the fourth night and escalated, says Michael, from being asked to perform sex acts (to then being told he was dirty and threatened about reporting the abuse) to rape.
It did not end there.
Michael was taken on “trips away” to Plymouth, Portsmouth, Wrexham, Cornwall and Islington, where he would be expected to perform sex acts for other abusers.
Occasionally, the children were given a little money – usually a £10 note.
“You’d find yourself thinking, at least I got a ‘tenner’ for it,” says Michael.
An assessment of his foster carer’s suitability for the role was carried out by the local authority and has been seen by the BBC.
This foster carer was later – after caring for Michael – convicted of sexually abusing another boy.
On leaving Stowmarket, Michael describes living in “slave” conditions on a country estate in Suffolk where he came into contact with the now dead Peter Righton, a consultant to the National Children’s Bureau who was eventually unmasked as a paedophile. Righton repeatedly sexually abused him, Michael claims.
Michael claims a senior police officer had visited the estate to raise concerns about Righton’s presence there. Suffolk Police would not respond to this allegation or say whether there had been any investigation into alleged activities at the estate.
The abuse largely stopped after he left care – though Michael says he was occasionally taken to parties, where he would be paid to commit sex acts.
But he tells how men at these parties would demand “fresh flesh” and how some who had already abused him lost interest in him.
Looking back at the abuse he suffered, Michael says: “It was just horrendous.
“Society needs to be more proactive with these things.”
He says the council “conspired” to have him “declared mentally ill, and have consistently ignored my complaints of historic sexual abuse.”
This, he claims, has enabled “other agencies to ignore complaints I have made”.
He has formal complaints lodged against both Suffolk Police and the county council.
This psychiatrist, who works for the Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust, said “no history of mental illness has been found” and that Michael “showed no features of mental illness”.
The confidential council documents also mention Michael was arrested on suspicion of rape and murder in 1994 – he was found to have had nothing to do with either crime.
A spokesman for the authority said: “We are aware of this complaint which, like any, we take very seriously.
“In terms of the allegations of historical abuse, we have advised the complainant to contact the police and have appointed an independent advocate to support him.
“In addition, we are also investigating related practice issues. We are currently awaiting the outcome of that investigation.”
Michael, who is currently in contact with the Met Police, said he is not seeking any compensation in relation to his allegations or complaints against the authorities.
He does, however, want an apology and those involved held accountable.
Deborah Dennis, spokeswoman for the charity Stop it Now, which campaigns to prevent child sexual abuse, said: “Extreme cases such as this, which involve organised abuse, do happen but, thankfully, they are rare. Far more often abuse happens at home either by the family members of the abused or someone else very close to the victim.
“Often we think abuse only happens in big cities. It doesn’t. In this case it is Suffolk. Any area can be affected by sexual abuse and exploitation.”