First let me thank Steve Easton for the two pieces he’s already contributed. They were indeed horror stories, but were in fact the tip of the iceberg. I have received many e-mails from people over the years about the horror of their childhood. This is without a doubt one of the most eye opening, heart wrenching stories I’ve ever heard. Steve and so many like him are the ones who will make a difference in our fight. It’s the courage shown by those who must carve said courage from raw materials, having nothing to work with, who will show those who feel helpless that there is hope. Steve is an inspiration to me and I believe he’ll be one to you too.
#1 Between what ages were you abused and would you like to expose the extent of that abuse or describe the worst memory you have?
I can’t remember when I was first abused but I know physical abuse, torture might be a better description, started when I was under 3 and sexual abuse was certainly happening by the time I was five. The abuse went on until I was 12 or 13 and certainly stopped by the age of 14 as I ran away from home and never went back.
The worst memory I have is difficult to work out there was so much horror. Real moments of anguish were being told that my sister (who was also tortured and sexual abused) died an unexplained death in a psychiatric hospital and a little girl my parents use to babysit took her own life at the age of 21. I have always been able to remember my dad sexually abusing me and my sister, have been through a great deal of therapy to deal with this and to a very large extent had put my childhood behind me. I was still very angry with my mother, which I had assumed was because she failed to protect us. I had always disliked the woman and saw her as little as possible because every time I had anything to do with her I ended up wanting to scrub myself raw in the bath. My mother died in 2010 and someone who knew my sister warned me my mother had kept photographs of us being abused and that my sister had hidden them in my mother’s attic. (I could remember being photographed while being abused but not who the photographer was). Anyway I sort advice from the police and did a comprehensive search of my mother house – which was a complete pit – and found nothing. In the processes of clearing my mothers house I took home a box of family photographs, sorting them out sitting in my favorite chair I found photos of family things like picnics, school photo and so on, then among them, as though they were normal, where explicit black and white photos of myself and my sister being sexual abused by my dad and mother. Me as a child of 8 or 9 sucking my dads penis, my sister playing with his testicles. Me touching my mothers vagina …..
I felt sick, sick, sick, partly because I was in my home, my 15 year old daughter was doing her homework at the table and my wife watching TV. It was also the fact that they were in with the normal family photos proving what I also felt somewhere that my mother thought abuse was acceptable and normal. I had no doubt that my mother was the photographer as she had always taken and developed photos and was trained as a chemist.
After this I started having nightmares and daymares and simple couldn’t get the photos out of my head. I started remembering more and more, went off sick, stopped sleeping at night because I’d didn’t dare sleep and was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Went back into group therapy, had some sessions with a psychiatrist and a clinical phycologist and after one hell of a painful year was back to my normal happy self. Oddly enough going through this also resulted in me telling my boss, who was completely useless, devious and dishonest, exactly what I thought of him in front of a large open plan office – he was demoted soon afterwards.
The other memory which came back, that for some reason is more disturbing than most, is my mother smearing her vagina with chocolate and making me and my sister lick her – I think I must have been 5 or 6.
#2 Were you aware that others, siblings, friends or your mother were being abused or did it seem you were singled out?
My sister who was 3 years younger than me was also being abuse and to my knowledge a girl my parents use to babysit for were also being abused and considering my dad was a social worker and later became a priest I suspect they abused lots of children between them.
#3 Understanding that many of us don’t realize the extent of how we were abused, when did you first comprehend that you were abused and when did it sink in and start causing problems?
I didn’t realize I was being abused, I just thought my family was normal, until I was nearly 13. At 12 3/4 I fell in love for the first time with a 12 year old girl. We used to spend hours, in a hideout we had built talking, and cuddling. One day she told me that her older married brother use to make her suck his penis and he use to lick her vagina (which she said she liked) but I mustn’t ever tell anybody because it was against the law and she and her brother would go to prison. So I told her what my dad did to me and my sister… I’m not sure at this point I recognized it as abuse but it was the beginning some insight – I really knew l I was being abused, later that year, when my father anally raped me and threatened to kill us both. It hurt like hell and bleed for ages.
#4 How did your abuse influence the way you interacted with those around you, co-workers, spouses and later children if you have them?
I was a very very angry and violent young man. I didn’t trust anybody and was absolutely determined to be independent. I hated bullies and tended beat the crap out of them if they tried anything with me. Initially when I ran away from home I didn’t care if I lived or died but eventually I developed an incredible drive to ensure I always had an income and could stand on my own two feet. I physically put as much distance between myself and my parents as possible, traveling round the world, moving to the USA, India and Australia for periods of time.
I actively avoided commitment and while I had girl friends I kept them at a very safe distance. Sex wasn’t a problem though I only like really gentle sex anything a bit “rough” I don’t enjoy. Twenty three years ago I met my wife and to my surprise fell in love, married and we’re still together. I still get moments of insecurity and annoy my wife by asking if she’s sure she loves me.
Over the years I have learned to trust and to love and control my temper. Today I am known for my patients, rarely raise my voice (though people dread me having a quite word) but still can get over the top when I perceive people being abused.
As a husband and father (and foster carer) I think the abuse I went through has made me a better parent. I was able to dismiss the way I was bought up as totally wrong so had to learn parenting from first principles. I believe children deserve love, respect, honesty and the right to have their questions answered however difficult that is for adults. I believe in clear consistent and reasonable boundaries but only to the extent that boundaries can be explained and justified.
#5 How did your children turn out, do you think your childhood affected their lives?
My biological daughter is nearly 18 and academically driven. In my view she is happy but possibly a little to grown up though this may have more to do with her mum having multiple sclerosis. In her view she has had a great childhood and says she likes as well as loves her parents. She invites us to her parties and we are Facebook friends. Surprisingly I’m not a particularly protective parent and believe children have to grow up, learn to live in the real world and to live with the reality that life isn’t fair. She is very assertive, independent and capable. We took her to India at just 14 and travelled 2,500 miles by train complete with my wife in her wheel chair. On a couple of occasions she ended up having to do things on her own in India and coped and now has the travel bug.
As a foster carer I have the real advantage of being able to relate to and understand what young people in care have been through and most of the young people we have looked after are now successfully standing on their own two feet.
#6 Are you comfortable discussing any substance abuse that may have occurred as a result of what you went through?
I think in part I survived because I found alcohol and various drugs such as nembutal and mandrax (Quaaludes) to be a wonderful anesthetic that made all the pain and horror go away. This mixture resulted in overdoses, being locked up, living on the streets and some very violent behavior.
#7 How did you overcome, if you have overcome this abuse?
For a number of years I didn’t care if I lived or died but eventually I somehow pulled myself together and started to value my life and see some hope for the future. I eventually agreed to see a psychiatrist and, then, one day I turned up for an appointment and he wasn’t there so I decided “to hell with him I’ll go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings”. I went to AA and haven’t had a drink or drug since which is now over 31 years ago.
#8 Have you tried to slow down the amount of abuse in
our society and if you have, how?
I have fostered children who have been abused. Politically I have successfully lobbied for funding for services for men who have been abused and who also abuse substances. I also trained as a councilor and spent 20 years working with substance misusers many of whom had been abused and though today I non longer work directly with people but advice on and develop strategies for moving drug misusing offenders out of crime and into treatment which gives me an opportunity ensure victims of abuse who are also substance misusers have access to appropriate services.
#9 What would you say to those still lost in the horrors of their past, can you offer any words of encouragement?
What was done to you was not your fault, not your responsibility, you were an innocent child. I have found the most helpful thing is to talk about my experiences and refuse to feel shame. My personal view is that if you wish to try therapy: group therapy is far more helpful than individual therapy though it is also more scary. You should be proud of yourself you are a survivor.
#10 This is not really a question; I want you to make up the tenth question. Ask a question you think I should ask and then answer it. You may make a statement here that expresses anything you think important, that I might have missed.
I went to hell and back what was done to me was totally unexpectable but today I don’t regret it because if I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through I wouldn’t be me and I like me.
Thanks again Steve, I’m glad to have met you and having done so, I will never forget you. Your life is an inspiration to me and redoubles my efforts from its telling. I can’t wait to read your book when it’s done. Please come back and give us the links we need to get it when that happens.