‘Abuse started when I was six on my mum’s birthday’ - Victims speak out to encourage others to seek help
PUBLISHED: 10:49 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:05 15 September 2020
Tom Hull Photography 2019
Victims have recounted their experiences of sexual and domestic violence as charities encourage people to look out for the “warning signs” of child abuse.
Ian, now 51, was domestically abused by his father throughout childhood.
Though he eventually got help processing his trauma, he believes early intervention could stop victims heading down a dark path in later life.
He said: “It started when I was six. It was mum’s birthday and she baked a cake.
“We sat down to eat and that’s when my dad decided she hadn’t made it right. He became suddenly very violent towards her.
“He had recently suffered a stroke and hadn’t been able to work as much. He wanted to be ‘the man of the house’ and didn’t allow mum to work - but made little money himself after he got ill.
“As I got older, the abuse towards mum got worse. One day I tried to defend her - and that was when my father threatened me with a knife.
“For years, I spent a lot of time hiding in my room and barring the door. I watched mum mentally deteriorate over those years as I became a teenager.
“She was a shell.
“School was my salvation - I was part of many school clubs and I enjoyed sport in particular because it made me stronger.”
After Ian’s dad died when he was 19, he drank to quell the intense rage inside of him.
When his mum died, his emotions went “out of control”.
He went to counsellors throughout his 20s and 30s, but had never discussed the abuse inflicted on him - or the fact he kept spending nights passed out in train stations because he’d drink as a way to forget.
Ian, who is now a life coach, said: “Spotting the signs from an early age can help children process the complete confusion that falls on them when they witness and suffer through such things.
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“Childline, run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), wasn’t around when I was younger.
“I know it helps so many young people now, but I fear this service will be limited if more isn’t done to prevent abuse happening in the first place.”
It wasn’t until much later in life that Carl, too, decided to do something about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his brother Tony.
He said: “One morning, when I was 27, I got the courage while driving to work to call the NSPCC’s helpline - but unless you’ve gone through it, nobody can understand just how hard it is to speak up.”
Carl said: “I was about 10 or 11 and Tony 18 when the abuse began.
“At the time I didn’t realise that what he was doing was wrong. I wasn’t very street-wise and definitely a mummy’s boy.
“It started when my parents would go out and he’d be looking after me, but it got to the point where he’d abuse me when they were in the house.
“It’s only when I started sex education in secondary school, and seeing this stuff in movies or dramas that I started thinking, ‘What happened wasn’t right’.
“It showed on my schooling: I didn’t get my GCSEs as I was constantly messing around. I can’t put it all down to that one thing but looking back at those years, my mind wasn’t there as I was always asking myself ‘Why me? What have I done wrong to deserve this?’”
According to the NSPCC, 1,824 referrals were sent out to external agencies by the charity in the East of England between April and July this year following calls from worried adults.
But they fear this could be the tip of the iceberg as many cases of abuse and neglect - much like Carl and Ian’s - went unnoticed during lockdown.
The charity said: “Childline had no choice and had to run a reduced service throughout lockdown, but was still there for many children over the phone and online.
“The service is now available from 7:30am-midnight Monday to Friday and 9am-midnight on Saturday and Sunday.”
MORE: How to ‘spot the signs’ of child abuse
“We must all play our part in supporting children to recover from the mental and physical harm many have suffered these past few months.
“Whether going to school feels scary, or like a relief and a chance to get help, we’re here. When home isn’t a safe place, we’re here.”
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