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Experiences Shared

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Due to the current situation caused by coronavirus (Covid-19) we have made some changes to Truth Project sessions in person. You can still share your experience with the Truth Project over the phone, in writing, and now through a video call.


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Sexually abused by a stranger when he was a small boy, Clive has struggled with the psychological and emotional effects ever since.

Clive really wants people to understand that for those who have been sexually abused: ‘It doesn’t need to be stigmatised as some sort of disability, but it does need to be recognised that this will have a lifelong impact.’

Clive grew up in the 1980s and 90s. One day on a trip with his family he persuaded his mum he was big enough to go into the public toilet on his own. He was told to go into a cubicle, lock the door and come straight out when he was finished.

Clive did as he was told but as he was leaving he was grabbed by a man who pushed him back into the cubicle, telling him to be quiet. The man made him touch and rub his penis and forced him to put it in his mouth. He told Clive he would get some sweets if he was a good boy. Clive said he was so young and frightened he did as he was told.

When the abuser left he told Clive to wash his hands, as if looking after him, and to wait a minute before leaving the toilet building. Clive told his mum what had happened. He remembered clearly what the abuser looked like, including the detail of his hands and his clothing; he says the images have plagued him for many years in flashbacks.

Clive’s mother took him straight to the local police station. He gave a statement and as they were leaving he saw the abuser across the street from the police station. They went back inside and told the police. The abuser was eventually convicted of offences against adolescent boys, but Clive feels that he never got his own justice as the sexual abuse perpetrated against him was treated as a ‘taken into consideration’ offence at court.

After this experience, Clive’s behaviour deteriorated, and he was expelled from school. He was labelled disruptive but was never asked what the problem was or if he needed help. His mother didn’t say much – he thinks she felt partly to blame – and his father denied for years that the abuse had actually happened.

As an adolescent Clive became confused about sex and his sexuality. He felt worried that he had imagined the sexual abuse, thinking he was mad. His says his self-esteem was low and that he didn’t feel like a ‘real man’. This prompted him to enter the armed forces, but he couldn’t cope with being surrounded by so many men in close proximity. He suffered horrendous flashbacks, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t face having a shower.

Clive was discharged and went home. He told both his parents what was happening to him, but his father told him he was a failure and an embarrassment and threw him out. He later succeeded in another role in the forces and despite many difficulties managed to make a success of his career.

After hearing about the Inquiry, Clive went to the police trying to get information about his case, but he says this has been a difficult and frustrating experience and he has found the police force to be dismissive.

Clive explains he tried many destructive ways to deal with the pain and consequences of the sexual abuse, including alcohol and drugs. He has considered suicide three times.

He has now found a better way, through extensive therapy, which he realises he is going to need for the rest of his life. He feels fortunate that he can access this because he has private healthcare through his employment.

Clive would like to see a more considerate and helpful process for victims and survivors who are trying to access information from the police or other organisations. He thinks social services should provide support for child victims and survivors, helping them to build resilience to cope with the trauma and lifelong impact of their experiences. They should also provide support to parents of victims and survivors, so they can understand the impact the abuse might have on the child’s behaviour and how best to support them.

He adds: ‘Socially, sexual abuse still seems such a taboo subject; there needs to be more public and open discussion about it.’

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