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Experiences Shared

Eugene

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Eugene was groomed and sexually abused by a charismatic football coach he met on a family holiday.

To protect his mother’s feelings, he did not disclose the sexual abuse until she had passed away. 

Eugene met the coach in the 1970s, when he was 11 years old at a holiday camp with his parents and his brothers. He took part in a junior football competition and says he became ‘obsessed’ with Robbie – ‘he was brilliant to be around’.

The feeling was apparently mutual, as the coach ‘took an instant shine’ to Eugene. He would fuss over him and tell his dad that he was a ‘star of the future’.  

At the end of the family holiday, Eugene and Robbie exchanged addresses and wrote to each other regularly. The letters were all about football, with Robbie encouraging Eugene to train hard and progress. 

They met again a few months later at the holiday camp and after that, continued writing to each other. The following year Eugene received a letter offering him the chance to join a Football Association course run by Robbie and another coach. This involved staying overnight with Robbie.

Eugene’s dad drove him to Robbie’s house and as soon as his dad left, Robbie ‘never left me alone’, play fighting and cuddling him. Eugene says at the time it did not seem sexual – it felt like messing around with his older brothers.  

Later, when Eugene was in bed, Robbie turned the lights off and climbed into bed with him. He says he did not feel comfortable, but he wasn’t fearful at that stage.

The coach began tickling games with Eugene, that progressed to masturbation. The next day Robbie acted as if nothing had happened. That night, after the football course, he repeated the sexual abuse. 

The following day Eugene left Robbie’s house. He never went back or wrote to him again and he destroyed all Robbie’s letters. 

A few weeks later Eugene arrived home from school to find Robbie in his house with an attractive woman. He described how this ‘messed with his head’. 

Out of earshot of Eugene’s mother, Robbie said to the boy ‘Don’t worry, I won’t tell your mum what you did to me’. Eugene comments that ‘saying that out loud takes me back to that room’. He adds that the encounter with Robbie left him ‘a very confused 12-year-old’.

More than a decade later, it became public knowledge that Robbie abused many more boys. Eugene’s mother asked him if the coach had abused him but he said no, to spare her feelings. 

After she died, he walked into a police station and reported the abuse. By this time Robbie was already in prison for similar offences and Eugene was told that his case would not be prosecuted. 

He met with the Crown Prosecution Service to discuss this decision, and after some time he was told they had taken the decision to prosecute. He describes this as one of the happiest days of his life.

However, he had a bad experience in court. Robbie pleaded guilty and Eugene was devastated that this meant he could not give evidence. 

He had been promised that he would not have to see Robbie, but on the day of sentencing he was shown into a waiting room, to find the abuser was also there. To add to his distress, a court official called him by the perpetrator’s name, and there were no screens in place in the courtroom.

Robbie received a reduced sentence for pleading guilty. A few years later Eugene contacted the police to ask when Robbie would be released and was told that they didn’t know. 

Eugene would like to see changes made to some court processes. In particular, not giving reduced sentences in return for a guilty plea, and the handling of cases involving multiple victims and survivors. He is also concerned at the length of time it can take to bring a case to court. 

His experiences have made it difficult for him to trust people and maintain relationships. He feels bitter and angry. He says ‘I can’t change the past … but maybe I could stop more boys being sexually abused in the future’.

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