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Experiences Shared

Harv

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Harv endured neglect and abuse by several adults during his childhood and adolescence.

He now works to support other people who have had similar life experiences.

Harv endured such a miserable childhood in the 1970s that he can’t bring himself to call his mother and stepfather ‘parents’. He says ‘As far as I’m concerned they don't exist’.

Harv’s biological father left home before he was born and his mother married another man. They were both heavy drinkers and his early memories of coming home from school are of one or both of them being drunk.

Harv was neglected, and emotionally and physically abused. At the age of five, he was expelled from school because he was deemed ‘uncontrollable ... a naughty child’. He was placed in a special school.

At home, Harv frequently wet the bed. If this happened when his parents were holding a drinking party, they would bring him downstairs and humiliate him in front of their guests. 

They also regularly hit him ‘with anything which was in the room’. 

By this time, Harv would often take drinks from the bottles of alcohol that were always in the house. 

When his mother and stepfather went out in the evenings, one of Harv’s uncles babysat him. He says it seemed this man ‘took some kind of shine to me’ and he would play games, putting Harv on his shoulder. But then the uncle started taking Harv’s clothes off before he lifted him up.

When Harv was about nine, he began resisting playing this game and running away to avoid it. ‘It felt safer to be on the streets’ he says. He was always caught and returned, and his uncle would undress and touch him.

At school, he had outbursts of temper and was seen by a child psychiatrist. He recalls ‘I was always told I would never make mainstream school’. However, he did achieve this and he says he loved it and did well at first. 

But he continued to run away from his unhappy home life. He asked to be placed in a children’s home when he was about 11 or 12. One night, the manager came into his room and sat on his bed. He began taking Harv to his flat, beating him and sexually abusing him. The manager knew that Harv drank alcohol and he began plying the boy with spirits.

Harv remembers thinking that he had been abused at home, and now in this place he thought he would be safe, it was happening again. He wondered ‘Why me?’

He started running away and was moved to another home where he says there was no abuse. ‘It was the best time of my life.’ But he continued to drink and started taking drugs.

By the time he was 17, he was living on the streets, stealing to survive. He was put in touch with an outreach worker who took Harv to his home. Instead of helping him, this man sexually abused Harv.

Harv continued committing petty crimes and was sent to a detention centre, where, he says, he appreciated the structure and routine. When he was released he went to live with his girlfriend.

By his early 20s, he was a chronic alcoholic. He attempted suicide, suffered a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric ward. Over the following 20 years, he was placed in several different custodial institutions and his life continued in a downward spiral. ‘I couldn’t think straight … it wasn’t me any more.’

When he reached his early 40s, supported by his children, Harv decided he wanted to change. He went into detox, gained qualifications and did voluntary work. He now has a senior position in a team who work to support people back into the community.

Harv says ‘I used all my tools from what I’d gone through’ and he is able to relate to many of the people he works with. ‘They want people with life experience … the stuff I went through is a journey I had to go through – it made me who I am today.’

A few years ago, Harv reported the abuse he had experienced to the police, but he regrets doing this now. He says the experience was ‘painful … horrible. I wish I never did it’. The investigation did not result in a conviction. ‘I’ve got no closure … people have got away with it’ he says. 

He was also devastated to discover that his childhood records had vanished. 

Harv believes that there should be more support for victims and survivors when they report abuse.

He also feels strongly that care records should be kept safely, and that there should be awareness-raising to help people understand that many abused individuals end up homeless and living on the streets.

Harv now feels positive and plans to set up a charity and write a book. ‘I am going upwards now … I’m not going to let it ruin me.'

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