Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Henry

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Henry says it was difficult for him to come forward to the Truth Project; in 60 years he has never spoken about his sexual abuse to anyone other than his partner.

Henry hopes that talking about the sexual abuse he suffered will form a small but important part of the Inquiry ‘jigsaw’ and may in some way help to protect others from similar experiences.

An only child, Henry says he was lucky to have wonderful parents but the security and care he enjoyed at home only made it more difficult when he was sent to a preparatory boarding school for boys.

Like the other children separated from their parents at such a young age, Henry would often cry, but he did his best to settle in and do well. Not long after he started at the school one of the masters, Mr Ply, began summoning Henry to his office at the end of the school day. The teacher would stroke, kiss and fondle Henry and say he loved him. Henry says he was scared and was so young that he didn’t understand what was happening to him. He never told anyone, and the sexual abuse carried on regularly for more than a year.

One day when he was back at home, Henry noticed a police car arrive at his house. When he asked his mother why it was there she was evasive. Later he thought that someone at the school must have complained about Mr Ply because soon after the police visit the teacher disappeared and was never seen there again.

Henry was simply relieved that he didn’t have to experience the sexual abuse anymore.

But many years later when Henry was in his 20s, Mr Ply discovered his address and began writing to him, telling Henry he still loved him. Henry destroyed all the letters. A few years ago, Henry was shocked to receive a letter informing him Mr Ply had died and had left an inheritance for him and another man Henry did not know.

After his time at the preparatory boarding school, Henry moved to an exclusive and expensive private boarding school and thought he had left the sexual abuse of his childhood behind him. But within a year or so, Henry suffered further sexual abuse from another predatory teacher.

He had always enjoyed and performed well in music and he began receiving one-to-one lessons from a music teacher, Mr Chambers. Mr Chambers would tell Henry that in order to play better he needed to relax and loosen up.

The teacher would put his hands on Henry’s stomach, encouraging him to perform breathing exercises. This always led to Mr Chambers putting his hand down Henry’s trousers and fondling his genitals. Henry came to dread the lessons, knowing what would happen each time, but says he felt he had to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ and put up with it.

He was sexually abused for over a year until he snapped and slapped Mr Chambers in the face and told him never to touch him again. Nothing was said but Henry was moved to lessons with another music teacher.

Henry says: ‘You didn’t want to spoil your chances. I wanted to do well musically and academically. It didn’t occur to me that I could talk to anyone about it.’

Around the same time Mr Chambers was abusing him, Henry was also sexually abused by three fellow pupils at the school. One was about three years older, and Henry was his ‘fag’ (a public school expression, meaning personal servant). He would call Henry to his study and kiss and touch him; he also made Henry perform oral sex on him. The sexual abuse only ended when Henry left the school.

Another of his abusers was in the same year group as Henry and would encourage him to have late study sessions with him – all the boys were expected to get ready for bed before these sessions. The boy would turn up in his pyjamas and dressing gown and incite Henry into sexual touching and masturbation.

Henry relates that the abuse from the third boy was the worst he experienced. Looking back now he wonders how no one did anything about it – this boy used to climb into Henry’s bed in the middle of the night and rape him. Henry told us it was so painful that he would have to bite his lip and the pillow to stop from crying out. The pupils’ beds in the dormitory were so close together that he is sure some of the others must have known what was happening, particularly as the sexual abuse happened once or twice a week for about a year.

Again, he felt he had to be resilient. He says: ‘I said to myself, this is something you need to go through. Don’t be deflected from the primary purpose of doing well at school.’

Henry felt unable to tell anyone about the catalogue of sexual abuse he endured. He says it would have been unthinkable for him to tell the matron about the physical consequences he suffered as a result of the rapes. He thinks that by telling someone he would likely have ended up being physically bullied and called a ‘snitch’.

Henry also suspects it would have been swept under the carpet back then. Although he had loving and supportive parents he couldn’t tell them. He says: ‘I didn’t want to hurt them or have them disappointed in me. I was an only child, I wanted to do well.’

His experiences of abuse from such a young age and throughout his adolescence had a profound impact on his life as a young man and his adulthood. He had a couple of long-term partnerships with girls while in his 20s but had difficulty experiencing satisfactory sexual relationships.

He was unable to tell his parents he was gay and instead of trying to find a suitable relationship, decided to put all his energies into succeeding in his career, taking care of his ailing parents and enjoying his hobbies. Finally, several years ago, Henry met his partner. He says he is so happy to finally be in a loving relationship with someone he shares so many interests with.

Henry says he is unsure what can be done to better protect children who receive one-to-one teaching from adults and he fears it may be particularly difficult to instigate protection measures in private schools. However, he thinks that education and publicity about sexual abuse, and ensuring avenues and services are accessible to children to enable them to disclose issues, are important in helping to deal with child sexual abuse.

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