Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Ian

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Several decades ago, Ian attended a Catholic grammar school and for the first few years, he enjoyed it. Then a new teacher arrived, whose abusive behaviour had a ruinous effect on Ian’s life.

The young teacher, Jim, quickly singled Ian out and offered him extra tuition at home. He persuaded Ian’s mother that because the family home was noisy, it would be better to work in Ian’s bedroom.

Ian relates how the abuse, coupled with threats, began immediately. At first it involved masturbation, with Jim instructing Ian to touch him. The teacher added that if Ian told anyone, he could be prosecuted and put in prison.

Ian’s mother had health issues and this concern, along with the threats, made him feel unable to tell his family.

The abuse occurred frequently – sometimes several times a week. Ian describes how he felt totally trapped – he could not escape physically, and he thought that if he tried to harm Jim he would be committing a mortal sin in the eyes of the church.

He saw no alternative but to submit to the abuse and devise a coping mechanism to help him endure it and retain some feeling of control.

In his adult life, Ian says that his response become something sinister in his mind. Rather than recognising it as child’s desperate attempt to survive abuse, he has been haunted by the idea that he had sold himself.

He first spoke of the abuse when he was due to take part in a requiem mass at school and was required to take communion in front of everyone, including Jim.

In line with Catholic teaching, Ian felt he could only do this if he confessed the ‘sin’ of his abuse. After Ian described what Jim was doing to him, the priest gave him absolution and asked if he would repeat what he had said to the headmaster. Ian said that he would.

The following day, the headmaster told him that they would bring in a priest to investigate. But the investigation consisted of the priest asking Ian ‘strange questions’ and asking him to promise not to speak to anyone else because they would ‘deal with it’. Ian agreed to this.

Ian failed his exams at school. He asked to resit them, but the school told him there was no room. He thought they had not believed that he had been abused and continued to think so for many years.

He left school with no qualifications and worked in manual jobs. He feels that his potential was curtailed, and he did not get any opportunity to flourish, but always thought that it was his own fault. He realises now it was because his brain was in ‘survival mode’.

Many years later, Ian says he went through what felt like a grieving process, and realised the person he was grieving for was himself as a young boy. This led to the onset of PTSD and a breakdown.

He describes how he was ‘in his own head’ with suppressed memories of the abuse starting to come back to him and the feeling that he was going mad. He checked his school records to see if there was any reference to his abuse, but there was not.

After this, he prepared a court claim which he first sent to the church. They offered a day of mediation, during which Ian was told that no one at the school knew anything about the abuse. They offered him a payment with a compromise agreement, which he accepted.

Ian later felt that he had betrayed himself by entering into a compromise agreement, so he reported Jim to the police. Jim was arrested and questioned and claimed that he ‘vaguely remembered’ Ian. The Crown Prosecution Service told Ian there was not enough evidence to proceed, although he says they were very helpful.

The police advised Ian that he could take out a private prosecution and following this, he wrote to Jim. Initially Jim made a confession, the police arrested him, and he made a statement.

At the trial, Jim’s legal team successfully applied for his evidence to be disregarded as the police had not followed the correct process when he was arrested. The trial was stopped.

Ian thinks that the abuse was made worse by the continued and absolute denial of the church about it. He believes that the mindset of the church has not changed and it is still a corrupt institution.

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