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Experiences Shared

Joel

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Joel enjoyed playing a racquet sport and when he was about 12 years old, he joined a club. He was talented, and under the instruction of a respected coach called Dennis he began playing for the county.

Dennis offered to start collecting Joel from home and take him to the club. He sexually abused Joel the first time he took him in his car, and the abuse continued for another three years.

The coach created more opportunities for abuse by arranging practice sessions for Joel at times when no one else was in the sports club. He then sexually abused him in the showers.  

Joel says that sometimes his dad came to collect him from the club and he would often have a drink with Dennis in the bar. The memory of them ‘laughing and joking’ is very vivid and very affecting for Joel. He now understands that Dennis was grooming his father, in order to ‘get to me’.

He also recalls other adults making comments that implied Dennis was getting close with children, but apparently no one raised a concern about this. 

Joel never told anyone about the abuse, but in his late 20s he attempted suicide. He had counselling, but he found it very difficult to speak openly about the abuse to the male counsellor.

He did tell his parents at this time, but has not spoken to them since about it.

It was many years later, when Joel watched a television programme about sexual abuse, that he decided to report it to the police. He discovered that there were other victims of abuse by Dennis and the coach had served a prison sentence for sexual offences.

Dennis died shortly after Joel made his report. He says the police were very helpful and made clear that they would have investigated and pushed for prosecution on the basis of his report.

The impact on Joel has been huge. ‘I don’t feel normal’ he says.

He has had problems with intimacy and relationships and he struggles to maintain connections with people. 

Joel adds that he carries guilt about the fact there were other victims of the man who abused him. 

He says he knows there are more checks and safeguarding for children nowadays, but he thinks there is more work for clubs to do to protect youngsters. He believes there is a real stigma around male sexual abuse and would like to see more education on this topic. 

Joel has an understanding partner and he is having more counselling. 

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