Quick Exit

Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Kirk gives a powerful and distressing account of the sexual abuse he endured as a child, and the damage it has caused him.

The physical, mental and emotional repercussions have affected every aspect of his life and decades later, he lives with immense pain but is taking action to manage this.

Kirk grew up on an estate where there were lots of ‘big, rough families’. He relates that he was often bullied and he didn’t like going to school.

He had a strict ‘old school’ father who went to work and earned the money and a mother who was a submissive housewife who would obey her husband and ‘just cook and clean’. Kirk says his father’s word was ‘absolute law’, adding that he didn’t shout but ‘he had a look’.

Kirk’s recollection of school is that he ‘didn’t like the look of it … a Victorian building, dark inside’. The class sizes were massive and there was no opportunity to learn so he started to truant.

Because of this, his father went to see the headteacher, Mr Crawley, and later told Kirk: ‘Mr Crawley is going to sort this out from now on, it’s up to him, you are down to him.’ The headteacher told Kirk: ‘This is what your father wants and that is it’. Kirk stated this was as good as saying: ‘There you are, there’s my son.'

Kirk was about eight years old at the time. This was the start of a harsh and terrifying regime of physical and sexual abuse that continued for the next few years. He describes how he recalls the things that happened ‘in snapshot like bits of a film’. He says some bits are missing and ‘I can’t piece together the gaps’.

He remembers his class teacher delivering him to a small dark room next to Mr Crawley’s office. Mr Crawley then called him in and started smacking him for no apparent reason – he says he had not done anything wrong in class.

Kirk’s describes how the abuse occurred regularly, but with no set pattern. He feels that his class teacher and Mr Crawley ‘worked together’, adding that his class teacher ‘didn’t just take him to the headteacher’s office’, she always used to grab and shove him with force.

Afterwards, Kirk would return to the class crying. The other children would ask why, and Kirk says he preferred to go into the small dark room instead because there he could ‘crumple up’ and not have to face his classmates.

His recollections of the abuse include being naked in the headteacher’s office, having Mr Crawley’s hands on his thighs and his genitals hurting and burning. He remembers Mr Crawley taking his belt off and the cracking noise it made; he remembers that he didn’t want to touch Mr Crawley’s ‘old body’, and that he didn’t understand why he had to or why his backside was sore; he remembers being told to go and wash after he had been in the headteacher’s office and the smell of Jeyes fluid and carbolic soap.

He exclaims: ‘I shouldn’t have been naked in his office; he had locked the door, he had locked the door.’

The abuse stopped when Kirk went to comprehensive school. After that he got married and had two children. He says he worried he wouldn’t be able to keep his children safe as they had to go to school. His marriage broke down and he and his wife separated after 10 years, ‘because of my issues’.

Kirk describes a catalogue of mental and physical afflictions that he suffers as a result of the abuse.

He says that although he and his wife were good friends, physical contact between them for him was ‘forced’ and made him feel unclean. He has been confused about his sexual identity and wondered if he was gay but he ‘couldn’t bear the thought of touching a man’. He feels dirty ‘right to the core’ and finds any physical contact with human beings ‘vile’, even just shaking hands.

He recalls having what he now knows was Mr Crawley’s semen on his hands and he still  washes his hands once a day in bleach and constantly uses sanitiser on them. He tries to organise journeys so he does not have to use a strange toilet.  

He has also had much painful and unnecessary dental work done in order not to be like Mr Crawley who had poor teeth. He also shaves his head so he doesn’t have to touch hair. He adds that he ‘cannot do bodily functions’, explaining that he could do something about his hair, teeth, food and weight, and he would get rid of his genitals too if he didn’t need them to go to the toilet.

He looks back on his sense of helplessness: ‘I had no power … I never once said to him ‘I am going to tell people, why couldn’t I tell him I am going to tell people?’

Kirk describes the painful and conflicting feelings he has for his parents. His father died a few years ago and his mother is very elderly. He feels deeply let down that they did nothing to stop the abuse. Even after he told his mother what was happening she did nothing, and allowed Mr Crawley to take Kirk to his home. He says: ‘It was her job to stop it, she wasn’t supposed to send me into that.’

He adds: ‘I hope she goes to hell for it, for letting it happen … I hope my father goes to hell for it, yes it’s my father, yes it’s my mother, I love them in a different sort of way, they let it go, this has done me all my life.’

As a young man, Kirk says he threw himself into work. He says: ‘That was my escape, working my arse off’.

He has been seeing a therapist for several years which has ‘got me to the position I am now, which is ready to share my story.’ He wonders: ‘What would my life have been like if that hadn’t happened’.

Kirk has several clear ideas of what is needed to protect children. He says teachers should look after children and notice things, adding that just because they are teachers or heads it doesn’t mean they are ‘safe’ people. He wants children to always have somewhere to go to tell and be listened to if they are being abused, and that the mental health system must not ‘shut people down’.

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