Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Louis

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Louis’ account of his abuse begins with what he now knows was grooming. When he was seven years old, he was allowed to join the Cub Scouts. He remembers being excited about this, especially as the scoutmaster was a trusted and upstanding member of the church.

The scoutmaster seemed approachable and friendly. He would ruffle Louis’ hair when he saw him or put an arm around him. Louis says ‘He was seen as helpful, someone to trust.’

The abuse began very slowly, as Louis describes, through ‘insidiously small steps’. The scoutmaster would smooth the Cubs’ uniforms or touch their hair or hand for a ‘moment too long’. He also seemed to prefer contact sports to the usual Cub activities such as learning to tie knots or survive outdoors.

When the boys had got muddy after games, the scoutmaster would put out bowls of water for them to wash in. Some of these were filled with cold water and put outside but inside, where Louis and another boy were invited, the water was warm.

Louis describes how the scoutmaster would tell the boys to stand in the bowl while he washed them, starting the bottom of their legs and working his way up the leg until, with one hand on one buttock, he would ‘wash’ their genitals.

When the boys were away at camp, they were encouraged to undress while the scoutmaster took photos. The naked photos were not included in the ones he showed parents, except once, when a picture of Louis and another boy naked was accidentally shown. Louis saw the parents laugh, which made him think there must be nothing wrong with what was happening.

A short while after this, Louis recalls that another Cub came into the room when he and the other boy were being ‘washed’. The Cub exclaimed: ‘What are you doing? That’s not what you are supposed to do.’ Louis says that at this moment he realised what was happening was wrong and he covered himself. The abuse never happened again.

Louis describes how he subsequently became very withdrawn and started to have bad dreams. He told to a woman in the church about the abuse, but she slapped him round the face and denied that the scoutmaster would have done this, as he was ‘a Christian man and Christian men don’t do that.’

Louis didn’t tell anyone again as he didn’t think he would be believed. He says: ‘The church experience was worse. He knew what he was doing, and he knew it was wrong. She was defending him out of blind faith. She physically rebuked me for what I knew to be the truth.’

After that, Louis says he tried to convince himself the abuse didn’t happen, and he became more and more withdrawn. He also became very disruptive at school, for which the headmaster would cane him. He left school aged 16 with no qualifications, a dislike of authority and a school record that stated: ‘This pupil will amount to nothing’.

However, Louis completed his education, gained a degree and became a teacher. He trained in child protection and says he could spot the pupils that were vulnerable to bullying and could see those that were being abused.

But he experienced institutional cover-ups of abusers – teachers who were asked to leave the school rather than be investigated when they were accused of sexually abusing pupils. For this reason, Louis left teaching. 

He explains that the abuse he experienced has impacted all areas of his life, making him feel alone and like he ‘didn’t belong … I thought everyone else was perfect and it was only me that was damaged.’

He has experienced depression and has attempted suicide. He dislikes being touched, or touching things other people have touched. This has made intimacy and conceiving his children a challenge, and he finds it hard to hug his children.

Looking back, Louis says he can’t understand why no one ever asked about his behaviour at school, his withdrawal, or his difficulty with physical affection since. ‘If someone had just listened and believed me, even if nothing had happened to him, I’d have felt heard. I don’t know how my life would have turned out.’

But Louis adds that he doesn’t think his father would believe him if he disclosed. 

Louis would like to see greater advocacy for children and that each institution has an individual whose job it is to watch out for children. Louis wants a culture where children know who to report to, that they will be heard, believed and taken seriously. ‘Institutions must implement ways of working that keep children safe’.

He did finally talk about the abuse to a college teacher after he flinched from her touch in class. He has since sought support through therapy and talks to a friend who works as a mental health nurse for support.

Louis feels he has ‘made a start but has a long way to go’. He adds, ‘It is what has defined most of my life. It will always be part of my personality because it’s been part of me for so long, but I can start to move on.’

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