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Experiences Shared

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The‌ ‌Inquiry‌ ‌has‌ ‌taken‌ ‌the‌ ‌difficult decision‌‌ to‌ ‌stop‌ holding face to face Truth Project sessions‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌time, after carefully considering the Government's guidance. Other methods of sharing are still available.


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Mike describes the abuser who raped him when he was a child as a ‘well-respected and powerful man in uniform’. Despite years of suffering caused by his early experiences, he says he considers himself to be ‘luckier than most’. 

Mike, who grew up in an unsettled home, attended the local RAF air cadets squadron. He feels his vulnerability was clear to Oscar, the squadron leader, who singled Mike out to offer the attention, care and love that was missing from his family life.

Oscar took full advantage of his power over the community and their families. There were no concerns expressed by the school or by Mike’s parents when Oscar, in his flight commander’s uniform, started to pick Mike up from school for special trips.  

The sexual abuse began with Oscar putting his hands over Mike’s legs during car journeys, then continued and worsened over the following years. In the middle of the night on a camping trip, Oscar crept into Mike’s shared tent, unzipped the sleeping bag and began to play with Mike’s penis.

Mike was a young teenager at the time and this caused his first orgasm. With remarkable bravery and candour, he explains how unbelievably confusing this experience was. He felt shame and guilt, which has stayed with him throughout his life. He says ‘There was a part of me that stopped growing up’.

On a subsequent cadets’ boat trip, Oscar anally raped Mike in his cabin below deck. Another responsible adult present turned his back to what was going on. 

Mike says that he was never able to report what was happening to anyone in authority in the cadets because serious sexual abuse of children was normalised in the squadron. He says Oscar ‘held power over me. He had control over me; he had hierarchy’.  

Oscar was not the only cadet leader sexually abusing the boys. Mike regularly witnessed other commanders putting their hands up cadets’ shorts. He describes a culture where sexual abuse was accepted and laughed about between commanders – ‘It was known to be all right; it was socialised’. 

The abuse stopped after Oscar took Mike to a hotel, where he had booked them a double bed. Mike says he just couldn’t face any more abuse and decided to get out. Soon after, he left the cadets, but the guilt and shame remained.

Years later he disclosed in detail to a solicitor what had happened to him during his childhood. He describes how difficult it was to talk about what he had suffered. This pain was compounded when Oscar, who was in very ill health, denied the allegations and accused Mike of being deranged.

After further exchanges, Oscar offered an out-of-court settlement, which Mike accepted on advice from his solicitor that, should a case be pursued, it would be highly likely that Oscar would die before it concluded.

Before he told anyone what had happened, he had been very successful.  He had spend time in the military; he had gained a masters degree; he had his own business; he had status. 

But after revealing the truth, Mike describes how nothing made sense to him anymore. At this stage Mike says the ‘scaffolding’ – the pretence – that everything was okay, that he had built around him, completely fell away. 

He went abroad and took time to reflect, accessed support and therapy and started to rebuild his life. He wants to try to turn his horrific experiences into a positive for others, to stop what happened to him happening to other children. 

Mike attributes some of the pain he still feels to the fact that he believed Oscar thought of him as ‘special’, but later realised that he ’was nothing more than a body’ to his abuser.

His father, after hearing about the action against Oscar, said that he had wondered at the time ‘if something had gone on’. Mike still struggles with his disbelief that his father failed to act on his suspicion.

Mike has made his life a success but still feels shame, guilt, lack of trust and fear of betrayal and says he has only recently started to reconcile with the truth. He recognises that many of the feelings he has will never go away, but he hopes that by attending the Truth Project, he can perhaps help others.

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There are very limited circumstances where we tell anyone your name without your consent, for example if a child is currently at risk and we need to tell the police.