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Experiences Shared

Nathan

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Nathan was born in the 1970s to a Catholic family. He was stalked, intimidated and sexually abused by the parish priest.

As an adult, he reported the abuse to the church, but was told the priest was no longer a threat as he was in a retirement home.

Nathan was an altar boy in the church his family attended. When he was eight years old, a new priest, Father Patrick, arrived.

The new priest began taking Nathan and the other altar boys on weekly trips, ‘as a treat’. The destinations included a swimming pool, where the priest got changed with the boys then encouraged them to ‘wrestle’ with him in the water. Father Patrick used this as an opportunity to touch Nathan’s genitals.

The priest made regular visits to the family homes of Nathan and the other boys, befriending their parents. Nathan describes how threatened and controlled this made him feel. 

After about a year, Father Patrick began inviting Nathan and the other boys to his home, next to the church. He showed them films featuring nudity, and in one case, incest.

By the time Nathan had moved to the local secondary school, Father Patrick had begun taking him and some of the boys on camping trips. Some of these outings were to places in the countryside, many miles away. 

Nathan describes how on several occasions, he was woken in the night by Father Patrick lying behind him, pressing his genitals into Nathan and sexually molesting him. Sometimes the priest ejaculated on Nathan’s body. 

Nathan says that he was so distressed by the abuse, that looking back on it now, he thinks he started to dissociate from what was happening.

To make matters worse, the priest began to pursue Nathan when he was out of school. On one occasion, Father Patrick turned up after he had been at a Scout meeting and insisted he accepted a lift home. During the journey, he asked Nathan if he was going to tell anyone about what happened during camping holidays. 

Nathan says he felt petrified, and he promised that he would not say anything.

He says that by the time he was in his early teens he started to think there was something very wrong with this situation, but he never considered telling anyone, ‘because I didn’t want to ruin my mum’s life’.

He also says he didn’t think anyone would believe him if he did speak out about the abuse, because Father Patrick was seen as ‘a pillar of the community’. 

The abuse ended when he was in his early teens, when he got a weekend job and managed to avoid spending time at the church. 

When Nathan was in his 30s, he decided to report the sexual abuse to the Catholic church because he was concerned that Father Patrick might still be abusing children.

A child protection officer from the church told him that the priest had retired, and ‘presented no risk to anyone’.

However, a few years later, Nathan reported the abuse to the police. He says he was prompted to do this when he heard about the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Nathan then discovered that when Father Patrick became his parish priest, he had been moved from his former diocese because of allegations of sexual abuse made by other boys. By the time Nathan made his report to the police, the priest was in prison for these offences.

He feels frustrated that the Catholic church did nothing about his allegations of abuse, except to ‘move me out of the way’. 

Nathan looks back on the way Father Patrick behaved with him and the other altar boys and wonders why no one questioned it. He also struggles to understand how his parents failed to see ‘something so obvious’. 

The sexual abuse has affected his relationship with his parents and other people. He finds it very hard to trust anyone and says he is ‘over-cautious’ with his own children. He finds news reports of sexual abuse upsetting and tries to avoid them. 

However, he believes that reports of sexual abuse by religious organisations should be reported in the media, because this might prevent perpetrators moving to other places and abusing more children.

He also thinks that safeguarding procedures should be more rigorous for anyone who has contact with children. 

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