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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

As children, Phil and his siblings endured a violent and chaotic home life, the loss of a loving grandmother, and a catalogue of physical and sexual abuse by staff in the care system.

The toll this has taken on his physical and emotional health cannot be overstated.

He describes himself and his siblings starting life as ‘just normal kids from a deprived area’, but things began to go wrong within days of their stepfather moving into the family home.

He was a violent man who, on one occasion, left Phil’s younger sibling needing stitches in a wound. Their mother was unable to protect her children from his assaults.

Phil’s grandmother was an important figure in his life: ‘more of a mum’, he says. Her death, just as Phil entered high school, had a profound effect on him and he stopped attending school.

The children’s lives became increasingly chaotic and they were placed under a care order. Phil says they knew of little else but violence and all became involved in various forms of crime.

As a teenager, Phil was found guilty of robbery and sentenced to a term in a detention centre where a regime of violence was used to control the troubled children in its care.

Phil witnessed one child ‘get a kicking’ from the staff for soiling their bed and he describes having his head ‘smashed’ by another member of staff.

Phil and his younger sibling were each assigned a social worker. He says that his sibling was sexually abused by his social worker, and that ‘everybody knew’ but nothing seemed to be done to prevent it.

The social worker was subsequently sentenced for the sexual abuse of another child.

He describes a sense that nowhere seemed safe and nobody could be trusted. In various institutions, other children would often warn each other to ‘stay away from him or him’ because they were known to be abusers. As a result, Phil did not stay in any placement for long, saying that he ‘ran again and again’.

At some point in his chaotic young life, he spent time in a religious reform school. The head was known by the boys there to be a predatory paedophile. He finds it very difficult to talk about what happened to him at the school, but he can say that he was abused by a group of paedophiles, including the head teacher.

Despite his disadvantaged background, Phil says in his early years he was a good student and captain of one of his school’s sports teams.

But following the arrival of his stepfather and the death of his grandmother, his life became unmanageable. His experiences in institutions, where ‘beating and raping dysfunctional kids’ was commonplace, led him to accept this as normality, and simply do what he could to keep himself safe. ‘Everything about it was sick’, he says.

Phil says his younger sibling has spent his adult life addicted to drugs and describes him as institutionalised, ‘in and out’ of prison. Phil too remains traumatised by his early life.

He has been living housebound for long periods for the past few years, with the support of his wife, for the last few years. He is a trained professional but is unable to work.

He has a variety of complex mental and physical health issues but refuses to engage with any institutional offers of support or help because he does not trust them. His overriding feeling is anger that the institutions which should have protected him failed in their duty of care or were complicit in his abuse.

Phil would like people who work with children to be better trained to spot signs of abuse or neglect and more rigorous safeguarding. He would also like there to be mandatory reporting of any allegations of child abuse.

Phil gave a statement to the police regarding his abuse at the hands of the head of the reform school and this experience leads him to recommend that the time between victims and survivors disclosing and the police and courts taking action should be as short as possible, to minimise the distress caused by this process.

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