Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Robert

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Robert was sexually abused by his father but for years he suppressed the memory and impact of this by throwing himself into his work.

A revelation by his brother that he had been abused in the same way caused Robert to have a breakdown. His attempts to gain redress through official channels have been thwarted by what he describes as series of obstructive and inappropriate actions by people in authority.

After a ‘turbulent’ first marriage and divorce, Robert met the woman to whom he remains married today. They made a home for Robert’s child from his previous marriage and he set up his own business.

Robert says that for several years his life was ‘going well … with the usual ups and downs of raising a family and running a business.’ Then his brother, who he had not spoken to ‘in years’, got in touch.

They met, and, after several drinks, his brother told him that he had been sexually abused by their father throughout his childhood. Robert was horrified by this revelation; he already had a difficult and distant relationship with his father, but his main concern was for his young daughter who would sometimes stay overnight with her paternal grandparents.

Robert reported his concerns to the police and social services who investigated them. Robert’s daughter said nothing during the investigation and despite social services’ apparent concerns that ‘something was going on’ no further action was taken.

A few months later, Robert was at work and he says: ‘It just hit me like a brick wall’ – memories came flooding back of his own repeated sexual abuse during his childhood at the hands of his father.

He says ‘I cried for about a month ... couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t shower’. He had a breakdown which caused him to lose the business he had worked so hard to build. He remains unable to work to this day.

‘Looking back, I always knew there was something wrong,’ Robert says, adding that he had always had ‘trust issues’ and a tendency to be a ‘workaholic’.

The memories that returned to cause him so much pain were of being sexually, emotionally and physically abused, humiliated and bullied. He remembers that the sexual abuse became ‘more aggressive’ when he entered puberty.

He recalls taking overdoses as a child, of frequently running away and being returned to his parents but nobody asking why he kept running. He says that as far as he can recall, the abuse began when he was around six years old and continued until he ran away for the final time when he was in his late teens.

‘That night “I” died … “I” was no more,’ he says. For months he committed petty crimes, got in trouble with the police and lived on the streets, until he says: ‘I forced my abuse behind me’.

He went to college and met his first wife, forging a life and a career for himself.

The year after his breakdown, Robert and his brother took the difficult decision to report their abuse to the police. Robert was interviewed, and the case was investigated but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to take no further action.

Robert heard this news from his sister-in-law, neither the police nor the CPS contacted him to inform him of the decision or to signpost any form of support that might have been available to him.

He says he has ‘always had questions about the investigation’. He believes that the police ‘went with’ a story that his father had ‘concocted’ about a family argument being the cause of the allegations against him.

Some years later, Robert made a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) against the police force from where he had grown up and the police force he reported the abuse to.

In the intervening years he learnt that his father has a previous conviction for an offence against a child and spent time on remand for the rape of a woman who later dropped charges.

Robert found the complaints process very stressful. He discovered that documents from the original investigation had been destroyed and he feels that he was not given the information he needed to make informed decisions about the complaints process.

He says he was put under ‘extreme pressure’ by a professional standards officer to sign paperwork he did not agree with. He was called ‘obstructive’ because he was unwilling to hand documents over to the police for fear of them being destroyed as previous documents had been.

The findings of his complaint concluded that the original investigation had been ‘satisfactory’ but that Robert could have been better informed about the decision to take no further action. He believes that this was a case of the police ‘muddying the waters’ because they knew that they had made mistakes.

Robert has also attempted to seek some redress through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and he has found this process extremely stressful, obstructive and difficult.

He says a report made as part of the assessment process is incorrect. He has documentary evidence that shows this, but has been told that the report cannot be corrected, and he must begin an appeal process if he wants to change it.

Robert believes that the CICA process is ‘completely inappropriate’ for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. He has been struggling with it for two years and has ‘spent hundreds on paperwork’ and feels that his struggle is keeping him ‘in the past and feeling abused’.

He is continuing to work therapeutically with his psychologist who he says has ‘already saved [his] life’ and he says he has the loving support of his wife.

But the long-term effects of his abuse and his struggle to have them recognised mean that he occasionally needs the intervention of a crisis team. Robert reflects on the impact of the abuse, ‘It never leaves me 24/7’.

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