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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Ronan says that from an early age, he was seen as a ‘problem child’ and was sent to live with relatives. 

When his older cousin sexually abused him, he was punished for complaining about it and told he was lying.

Ronan’s aunt and uncle had a large family and a small house, and when he moved in with them he had to share a bed with his cousin, John, who was about 17 years old.

On the second night, Ronan was woken by John placing his penis between his legs. Ronan was about four or five years old, and he remembers how shocked and scared he was.

When it happened again the next night, Ronan went downstairs and told his mother, aunt and uncle what John was doing. His mother slapped him across the head and told him to go back to bed. 

The abuse continued nearly every night for several months, until Ronan insisted  that he would not sleep in the same bed as John any more. The adults accused Ronan of making up stories, and he locked himself in the bathroom. 

There was an angry scene which involved his uncle smashing the door, but from then on, Ronan slept in a different bed with another one of his cousins.

Ronan believes that the reason he was not believed was because he had never been wanted by his mother, and he was seen as difficult. 

He describes his aunt as ‘a lovely lady’ who was kind to him, but she had a terminal illness and died soon afterwards, so Ronan was placed in a children’s home. At the time, he did not understand that she was seriously unwell, and he thought he had been sent away for telling the truth. 

He says he was relieved to get away from John, but the rest of his childhood was unsettled as he was moved around by the care system between different children’s homes and occasionally placed back with his mother.

Ronan experienced a further episode of sexual abuse when he was in care, when a teacher sat him on his knee and touched him inappropriately. He says he was clear that having been abused once he was not going to let it happen to him again, and he protested loudly.

He explains that he was very happy in one children’s home, where he loved the routine and activities. He feels his time there helped him to learn how to accept rules and choose the right path in life. He says he was given trust and responsibility, got a weekend job and learnt a trade. 

But Ronan adds that when he spent time with his mother, he continued to be rebellious and disobedient and later in life he got into trouble and was given a prison sentence.

This had a significant emotional impact on him and brought back memories of the abuse. 

He tried to take his own life, but says that he received good support from the prison service after this. He received counselling which helped him to process his feelings about the abuse and says he still uses the coping strategies he learned in therapy. 

However, at times he is still troubled by his memories and he worries that the people who abused him may have done the same to others. 

He decided to contact the Truth Project to share his experiences and also to report his abuse to the police. He says ‘It takes guts to come forward … but the support is there once you take that big step’. 

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