Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Sonny

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Looking back on his early years, Sonny can see that he was a vulnerable child. His mother was an alcoholic and had mental health issues, he regularly witnessed domestic violence and received no parenting.

At the age of 13 years he joined the cadets and would train with them regularly. An ex-serviceman called Logan would hang around outside the cadet building and talk to some of the boys and the cadet trainers. He began giving some of the boys lifts home.

Sonny says that at first Logan seemed fun and being with him was quite exciting. Logan was married with children and would invite Sonny and some other boys to his home where he would get them drunk. He would also let Sonny drive his car and arranged a job for him.

Sonny recognises now that this special treatment was grooming. Before long Logan started touching him inappropriately, developing into what Sonny describes as groping. Sonny says he was aware that Logan had ‘tried it on’ with other boys and afterwards they steered clear of him, but Sonny felt trapped in the sexual abuse. When it happened he would freeze, not knowing what to do. ‘Telling was something I couldn’t do’, he says.

He does not know for certain whether the cadet trainers were aware of what Logan was doing but he thinks they must have been. Sonny believes they should have questioned what was going on.

Over the next two or three years Sonny says he was sexually abused ‘lots and lots’ of times. He describes Logan as ‘vile, manipulating everybody’. As well as ingratiating himself with the cadet trainers, Logan befriended Sonny’s parents. He continued his grooming of Sonny, taking him on trips and buying him gifts. When Sonny was 16 years old Logan stopped sexually abusing him. Sonny thinks he ‘started with another lad’ who was younger.

For several years, Sonny says he ‘didn’t tell a soul’ what had happened to him, but in his early 20s he decided to report the sexual abuse to the police. They told Sonny that Logan had served a prison sentence for sexually abusing children and that he had moved to a different area but apparently did not act on Sonny’s report.

Years later, Sonny told his parents what had happened to him. His mother claimed she knew about the sexual abuse and he no longer speaks to her. Sonny has had therapy, but he struggles with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. He has also been diagnosed with a personality disorder.

Materially, Sonny says that he is doing well but he adds: ‘The emotional side of things is a completely different story.’ He isolates himself and finds it very difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships.

Sonny would like there to be more thorough safeguarding and checks in place for all employers or institutions that may come into contact with children. He would also like there to be increased awareness about how to recognise signs of grooming and sexual abuse and better access to specialist counselling services for victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

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