Quick Exit

Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Victor had a troubled home life that led to him receiving custodial sentences – the first when he was a young teenager.

He was repeatedly physically and sexually abused in two institutions by the same person in authority, who also stalked him and abused him again after he was released.

Victor describes his mother as ‘Victorian’ and says ‘she never had a good word for me’.

At the age of 15 he left home and school and moved into a bedsit. He says ‘It seemed like the right thing to do was to leave.’ His father talked him into moving back but the atmosphere remained strained.

By the time Victor was 16 or 17, he says he ‘ended up with a bad crowd’ and was sentenced to six months in a detention centre for burglary. He recalls, ‘I didn’t know what I was going to do ... there was a lot of violence ... I thought “keep your head down here, lad”.’  

One night, soon after he arrived, he heard a prison officer shout ‘Governor on the wing!’ This was the first time that he met his abuser, the assistant governor of the detention centre, and he remembers how he ‘leched’ at him.

Victor describes how the boys were lined up after the evening meal and the officers would punch and kick them ‘just for fun’. On one of these occasions the assistant governor grabbed a boy by the hair and took him away. Victor had no idea what happened to the boy but two or three weeks later, the assistant governor did the same to him.

The assistant governor took him to a building, offered him a cigarette and asked him how he was doing. Just as Victor started to relax, the assistant governor’s attitude changed and he said something like ‘Why are you smoking? That’s illegal! That means you’re mine.’

The assistant governor then beat Victor and sexually abused him, before marching him back to his dormitory and throwing him on the floor. Victor remembers that when this happened ‘nobody reacted … like they knew’.

Victor served four months of his six-month sentence and during this time he suffered continuing physical and sexual abuse from the assistant governor, which escalated in its violence and severity. It was, he says, ‘horrific’. He was abused once or twice a week, always in the same building, and no one ever interrupted.

The last time it happened was two weeks before his release when he ran, naked, from his abuser, ‘making lots of noise’. Victor recalls how his abuser ‘put himself away’ and told him to calm down before beating him for the last time.

After he left the detention centre he moved back in with his parents and says that, over time, he ‘convinced’ himself the abuse had not happened. When he was 18 he moved to another town where he got into trouble again and was sent to a borstal allocation unit.

He describes ‘a lot of banter’ at the unit but nothing like the level of violence he had experienced previously. But when he was sent to be assessed and allocated he was horrified to find that the governor there was his abuser. As soon as he saw him the memories of his abuse ‘came flooding back’.

While his abuser ‘didn’t have the opportunity’ to abuse Victor to the extent that he previously had, he did physically and sexually abuse Victor ‘three to five times’ over the next two months.

Victor comments that there was not the same ‘culture of silence’ as he had found at the first detention centre, but he asked himself, if he told someone what was happening, ‘Who would believe you?’ and he kept silent.

After two months, Victor was allocated to a borstal which he was told was ‘a holiday camp’ by comparison to his previous experiences. He says he came to agree with that description. He also remembers that when he told another boy at borstal where he had been detained previously, the boy said ‘Oh, so you’re one of [the assistant governor’s] little boys are you?’. Victor believes it was widely known that his abuser sexually abused boys in his care.

At first, he says he gave the borstal officers ‘a bit of a hard time’, but then he began to recognise that they were ‘normal blokes’ and he ‘began to calm down’. He felt that one officer seemed to know what he’d been through. He told Victor to simply ask if he ever wanted to talk.

Today Victor views this as being ‘my one opportunity to talk and I never took it’. Remembering this officer, he comments that he would ‘love to shake his hand’.

After serving one year of his sentence, Victor was released from borstal. He says he had got a lot from his time there and he felt ‘these guys care, and that calmed me down’.

He says he then got on with his life, marrying and starting a family. During this time, he was living at a hotel and was told one evening by a waiter, ‘someone who knows you wants to meet you at reception.’ Victor arrived at reception to find his abuser, who greeted him ‘like a long-lost friend’.

Confused and shocked, he went to his abuser’s room where he was told: ‘me and my friends can find you any time we like … do what I say, or I’ll tell your wife’.

Victor has no idea how his abuser found him or knew that he was married but describes how he ‘went to pieces – terrified’, and he sexually abused him again. Two days after this assault Victor ‘ran back’ to his parents, leaving his wife and baby behind.

He phoned his wife to apologise but could not bring himself to tell her the truth. Instead he said he had been having an affair. However, in time, his relationship with his wife recovered and their marriage continued. He never saw or heard from his abuser again.

Decades later, Victor was watching a news item about child sexual abuse that was similar to his own experience. He says this triggered memories for him and ‘it all came out of the box’. He began drinking heavily to try and cope with his feelings.

In desperation Victor phoned a support service for adult survivors of sexual abuse. It took him three weeks to tell them his name, but with encouragement from the service, he reported the sexual abuse to the police. During their investigation, Victor discovered that his abuser had been ‘kicked out’ of the prison service and had been charged with committing a sexual offence. However, he had since died, and the police did not proceed with Victor’s case.

Victor feels ‘very let down by the police’. He says he is left with many questions unanswered: ‘Why was he sacked? What offences did he commit? Why wasn’t it picked up earlier?’ He found a solicitor to take on his case two years ago and it is still ongoing.

Today, Victor remains married to his wife and has now retired from his job working with children who have been abused.

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