Sexual abuse 'robbed me of teen years'

Tuesday, 18th April, 2017

Alan suffered sexual abuse as a boy but will not be his perpetrator's victim any more.

ALAN was sexually abused as a young boy by a man who was a family friend.

Now in his late 50s and much wiser, Alan (not his real name) realises his attacker had been preying on him for his own perverted pleasures over a long period. The stalking and attacks had a profound effect on Alan that lasted for many years - and that still linger today.

"He robbed me of my teen and young adult years, my education, my ambitions, my self-confidence and self-respect," Alan said.

"He robbed me of my healthy sexual development and my ability to form close relationships with girls.

"In all I believe I lost the formative years of my life because of what this man did to me."

Alan's story begins as a naive young boy and a member of a youth group on the NSW South Coast. The man in question was a youth leader.

Alan was an outgoing and confident boy. He believes this sparked the leader's interests in him.

"He initially worked through my brother to gain access to me by inviting me to join older members of the youth group on activities.

"He would ensure he sat next to me on the bus or in the car as we travelled to shows in the city and then make a point of sitting next to me in the theatre.

"He would rub his arm or leg against me while his wife or another family member was sitting on his opposite side.

"He often came to my home asking my mother for me to accompany him to the youth centre."

The stalking continued until the youth leader sexually abused Alan in his home while his parents were out and on another occasion during a youth camp. The assaults left Alan confused and were to have a profound impact on him.

"I lost all self-confidence, my nerves were shattered and I began to withdraw from people.

"I developed a fear of being around older men, even some of those I knew and trusted. I suffered panic attacks if they got too close to me.

"All the time I questioned myself and why it had happened to me. Was it my fault? Was there something about me that made me attractive to older men? Was I like him? Was I gay? Would I abuse children when I got older?

"I felt dirty and disgusting.

"I contemplated hiding in the shadows of the youth centre at night waiting for my attacker and stabbing him to death as he walked to the car park. Playing the scenario over and over in my head helped to ease my pain.

"I admit I even contemplated suicide. Instead I bottled it all up inside for a long time and never spoke to anyone about what had happened or the deep down pain and shame I was feeling."

As Alan grew older most of his friends formed relationships with girls, lost their virginity, got engaged and eventually married.

He remained single and was rarely seen in the company of a young woman because of his inability to form close relationships with girls or anyone for that matter.

"I had girls as friends but if the relationship looked like it was becoming serious or sexual I would suddenly go cold and back off.

"This often gave rise to gossip, innuendo and jokes, which made their way back to me.

I was deeply hurt because my accusers did not know what had happened to me or the shame I carried deep inside. I was in a dark place and lived with these taunts for many years."

In an effort to cope Alan took to abusing alcohol, marijuana and raiding his parent's drug cabinet. Sometimes the bottled up anger would explode.

He recalls driving down the wrong side of the road in a blind rage and into the path of an oncoming car that flew into the gutter and mounted the kerb.

"The thought of killing myself or anyone else did not enter my head. I just wanted to escape," he said.

While still under the effects of stolen prescription drugs Alan finally told his parents what had happened.

"My mother told me of some of the gossip. In response I just blurted out what had happened several years earlier.

"Naturally she was shocked and hurt, as was my father, while my older brother said he was unaware of what had occurred those years ago.

"My parents asked why I did not tell them when it happened. My excuse was that my attacker was a leader and a family friend and I did not think anyone would believe me or I would be blamed.

"I began to open up and tell people of my experience, however my whole body would shake uncontrollably. I would wrap my arms around myself to try and stop it.

"I wanted to tell people no matter how much of an ordeal it was for me to get it out."

Alan's life plodded along until in his 30s when he met a young woman and confessed to her his past life experience.

"We married and now have three children who we are very proud of and are making their own lives in the world.

"I also have very good friends and a satisfying job."

Alan has tried to make sense of this dark episode of his life.

"The only explanation I can come up with is that child sexual abuse was a taboo subject when I was growing up.

"Like many victims, I am of the generation that was warned by their parents not to get into cars with or accept lollies from strangers. It was all about stranger danger.

"I was never told about the difference between good touching and bad touching or warned to stay away from this uncle or that male family friend because they had penchants for little boys.

"I don't blame my parents. They were just as naive as I was."

Alan had the opportunity to tell his story to a private session of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and found it very healing.

"The commissioners listened to my story in detail and with great empathy. I was emotional at some points but I managed to get through it.

"Most victims of child sexual abuse only want to be heard, given reassurance and help to heal.

"I felt great relief at the end and at being given the chance to finally get it all off my chest."

Alan says he is growing stronger since his appearance at the Royal Commission and remains realistic as he moves on. He has also been referred to a counsellor by NSW Victims Services. He invited his wife to join him in his last session. "People say time heals all wounds. I don't believe that.

"Time has only created distance between me and what I describe as my big black wolf that keeps following me around. "I try to keep him at bay but sometimes he unexpectedly pounces on me.

"But, with the help of the Royal Commission and counselling, I look my big black wolf squarely in the eye and tell him it was not my fault and I am not going to be his victim any more."

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