Let’s begin with some great news. I was released from prison, this time around, on the 9th June 2017, so to be able to say that I will be starting work for Future Projects, on the 1st November, as a trainee support worker, makes me extremely proud. So begins the next chapter of my life, one that I went backwards for in order to move forward, but when did this journey begin?

One of my earliest memories also turns out to be one of my most troubling, or was until I dealt with it through intensive therapy. I was around the age of 8 and a victim of sexual abuse from a local toy shop owner, the shop was only some 100-150 yards away from my family home. I cannot recall the first time it happened, nor can I remember how and when it stopped but it happened at least twice a week for quite a while. I used to go to the shop of my own accord, something that would eat away at me for years. Why did I keep going back? Obviously I was being manipulated and groomed but I never saw it that way, I used to beat myself up with negative self talk that I must have wanted it, that I encouraged it by going back each time. I am also the youngest of six siblings and as I got older I wondered if I went for the attention. As levels of abuse go I would say mine wasn’t that bad considering. He used to get me to touch him and he would do the same to me in a particular area and that was it, sorry if that sounds so matter of fact, I’m just saying it could have been worse. Something else I used to struggle dealing with is that, again I don’t recall how we both found out, my best friend at the time was also going through the same abuse as I was. We actually came up with a plan.

The shop was always unattended, he would either be upstairs or out the back, the front door had an old style bell above the door that would ring when someone came in. He would then appear from wherever, and if it was my friend or I we would usually end up upstairs with him wanting to show us a new delivery or whatever. What my friend and I devised was that if we went in there together, before he came out, one of us would hide leaving the other to be taken upstairs in the usual way, while they were gone whoever was downstairs would nick a few toys and bits then leave the shop, which meant the bell going off so he would have to attend the shop allowing whichever one of us whose turn it was to leave without having been touched. Having written that I have this flashback that the reason the abuse stopped was because he caught us and realised what had been going on, because every time we did this and the bell went off there was no one in the shop, and he banned us from the shop, I don’t think I ever did go back in there, but I will never forget the way he looked, the smells of his flat upstairs, he also used to wear one of those brown warehouse coats, certain things take me back as if it was yesterday.

That was 1977 and I never dealt with it properly until 2008, in fact in 1979 I contracted Meningitis and I didn’t know at that age what it was but I blamed myself, I was being punished for allowing myself to be abused. Now I am of the opinion, that through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s at least 40% of children suffered some form of abuse, and they wonder why mental health problems are so high.

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