Victim confronting past as he seeks healing from child sex abuse by uncle

 

THE businessman carries a photocopy of a school photograph when he was about nine in his briefcase. "This is the only image of me that I can remember, before my uncle started abusing me," he has written beside the gap toothed grin.

The page is in one of three neat folders, containing every letter and document about what 38 year old Jack calls his "unfinished business".

The abuse started almost 30 years ago, he says, in the two bed corporation house, where slept six to a room, three to a bed. He thinks it started when he was 10.

He describes the nightly fumblings dispassionately. His uncle did not drink, he says, so there were no warning signs. He would clamber into the double bed, over another uncle, pinning him against the wall, he says.

"He would always fall asleep very quickly and his hand would come over and drop on your tummy ... and then go from there." He would be pushed against the wall, he says, as his uncle fondled himself. At the end there was a sense of relief he says, "when the wet feeling came and we could all go to sleep".

His uncle moved into the house when he was six years old. Before the abuse began Jack says he was "groomed". It is a term used to describe the process of gaining a child's trust and affection. He has learnt it through his counselling.

Jack's grooming took the form of trips to the nearby swimming pool on the back of his uncle's motorbike. Two incidents stand out in his mind from the seven years that his uncle was "at him". The first happened in the L-shaped changing rooms at the pool before the 9 p.m. swimming class.

His uncle grabbed him from behind with his arm around his neck, he says. With his other hand he fondled him, telling him to "C'mon hit the ceiling." Jack speaks about it like a loss of virginity. "It hit me, the enormity of what he had stolen from me," he says. "There can only be one first time and he had taken that."

The second incident happened when he went to visit his uncle 19 pick up a pair of trousers. His uncle forced him over a table and tried to rape him, he says. "He, was slapping me and shouting, c'mon, c'mon, all the boys do this". Afterwards in the length of time it took him to pull up his trousers his uncle was back at a table. "He says nothing. I say nothing and lie just carries on."

Soon after Jack left home, at the age of 17, he walked into the GPO in Dublin and dictated a telegram to his parents. "Your son has been killed in traffic accident in Northern Ireland. Please make arrangements." Since then he says he has tried to kill himself twice. "I always felt I didn't belong any where," he says. He went to college at night and got a job which involved travelling and "living out of the boot of a car".

For more than 20 years Jack, kept his emotional baggage locked away. His uncle had married and had three children. Then in 1992 Jack's father died. His father had been friendly with his uncle's wife and family and Jack decided to take up where Daddy left off". He says he discovered that his uncle was, sleeping in a double bed with his 14 year old son.

"I had enough experience to know that if I sat down with him and said, `Is your father at you he'd deny it. So I had to gain his trust. "Later the following year his cousin told him that his father was abusing him, he says. Meanwhile his uncle began to ring him at work and wrote to him telling him to stay away from his family.

At the end of August 1993 Jack confided in a friend. "I asked him what he would do if it was the other way around and he was telling me the story. He, told me to take my own advice."

Jack rang his brother shortly after. He asked him to listen to the story and tell him whether he believed him. "He said, of course I believe you. He did the same thing to me".

The next day a Friday Jack went to see his uncle. "I wanted him to use the words `child abuse' for his own sake if for nothing else ... I wanted him to admit what he did to me." His uncle denied the allegations and Jack says he (Jack) suffered a minor breakdown that weekend. "It was like the stuff was coming up from my toes and through my body," he says. He put some of that stuff in a 19 page letter to his uncle, that started, "Dear Sir".

The following Tuesday he went, to the premises where his uncle worked and handed the letter to a child standing outside. "I gave him 20p and told him there's a man upstairs with glasses. Will you hand him this letter. I wanted him to get that letter from a child".

Later that night Jack went to see his eldest brother who said his uncle had also abused him. But his elder brother shared his mother's attitude "OK so it happened, but for God's sake son will you ever forget about it."

Then his uncle's family began to fight back. An anonymous letter was sent to a centre where Jack worked he was interviewed by a garda. He told them he believed members of his uncle's family had sent the letter and the garda referred him to the Garda Family Violence Unit.

His uncle was arrested last year, he says, and he believes a file has been sent to the DPP. A lot of people have told him that he is "obsessed" by his abuse.

"How can I not be?" is his reply. "My abuse is not what I am, but it's part of what I am." He talks about his "disclosure" as something that has given a reality to his life. "What bothered me most was the number of people who tried to push it back, down. If they only knew what it's like for somebody to be told to forget about it."

In two years Jack has tried to gather as much evidence as possible about his uncle's whereabouts during the early 1970s. In a brown envelope he has collected old receipts, bank documents and a small yellow identity card. It is his uncle's school sports' card, showing a black and white picture of grinning teenager around the same age as Jack was when he left home.

Holding the card between finger and thumb Jack says all he wants now is to make this man stop.

Male Rape men recovering from rape and sexual abuse, will be shown on RTE1 at 10.10p.m.

. Rape crisis centres throughout the country will have extra staff on duty to deal with phone calls following the documentary.