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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.



Deshawn did not see sexual abuse as ‘terrible’ because he was so used to violent abuse

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Deshawn grew up in a children’s home run by Christian missionaries. He was sexually abused by a male member of staff. The man who sexually abused Deshawn was not violent.

He didn’t know his father, and only saw his mother a couple of times a year when she visited from the West Indies. 

When Deshawn was about 13, a man who worked in the home, Sidney, began grooming him, then sexually abusing him. The abuse began with touching and escalated in stages. 

The woman who ran the home was extremely violent towards the children, particularly to Deshawn and two others. He explains that because the sexual abuse by Sidney was not violent, he did not experience it as ‘something terrible’ ‘at the time.’. 

Deshawn adds that Sidney was ‘charming’ and everyone thought of him as ‘a really great guy’. He introduced Deshawn to pornography and alcohol and this made the young teenager feel special.

Sidney was allowed to take Deshawn away on overnight trips to the countryside. They would go to pubs and Deshawn says this seemed ‘cool’. 

Looking back, Deshawn realises that despite spending many hours with Sidney, he knows almost nothing about him. 

He knows that his performance and behaviour at school started to deteriorate while he was being abused, and he was relegated from the top to the bottom stream. He was frequently ill and absent from school, and thinks this was a result of the sexual and physical abuse that he suffered at home. 

Although it was obvious that his results dropped dramatically, the school seemed to see him as the problem and did not raise any questions about his life in the home.

He reiterates that at the time he did not see the ‘relationship’ he had with Sidney as abuse. He thought that he was gay and that Sidney was his friend. It wasn’t until he was in his early 20s that he told someone what had happened and they pointed out how wrong it was.

He feels that one of the most significant effects of the abuse was the loss of his education which set him up for years of under-achieving, doing boring jobs with no prospects.

He also felt considerable shame and confusion about his sexuality and realises now that he lost his innocence at a young age. 

When he was in his mid teens, Sidney told Deshawn that he was old enough to leave the home, and enabled him to do this. Deshawn found somewhere to live, and Sidney carried on abusing him for another year, until Deshawn told him he didn’t want to see him any more. 

He is now married with children and he says his wife has never believed him to be gay. 

He has since talked to some of his contemporaries in the home, who expressed shock at what he told them about Sidney. He is not sure that the staff were aware, but he does remember church leaders arguing with Sidney about his homosexuality. 

A few years ago, Deshawn went to the police to make a statement about the abuse. He says their response was very good. He also made a report to social services and asked for his file from the former home, but they were not co-operative. 

Deshawn had therapy which he says has been helpful, and he no longer has the terrible sense of shame he used to feel.

Deshawn has several clear recommendations that he thinks would help protect children. He believes that all care leavers should be given their records so they don’t have to try and obtain them later. He feels that teachers should be trained to spot changes in a child’s behaviour that could indicate they are having problems.

Deshawn reflects that sex education lessons focused on pregnancy and contraception, but there was no guidance about relationships, sexual abuse or abuse of power. Better education may not have solved his problem, but it might have made him think.

He observes that abusers are often charming, and professionals must be trained to understand this to help them spot possible suspects. 


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