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Benji

Benji

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Benji was sexually abused and raped by a parish priest.  

Decades later, he is still haunted by the trauma he was subjected to over four years of his adolescence. ‘It dominates everything’ he says.

Benji’s family were very involved with the Anglican church, and when he was a teenager he was interested in becoming a priest. He says the local parish priest, Father Williams, seemed like a ‘lovely man’, who was friendly and well-liked in the community.

When Benji was about 13, Father Williams, who was in his 40s, invited him to his house to practise music. One day, while the two of them were talking, the priest kissed and touched Benji. 

Benji describes the horror and confusion he felt. ‘I felt appalled … it was terrible … there was something idealistic about him and this behaviour was not part of that picture.’ 

The abuse by Father Williams went on for a few years and escalated to rape. Benji says the priest was very manipulative and claimed that the abuse was ‘what people do who love each other … he dressed his behaviour up as something very different’. 

Benji did not feel he could tell anyone, and says ‘I had to lie to my family … I found it hard to cope with that’. He adds that his family were very ‘naive’ and did not talk about ‘sexual things’.

The abuse ended when Benji was older and began to feel that he had more power. He told Father Williams the abuse had to stop as it was wrong. The priest emphasised to Benji that he must not tell anyone about it.  

When Benji was an older teenager, he did tell an older friend about the abuse and she encouraged Benji to see his GP, who prescribed anti-depressants and placed him in an adult mental hospital. 

His parents were told and they got him removed from the hospital, but Benji recalls that their reaction was humiliation and embarrassment. ‘Nobody could believe anything bad of Father Williams’ he says. 

Benji then reported the abuse to the police. He was interviewed and physically examined. It was the 1980s, and it was suggested that Benji should have an HIV test, but the police officer told Benji this could be a sign of his ‘promiscuity’ and ‘a blot on your life’. 

Eventually, a police officer said he could not see any truth in Benji’s report, adding that the boy showed no emotion. 

A clergyman in the parish did believe the allegations of abuse by Father Williams and told Benji he had reported him to the diocese.  

After some time, the police began to take the allegations seriously and spoke to other boys who had been abused by Father Williams. The priest was convicted of abusing several children. 

Benji did not give evidence. He says his parents would not let him attend court, as they were deeply ashamed. 

He went to university and says he tried to get on with his life. Some years later he discovered that Father Williams had not been barred from the ministry. He met with a senior cleric to complain, but was told ‘He has suffered enough … we don't want to drag this up’.

Benji says he is still ostracised by his family and has not seen them for many years. He is still very troubled by memories of the abuse he suffered. He finds it hard to hold down a job and says he drinks too much. He has called the Samaritans when he has felt particularly distressed. ‘I’m not sure where this will end … it’s exhausting’ he says.

Benji would like to see more therapy available for victims and survivors of abuse. He also believes that education for parents could help them support their children if they disclose abuse.

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