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



Orson says ‘When the abuse is going on you think it’s normal. It’s only when you leave you realise’

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Orson suffered neglect, extreme physical abuse and sexual abuse by his mother.

He thinks that people should be more aware that women can and do abuse as well as men. 

Orson grew up in a large family, and his mother had mental health issues that caused her to be admitted to hospital several times.

The children were not shown love or care, and there was often not enough food. He can remember at least seven different social workers being ‘in and out’ of their lives but there was apparently little intervention. 

Orson’s father physically abused the children, and his mother was very emotionally and physically abusive towards all the children when his father was not around. She seemed particularly vindictive towards Orson and his younger brother.

She would refuse him food, lock him in a cupboard, punch him when he was sleeping and pull his hair out. 

When Orson was 15, his mother sexually abused him, performing oral sex on him. When she tried to do this a second time, he pushed her out of the room. 

Orson says that many people knew about the abuse he and his siblings were suffering. He once told one of the social workers who visited that there was no food and that he was being abused, but no action was taken. 

More recently, one of his childhood friends told him that ‘everyone knew’ his mother had a dark side and that Orson was bearing the brunt of it. ‘Everyone knew about it. No one did anything’ says Orson.

Orson’s mother spent most of her life in mental institutions and he would visit her. After she died, he made a complaint to the police about the abuse by both his parents, and his father was cautioned for domestic abuse. 

Although Orson feels this gave him some closure, the impact of the abuse on him continues. 

He suffers with flashbacks and says he has made bad choices with relationships and friendships.

Orson finds it hard to relate to other people; he finds the things that they worry about to be trivial. ‘I’ve always kept myself to myself … I would say I am a typical loner’ he says. He adds that he doesn’t care what people think and isn’t interested in being popular. 

He once tried to talk to a girlfriend about the abuse he suffered, but she wouldn’t believe him.

He worries about telling anyone else because ‘people get tarred with the same brush … when you hear about abusers and criminals you hear they have a troubled childhood. I have had a troubled childhood but I have never done anything bad’.

Orson strongly believes that families should have the same social workers so they will build up a complete picture, and that they should not be ‘soft’ to parents and ‘so believing’ of them. 

He says people should question and stand up to the people everyone knows are doing something wrong, rather than being unwilling to ‘stick their head above the parapet’. 

Orson would like to see more education and awareness-raising programmes to help people understand more about abuse and controlling behaviour. 

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