Gareth's story Coming to terms with childhood sexual abuse

boy looking pensive“My parents divorced when I was a toddler, and after that my mum was in and out of relationships. So there were always boyfriends round at the house, some of them were violent and really nasty with me. I didn’t feel cared for.

“We moved around a lot and the houses we lived in were really dirty. Mum would always make sure there was food on the table but I never had clean clothes. I learnt at an early age how to look after myself. Even now I’m an adult I can’t stand dirt in my house or being around mess. Growing up the way I did has had a real impact on my life.

“A few years after my parents divorced, my father started to sexually abuse me. I was 7 years old the first time it happened. I was sleeping in my father’s bed and he started touching me. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. He was my father and I thought that whatever he was doing to me was normal, I didn’t know any different. He made me feel really dirty. I was too young to understand that it was him being the bad person, not me.

"He was my father and I thought that whatever he was doing to me was normal."

“The abuse would happen at his house when I visited him. I thought about speaking to a teacher but I was really scared – my father had a really bad temper and was a threatening man. I tried to ignore what my father was doing and get on with my life. I internalised my feelings and worries about my life and the abuse and locked my thoughts in a box in my head.

“The sexual abuse lasted until I was 13 years old and affected relationships I had as I grew older. The thought of having sex really frightened me, and I didn’t feel like I could tell my girlfriends why. I used to get wound up, angry and moody about things. I think because I kept everything inside, sometimes my feelings would just burst out of me and I couldn’t control them.

"I want to protect other children from going through the awful abuse I did"

“A few years ago, I decided to go to the police and the case went to court. My father initially pleaded not guilty to the offences. He eventually admitted what he had done, he was convicted and sentenced to a number of years in prison and was made to sign the sex offenders register for life. The judge told him he was a wicked man.

“When my father was convicted and sentenced I felt free for the first time in my life. As a father to young children myself, I was always fearful that he would find a way to get to them too. I don’t want them to have to suffer anything like I did. I just want to give them everything that I didn’t have as a child.

“This year I’m going to be running in the London Marathon for the NSPCC. I decided to run for them because I want to protect other children from going through the awful abuse I did as a child. I want to promote their amazing work with protecting children and preventing abuse. I’ve found the training really therapeutic, I actually really enjoy running now and have lost over 3 and a half stone. It feels like therapy for me, I can go out and work thoughts and feelings through my head and I come back feeling better, like I’ve let go of what happened to me a little.

“I’d like to say to anyone out there who is thinking of running for NSPCC to just do it. They help so many children facing such awful abuse. You’d be helping children with childhoods like mine get support and care when they need it."

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Sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.
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