Ipswich: Survivor of childhood abuse speaks out after 57 years

Childhood sexual abuse victims can stay silent for years – too terrified to speak out. And male sexual abuse is still a taboo topic.

IT took many years before the victims of Sir Jimmy Savile came forward. Only now are we beginning to uncover the full extent of his crimes and the nature of the abuse.

Many of his victims were vulnerable young girls at the time who say they were frightened, overawed by Savile’s fame, and fearful they wouldn’t be believed – it wasn’t until decades later, after the entertainer’s death that the whole picture began to emerge.

John Harold, 69, was a victim of sexual abuse nearly 60 years ago. But only recently has he been able to begin to talk about his experiences.

John, who now lives in Norwich Road, Ipswich, bottled up his emotions and experiences for decades but he is today speaking out – partly to get his story off his chest, but also to encourage others to come forward and get the help and support available.

“I was born in Ipswich in Nightingale Road. It was a normal family. I had a brother and a sister,” he recalled.

“There were a lot of good times but some bad times as well.

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“I went to Copleston School but I didn’t get on very well. I played truant and I didn’t like the teachers. There were some problems at home and I couldn’t sleep at night. I don’t think I was wayward.”

One day John was told he’d be going to a different school. “I was told I was going to be put away. I went to a hostel for maladjusted boys, outside Suffolk. I went in 1955, and stayed for about two years.”

At the beginning John, then 12, settled in well. But after five or six months a member of the school’s staff came into John’s life.

He said: “He had a rather military bearing. He had blue-eyed favourites. He liked timid or shy boys.

“I used to like helping in the kitchen, I enjoyed it, and they used to get some of the lads to take breakfast to this warden who had a separate flat near the kitchen.”

The first few times John carried out this task, everything seemed normal, but one day things changed. “He would sort of try to entice you in and then get you to touch him inappropriately,” said John.

The abuse wasn’t every day but sometimes John was made to do things that made him feel uncomfortable.

Still troubled by the experience, John fought back the tears as he remembered the abuse.

He added: “This man would come round and sit on the bed, but only on the beds of certain boys. He would put his hands under the bed- clothes. No one spoke out. I know there were other boys but no one said anything.”

In 1956 the staff member suddenly left.

John said: “I was called in to the head warden’s office and asked if I had any complaints about the staff member. I said no, I didn’t. In those days you didn’t say anything.

“But, looking back, someone must have noticed something was wrong. I have always wondered what happened to the other victims.”

John said the abuse wasn’t regular but happened a number of times over a period of about nine months.

“It didn’t happen every night or every morning. I didn’t really know what it was all about. We were na�ve in those days. I wasn’t the only one.”

After leaving school John started work as a baker. “I tried to get on with life and things at home had settled down a bit. I met a girl and asked her out but I couldn’t somehow get close. I couldn’t have relationships that lasted very long. I found it difficult to talk about and I bottled everything up.

“He had told me not to tell anyone and the memories were so vivid.

“I think that abuse had a lot to do with the fact I never married.

“It affected my whole life and took away my confidence. Even today, I keep myself to myself and don’t join in things very much. In many ways life didn’t turn out as happily as it might have done due to the abuse. It has always been there.”

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