Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

I will never forget school ordeals, says abuse victim

ONE of Eccles' victims has described how he was just seven years old when the abuse started at school.

ONE of Eccles' victims has described how he was just seven years old when the abuse started at school.

Peter - whose name has been changed to protect his identity- is now aged 33. He estimates he was targeted by Daniel Eccles at least 90 times during his primary four year at St Aidan's in Belfast.

Always referring to Eccles as simply "he", Peter often put his head in his hands, closed his eyes or sighed as he told his story to the Belfast Telegraph.

"I was so terrified of him," he said.

"He would hit us with a strap and was very fond of using it.

"I was afraid to tell anyone. If I had got strapped it meant that I had done something wrong and I had always been brought up to behave myself.

"He made me feel that I was at fault.

"There was sexual, physical, emotional and all sorts of abuse. It was a daily thing and in my case it included attempted buggery.

"There are around 190 days in a school year and a conservative estimate would be that it happened to me 90 times.

"It made me feel alienated from my classmates and family as it was a secret that I had to keep."

The man said he only realised he had been sexually abused when his own children started school and he heard all the publicity about ChildLine.

"I had developed a relationship with my girlfriend but I always thought that I was gay or perverted," he said.

"He would have made us put our heads down and then he would trail one of us up and abused them in the middle of the classroom.

"He taught out in Portakabins away from the main school and that was where it all took place.

"I would let on that I was sick and that my stomach was sore so that I would not get sent into school, but I always got sent in."

The Belfast man said the abuse had a profound effect on his family.

"It makes me over-protective of my kids and I have felt very suicidal.

"I told my wife what had happened at school when we were sitting watching a programme on ChildLine one night.

"She said that it made everything make a lot of sense - why I abuse alcohol and my mood swings.

"We are not officially split up, but it is better for me to live away from them at the moment so the kids do not see any of the emotional turmoil.

"My wife wants me to forget about it all and put it behind me, but I can't."

Peter went to the police in 1994 and other victims came forward in 1999.

"There is real underfunding for victims, but when he goes into jail he will get his social worker and probation worker straight away."

He added that he would donate any future compensation he may be awarded to the Psychotherapy Counselling Network.

Peter's solicitor, Gerald Henvey, said: "We are investigating whether or not a complaint was made to the school authorities which was not acted upon.

"If we can prove that complaints were made, then civil action could be taken against the Christian Brothers."

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