Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Victims of abuse live with terrible legacy

I WRITE in regard to the storm over the behaviour of the late Roman Catholic priest, Father Lawrence Murphy and the alleged failure by Pope Benedict - then Cardinal Ratzinger - to investigate numerous allegations of child sexual abuse made against him.

There have, of course, been numerous other accusations by children living in various countries - most notably in the Republic - in regard to the paedophilic activities of certain Roman Catholic priests. Such accusations appear in the Press on an almost daily basis.

However, whereas the spotlight is apt to fall on the offender, of far greater concern should be the plight of the victim, of whom there are undoubtedly thousands.

Arguably, the most famous person ever to be the victim of sexual abuse was soldier and writer TE Lawrence. He was 29 when the abuse occurred, and therefore no longer a child, but his plight teaches us a great deal about just how devastating such an experience can be.

My interest in Lawrence of Arabia and my decision to write a biography of him arose because I could not understand why he changed from being, without doubt, the most charismatic figure of the age into an introvert who chose to bury himself in the lower ranks of the armed forces.

Then I discovered that in 1916, Lawrence was captured, beaten, and raped by the Ottoman Turks.

When I began researching into the subject of male rape, all became clear. The effect such an experience has, in destroying the psyche of the victim, is devastating, the more so because, in the natural course of events, time heals, in this situation it does not.

If such abuse could destroy the life of an adult, TE Lawrence, whose strength, both mental and physical, had hitherto been prodigious, then what hope is there for a child?

DR ANDREW NORMAN

author, TE Lawrence: The Enigma Explained Poole, Dorset

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