Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Childhood abuse drove me to prostitution

Carrickfergus man tells of the cruel treatment at Lisburn's Lissue House which drove him to become a rent boy in London.

Emotionally scarred: Chris Donnelly claims he was subjected to violent abuse as a child at Lissue House in Lisburn. Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX.
Emotionally scarred: Chris Donnelly claims he was subjected to violent abuse as a child at Lissue House in Lisburn. Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX.
Chris Donnelly as a child. Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX.

By Lisa Smyth

A local man has told how he turned to booze and became a rent boy as a result of the horrendous abuse he suffered as a child.

Carrickfergus man Chris Donnelly is a former resident of one of the facilities currently being examined by the Historical Abuse Inquiry.

Mr Donnelly, who lived in Lissue House hospital in Lisburn between 1979 and 1980, says he became a prostitute after finding himself homeless on the streets of London.

The father-of-one has now launched a campaign to raise enough funds to take a legal case against the organisations he believes destroyed his life.

"First and foremost I want an apology," he said. "I am 44 now and this will stay with me for the rest of my life."

Mr Donnelly said he was sent to live at the home when he was just nine-years-old.

"I was bullied terribly by other children at school, including being forced to drink urine and eat sweets off the floor," he explained.

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"The next thing I was sent to Lissue House.

"I think my parents were brainwashed into allowing me to be sent there.

"Lissue House was a hospital for children with mental problems but my only problem was that I had been bullied."

Mr Donnelly said official records of his time at the hospital show he was living in constant fear of beatings by staff and other residents.

"I was constantly looking over my shoulder and the records prove that," he said.

"There are so many examples of beatings, getting kicked or slapped just became a normal way of life.

"On one occasion a nurse was trying to take some blood and it wasn't working so she whacked me around the head. If you didn't eat your food straight away it was lifted and you wouldn't get anything else until the next day.

"We were constantly being locked in our rooms, or cells as I call them, as they had bars on the windows.

"It wasn't unusual to get beaten by the older children but instead of stepping in and stopping it from happening the staff would simply record they had witnessed it."

Mr Donnelly said he was never diagnosed with a medical condition and was eventually moved to a home for children with behavioural problems.

He remained there until he was 16.

"I was literally thrown out on the street with nothing," he said.

"I ended up homeless in London and I'm ashamed to admit that I engaged in gay activities to get by. I don't believe I was ever given a chance at living a normal life, I was completely institutionalised.

"It has affected the last 35 years of my life.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about what happened.

"I turned to drink to help me cope and I still drink now to take the edge off, to help me sleep.

"The only thing that has saved me is my son. Without him, I wouldn't be here today. He has given me something to live for.

"I haven't been able to hold down a job or a relationship, my marriage only lasted three years.

"I want to know why the authorities thought it was okay to treat a child the way they did.

"You can see from the photograph of me when I was a child that I was happy and they ruined my life."

- Mr Donnelly can be contacted via his Twitter account, @mrchrisdon2014, or log on to chrisdonnelly

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