My name is David Harries and I am 38 years old and a survivor of child abuse. When I was 5/6 I used to climb out of my bedroom window and run away because of the abuse I was getting off my drunk father. I told my primary teachers of all the nasty things my dad was doing, it was all physical abuse very violent and very cruel/wicked. Social services were aware but never intervened for another three and half years which led me to get more damaged.
Just before my tenth birthday I was given a beating by my father for something I never did. Of course I ran away. The next day being hungry I stole a pack of three Mars bars and I got caught and when the police officer grabbed my arm I winched. Upon getting into the police station the officer made the Sergeant aware of my winching. A doctor looked me over and I had a bruise the the whole of my back. That’s when social services got involved. That’s when I was taken away from my mum.
The weird thing is how the social worker made ‘care’ sound comfortable and safe and creepily inviting. I have never forgot that day Whitney Houston’s track One Moment In Time was on the radio and my mum was broken in floods of tears and my dad never said a word(coward). The social worker took me to Elmfield house in Rochdale. I was put in a big bedroom with a big antique bed in it and I curled up and I fell asleep. Nobody checked to see if I was OK till about half past eight in the morning. Coming out of that room was the scariest moment. Eleven years of age and every single person around me was a stranger. They use to give you a clipper card to get to school and I used mine to go on a bus journey all over Manchester. When I got back I was frog marched into the office. The manager told the member of staff to leave and he belted me right around my head hard then slapped me across my back and bum. The place has been knocked down now plus the night watchman use to be on the girls landing all the time. He use to hit you in the private bits if he caught you out of your room, I can still remember in detail the inside of that place.
I was moved shortly after to Rotherham Keppel’s view. I was placed on Hood. There was two more units Anson/Nelson they also had a secure unit. There was physical abuse here too. In fact I ran off. About fourteen of us ran off and I played a role in helping another lad off Anson pinch the home van. I got the worse beating for that and was put in the secure bit to recover from it . Un-be-known to me my social worker had brought my mum and sister to see me and they refused to let them see me. Social worker did nothing about that. It’s as though he knew. A few incidents involving the teacher and a member of staff happened to me. All physical. I ended up leaving there because of my behaviour. They was sending me to Ashleigh House in Blackburn. They showed me round but I kicked off and they had to put me somewhere quick. They took me back to Rochdale and put me in Burnage View, but that was not their route for me, wasn’t there long before they took me to Red Bank in Warrington. My memories of Burnage View is something I never witnessed in any other home. They was nice it was very family orientated it was a good place.
Back to Red Bank. It was not a nice place, very eerie, big long corridors with dorms off it and restraint rooms. I was placed on Vulcan right at the end of the corridor. It was very strict and the manager had a weird name. I witnessed him one evening, really late. He picked up a boys duvet quilt and touched him for a few minutes. The boy stirred and he quickly put the quilt back on him. He turned around quick and caught me awake. Nothing happened then but the next day was film day. I was sat there with my friend and for some strange reason he walloped me in the face for no reason. I ended up getting in trouble for it and dragged off to the restraint room where I was met by the doctor and the manager and some big members of staff.
I was hand cuffed and then beaten really bad like a major warning beating. I was left there until the next morning still handcuffed and bleeding. I managed to run away which believe me is no mean feat, it was tough but I did it. I refused to go back. Then I was asked really nicely by my social worker- where I would like to go? Weird, because I was used to being told where I was going. I chose Burnage View, I had really good memories of that place but my behaviour blew it.
It was at this point in life I started to behave more maturely.
I came back from school and I was told I have forty five minutes to pack my clothes. Confused, doesn’t come close. I did not get told where I was going until on the way. In the car was my social worker and a girl. She was dropped at Bryn Alyn and I was taken to Pentre Saeson.
It was a big house surrounded and covered by trees. In the summer you cannot see the house and in the winter it looked not a nice place. Scary movie type. Upon arrival there it didn’t seem bad. A games room caught my eye and the pool table. I liked that, little did I know what was coming. The thing that is puzzling- is my social worker seemed to know the manager which was weird as I was the only one from Rochdale.
I was not there long before the sexual abuse happened. Before it started, I pinched a fiver out of the managers car. I was called to his bedroom and he slapped me across the ear sending my head into a light switch cutting my head. I was told to tell the hospital I fell on the light switch. I got butterfly stitches and returned by the manager who was with me all the time. On the way back I was told that I will be stood in the hallway and told to take everything of except my underpants. Again a very confused and scary time at thirteen. I did as I was told. I was made to stand in the hallway for at least four/five hours and my head was hurting bad.
I just wanted to go to bed. Later I went to bed and fell asleep quickly. It felt like I wasn’t asleep long before I felt my quilt being moved, and then felt hands on my underpants. I turned round quick and the manager put his hands over my mouth and give me a stern warning and told to go back to sleep while he played with my private bits. Then he left the bedroom and I just froze then I heard him coming back. He came in the room and I know 100% I heard a camera click, he then covered my privates, straightened my quilt and left the bedroom. That did not stop.
Also there was two cattle grids on the track up to the home and at nights I used to hear cars coming up the drive. It was very late and I never heard them leave. I was taken to Bryn Alyn every day to school, so I got to see the girl that came with me in the car. We became quite close as friends. She went through hell there at the hands of the owner and manager.
My friend was a prolific self-harmer. She was very destroyed inside, she ended up committing suicide. The owner of Bryn Alyn took great pleasure in telling me she was dead. We use to talk a lot at the tree in Bryn Alyn, on the field. The one with the swing. I never went home to see my parents. In fact I didn’t say one word to my dad till I was nineteen, we never spoke at all. Its still not great between me and my parents. They don’t know properly what I went through. I have put a few things in this but, there is trips to France, trips to Norfolk Broads on canal boats and camping near Snowdonia.
They were not trips, it was further hell because we just couldn’t get away from abuse. I was there for three and half years. I was a little fucker when I was young, pinching cars mostly I was good at it and it always helped when I had to run away. I was always in and out the police station’s for pinching something. I was never violent, I never assaulted people, never sold drugs. Just a petty criminal.The truth behind all the trouble is, or happened the first time they put me in the cells. I had the best night’s sleep because I felt safe.
I personally think I was institutionalised from very early on in children’s home and I carried it on through my adult life. I have done 18 years behind a prison door mostly single cell. Because of my past in care, prison was the only thing that resembles a human safe. I used it for that in all my criminal years I have never once pleaded not guilty and please believe when I say I was clever enough to beat seventy five per cent of it if I wanted.
The ‘joy riding’ was an escape for me. A feeling like I was still alive because a lot of me was dead inside. I can’t explain it really but I’ve had a lot of struggles with drugs and was an addict for two years. I nearly lost my children to the authorities which was the light switch I badly needed in my life. My partner and I pulled our socks up and went on a three year long battle to beat the drugs. Boy did we beat them it was tough really tough but we did it.
I then got myself off methadone and felt very proud of walking into the drug services and saying I don’t need their help anymore. It felt good during this time. I had two interviews with operation Pallial and after my second one I had to be a dad. Almost instantly after leaving the police station I had the pleasure that most normal dads take for granted-the pleasure of putting my kids to bed. I swigged at the glass of the well deserved drink I’d poured, sat on my garden chair. Then the realisation of what I had just offloaded hit me. My memories all came flooding back to me like a rolodex, I was having a hyper mania breakdown this lasted about four days.
I ended up leaving my house I don’t know why but I was heading for the police station my partner phoned me and asked me to stop and speak to a lady who was a support worker for a family centre. I spoke to her and asked her personally to come and get me. Our social workers manager would not let her. Instead she came with a brand new social worker. I was taken to my drugs worker. I was tested straight away, I was clean. But it’s what was coming out of my mouth that was bothering them. I was taken to the hospital to see the mental crisis team. I was not allowed back home for two days. I was given tablets but after I read the side effects and seen they was a blocker and suppressant contained, I gave them back. I told him I have suppressed and blocked enough, I had to see shrinks every day for ten days.
After two days away from my family I was allowed back home. Upon walking back in my house my son was poorly but he always give me a cuddle even when he is sick. He did not move off the couch. I got straight on the phone and phoned the doctor. He was whisked off to hospital. My son was really sick he had Pneumococcal Meningitis. This brought me down to earth with a bang. My daughter had just beaten Scarlet fever. So I had my hyper mania, my son and just to add a bit more, my partner found out she was pregnant. Tough times, certainly a part of life I won’t forget.
That was nearly two years ago. I have been on therapy about three years. In fact I’m writing this on the train now on my way to a session. I have had three weeks off so I’m quite a bit anxious. I’m starting a couple of things with therapy in the New Year. I’m quite nervous about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) but its moving forward and I feel that is what I and all survivors should do if we choose to.
My memories of children’s homes I was in are very clear. I have clear images and memories that stay with me. I remember every person who abused me. Either there proper name or title. Every child I was in Pentre Saeson with, their first and second names and roughly where they are from. I know I haven’t mentioned names. I do know them all. Its tough this situation we are all facing but we know the damage abuse causes. Trust is a major problem. I am a different person today. I have not been in trouble for five years and I am clean from drugs. I have the most loving family. My partner and I have four kids and a dog. When I was a child many girls dream of their weddings, boys want to be super heroes and drive fast cars, well my dreams weren’t that elaborate.
I have what I dreamed of and that is why I am at the stage of my life now to go and fight these evil monsters, search for justice and protection of children. Because when are people going to realise that children should be children not a commodity and the care system should be what it means care. Because we did not get any care, we got used by everyone for their own selfish gains. The Historical Child Sex Abuse inquiry is being treated as a joke with attempts of cover up. That is why I will gladly speak to peoples tribunal as I feel that is the way forward. I am a very humble man who has been through bad times but I will not stop supporting survivors because we all lived in fear but no more. They have ruined all our childhoods, let’s not let them ruin anymore. FULL STOP.
Written by @dharries056 (feel free to follow)