Victims of alleged sexual abuse at a children’s home in the 1980s claim social services told them they were “naughty” and “attention seeking” when they complained of attacks.
The allegations followed an investigation into claims of rape by a 14-year-old boy more than 30 years ago – a case that was eventually dropped by Sussex Police late last year due to a lack of evidence.
The young boy at the centre of the rape investigation – now a 43-year-old man – yesterday revealed details of what he called his “brutal” experiences.
He told The Argus: “There were two men that systematically abused me.
“They raped me, numerous times. I was only 14. I was told I should keep quiet or else. It was brutal, with kids being both sexually and physically abused. It was a nightmare.
“The abuse ended when I was moved to a home in Hailsham for one reason or another. It was perfect in there – a million miles away from what happened in Brighton.
“But what’s happened has ruined my whole life. I’ve had problems with drink, attempted suicide, mental health problems, drug abuse, the lot.
“I just hope if anyone reads this who also suffered, that it gives them the courage to come forward too.”
The man claimed his attacker would threaten him with violence if he ever considered speaking out against him.
He said: “I’ve had to try and bottle it all up, the memories of the home. I had no one to talk to when I was being abused, not even other kids.
“I knew of another child who was being abused at the same time as me but I couldn’t do anything.
“I was threatened that there’d be consequences if I told anyone what was happening.
“The pain of what happened has given me post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My partner and the kids have suffered with me through the years – but the police say I’m too vulnerable to go into the witness box and it was all dropped. It’s made me angry.
The man’s wife told The Argus: “I’m upset with the police because they were telling me not to speak to the press as they ‘wanted to keep a lid on it’.
“We only found out in the last few days that there would be no further action in my husband’s case – even though the police told you [The Argus] that the investigation was dropped in December. I’ve been told there are other children that have come forward too.
“The police said they’d do their best to get him counselling but we had nothing. It’s not acceptable. They’re saying it’s a brave thing that he’s done in reporting it to them but he doesn’t get his day in court to face his abusers.”
In 2013 two men, a 64-year-old and 68-year-old, were arrested on suspicion of raping the boy.
Police concluded there was “not enough evidence” to recommend a prosecution and the case was dropped late last year.
Another alleged abuse victim claims charges against her attacker were also eventually dropped because of a lack of evidence.
She said: “I was taken to Preston Road for the first time when I was 13. The neglect there was bad, but the worst of it was when they took me to a man who sexually abused me. He raped me.
“When I talked to social services about it, they told me it was because I was naughty. It wasn’t – I knew that. I was also told I was attention seeking.
“I know of three other kids who were also sexually abused. We used to confide in each other and run away. But we’d always be taken back and knew what was waiting for us when we did.”
The woman says she will “never forgive” social services for the abuse she suffered at the home.
She added: “A man was charged with abusing me but it was dropped, just like the rest of the cases.”
He said: “I can’t remember it [the home] at all. I can’t remember any allegations of that nature made during my time as chairman. I’m horrified of course that something like this might have happened.”
When asked whether police investigating allegations at the time would have liaised with the council, Coun Theobald said: “There were professional officers for something like that who were mandated to run the homes and deal with things like that.
“I have no idea. I was never told. You’ll have to ask the police.
“I really can’t answer anything to do with it because I know nothing about it. If I had known then I would have ordered a full investigation.
“There were lots of children’s homes in Brighton during that period but as far as I remember there were no other allegations at any other home during the time. I knew of none.”
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said it was critical society learned from historic sex cases.
She said: “This means allowing every survivor the chance to be fully heard and giving professionals the chance to speak out too.
“This is at the heart of what I’ve been calling for as one of the group of seven MPs that secured the Home Office’s independent inquiry into historic abuse.
“I welcome the fact that the relevant agencies are meeting about this local case and there clearly needs to be a transparent process moving forward. Hopefully others will come forward too and get the proper support they deserve.”
Representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex County will meet Sussex Police tomorrow to discuss the new wave of allegations uncovered during the investigation into the alleged rape of the 14-year-old.
A spokesman from Brighton and Hove Council said: “The allegations referred to are in relation to a care home run by East Sussex County Council that closed in the mid-1990s, before the newly formed Brighton and Hove City Council took over responsibility for social services in the city on April 1 1997.
“As Brighton and Hove City Council has statutory responsibility for children’s safeguarding in the city, we will be involved in any investigations into allegations relating to events that have allegedly happened in the city, past or present.
“As the care home was run at the time by East Sussex County Council they also clearly have a role to play in any investigation.
“The people about whom the allegations have been made do not work for Brighton and Hove City Council or East Sussex County Council.”
By Ben Leo