In one of my oldest memories I was standing in the corner of the kitchen inspecting the bucket containing my terry nappies submerged in cleaning liquid. My mother quite firmly told me to move away from it. I am reliably informed that I ceased wearing nappies by my second birthday – from this single memory I can only infer that at the very least I am able to recall some events from the age of 2 onwards.

I remember many things from those early years of my life and with surprising clarity.

Something happened when I was 5 that I’d rather not remember. To be more precise I would prefer that it hadn’t happened, and that it hadn’t impacted the rest of my life in such a profound way.

As far back as I can remember my mother visited my grandfather regularly. Mostly every Saturday, and rarely with an interval greater than two weeks. It was always exciting to take that journey knowing that we would be spending the day with him. He was a wonderful and jolly man with a great enthusiasm for entertaining his grandchildren – a source of endless fun, laughter and sweets. Sadly he passed away suddenly in his mid sixties nearly two decades ago (far too young for someone so deserving of a long and happy life). 

When I was 5 my uncle was only 16 and had remained with my grandfather after my grandmother had, under the strain of an unsatisfying marriage, eloped with a younger man several years earlier. My uncle was a chubby youth who had developed, as a result of bullying at school, an exuberant and outgoing alter ego. This outward persona had enabled him to attract a modest group of friends yet it hid his insecurities and his inability to find a girlfriend.

One day my mother left me in the care of my uncle while she and my grandfather went to the local shops. He was not normally keen on me, which I attribute either to the age difference or some jealousy he felt towards my grandfather’s affection for me, but on this occasion he expressed an interest in playing a new game and  asked me if I’d like to play. Without hesitation, and pleased to have his attention, I accepted the offer. He took me to his bedroom.

If you suspect you are going to be distressed reading what follows please consider skipping this particular post.

After entering his room he sat on his bed and asked me to sit next to him. He explained carefully that it was a special game that I must tell no one about and that I could get in trouble if I did. At this point I remember being momentarily unsure but any doubt was overridden by my interest to see what the game was. He told me that to play the game we needed to take our trousers off which was odd because that wasn’t an element of any game I’d played before. My childhood naivety brushed any doubt aside and we removed our trousers and sat back on the bed.

Lowering his underwear he told me to stroke his penis and that he would do the same to me. This definitely wasn’t part of any game I had played before and it felt wrong but I didn’t know why. He saw my doubt and insisted that I had to, and so I did. As did he. He then explained that I had to put his penis in my mouth. As I began to worry more, and verbally refuse, he became more stern and coerced me with threats I cannot recall. So I performed that act on my uncle, and with further instruction – the most striking memory of those moments being the smell of his hormonal and not entirely sanitary body. After what seemed like an unbearable length of time he briefly reciprocated and finally instructed me to get dressed. Beyond relief that the game was over, and having a very clear sense of keeping a secret, I don’t know what I thought or felt.

We played that game many times over several months. There were occasions when we had to stop playing the game suddenly upon hearing my mother or grandfather on the stairs or opening the front door. Every time we played the game after the first I felt dread and repulsion – yet he was a grown-up and I had to do what I was told. I had no choice.

He took my innocence and deeply scarred me – all because he needed gratification that he couldn’t achieve lovingly, and legally, with another adult.

Having looked closely at my issues over the last few weeks I now have a clearer sense of the true scale of the damage my uncle has caused.

When a father sits next to a son for a cuddle and the son flinches, how much damage is that causing to the parent/child relationship? Just one example of the impact. Just one relationship tainted.

Too much hurt…

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