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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Shutterstock/Ilya Andriyanov
Child Abuse

'When I wasn't taking a beating from my old man, I was taking a beating from my brother'

At a recent launch a young man spoke about growing up with abuse.

JOHN* SAID HIS life was relatively normal until first class, when his father became violent.

“He would beat up my mam and when my older brother and I would try to protect her, we would take a beating for getting in the way.”

Speaking to a crowded room in Dublin during the week, John calmly outlined the abuse he received at the hands of his father and brother throughout his childhood.

“Over time [my father] grew to dislike us and would beat us up every day.

“When I wasn’t taking a beating from my old man, I was taking a beating from my brother and I was always put down with no chance for recovery.

Once my older brother reached 12 he was put into foster care. I was left to fend for myself. I still tried to protect my mam but the beatings got worse. I lived in constant fear until I reached the age of 12 when my old man left.

Soon after John’s father left the home, his brother returned.

Soon after my brother moved back home and he would beat me up every day. That was my childhood.

Le Chéile

John was speaking at the head office of the probation services in Dublin on Thursday morning, at the launch of a report on Le Chéile.

Le Chéile is a community-based volunteer mentoring and family support service. It works with young people who have committed crimes of are at risk of offending.

The charity works by way of referrals by the courts to the probation service. The charity then supplies the at-risk young person – aged between 12 and 21 – with a voluntary mentor in their community who works and meets with them.

John had gone through a lot of different social workers and had spent a long time within the court system before he was linked up with Le Chéile at age 18.

Facing extreme abuse in his home, John left and started to stay at friends’ houses. He began to drink alcohol and use drugs.

“When I started secondary school I wanted to be just like my older brother, so I started drinking and smoking and getting into scraps. Even still he would beat me up. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right,” he said.

“I spent most of my time at my friend’s place getting drunk or high for about a year, then I progressed onto heavier drugs.

Until one night, I accidentally overdosed and was found laying dead on the street.

John was rushed to hospital and was “very lucky to survive”. He went into a treatment centre, but when he left treatment he fell into the same old habits.

He completed his Leaving Certificate when he was 17. Since then, John has completed a psychology and social sciences course; he has also undertaken a number of community-based psychoanalysis, counselling and psychotherapy courses.

Community mentor

Initially, John wasn’t happy with being assigned a volunteer mentor by the probation service.

“I was 18 at the time and felt I had my life in order,” he said.

“At this point I was in court since age of 14 on a monthly basis. So the idea of a further year’s probation really got on my nerves.

Then to be given a mentor on top of already going through after care and having a probation officer, a social worker, counsellor, career advisor…
In other words I was strongly against being given a mentor, I thought it would have been more beneficial at a younger age.

However, after meeting Mick – his Le Chéile mentor – and learning that he was doing the work on voluntary basis, John warmed to him.

“It was nice to be able to speak to someone in higher position without being looked down upon,” he said.

“I was able to run things by Mick such as everyday troubles, hassles and stress and we were able to laugh things over.

As a result we became good friends. As time passed I found it to be a nice break from the stress caused by everyday life, such as work and college.

John recently dropped out of a college course and has plans to travel and work abroad in the future.

He said the Le Chéile service had helped him by bringing a positive adult role model into his life for the first time.

“I never had a role model in my life as my old man left when I was young and my older brother was in and out of foster care,” said John.

Mick my mentor was influential and a true leader and the best role model and easy to get along with.

Read: ‘They made me realise that… I’m not worth nothing’: The positive effects of mentoring at-risk youths

Read: More parents are using children to shoplift for them, according to retailers

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