Living Without Justice: Overcoming Sexual Abuse
‘Living Without Justice: Overcoming sexual abuse’ tells of the writer’s thirty-year battle to deal with abuse that took place in the early 1980s. This is a story of courage and resilience. It is a must read for all parents so that they understand how easily a child can be groomed, and will be helpful for families and friends of anyone who has been subjected to abuse, to help them understand what the victim may have been experiencing. The book is also helpful for general readers wanting a little more perspective on life and to understand the internal battles some people have to overcome.
At thirteen, Paul Richards was sexually abused by a trusted family friend, Jim Andrews. He needed to be protected, but he was helpless. Thirty years later, Paul tried to unravel the past, survive, and prepare for his future. Paul went to extraordinary lengths to free himself of the shadow of abuse. Along the way he had to forgive his parents – and himself – to figure out who he really was.
This story demonstrates how a child can be manipulated by an adult for their own pleasure. It describes the classical grooming of a child, siblings and parents by an abuser. Jim ingratiated himself with the family in order to commit his heinous crimes. Even with family support networks in place, Jim still managed to abuse Paul.
What is extraordinary about Paul’s story is how he lived with this abuse for so long. The consequences could have meant suicide. Paul never stopped thinking about the abuse and bottled it up until it could no longer stay inside. Before telling anyone, Paul was burdened by guilt, sexual misunderstanding and confusion. He had to constantly hide the abuse from others and deny that it happened to him, just to live his life. Paul was even taunted by his own family and felt extremely uneasy whenever Jim’s name was mentioned.
Slowly and carefully, Paul began to tell people about the crimes that occurred to him. First, he decided to tell his wife, Lisa. Then there was the difficulty of telling family. Eventually, Paul confronted Jim. This failed miserably, yet reinforced to Paul that Jim needed to be held accountable for his crime. This was enough encouragement for Paul to go to the police and make a statement. This started a sequence of events that ended with Paul being the key witness for the Public Prosecutor at the County Court. Paul was even helped by the police to record Jim making confessions about the abuse, which formed a strong basis for the Public Prosecutor’s case.
The description of the court proceedings that followed demonstrate just how difficult achieving justice can be. Paul contributed an enormous amount of effort to just this one action to prevent his life being derailed. His fight for justice turned out to be half a life’s work.
All Paul wanted was an apology and for Jim to have an appreciation of the impact his actions had on Paul’s life. Paul went to extraordinary lengths to try and achieve this apology.
Paul was emotionally stunted by the abuse and required extensive counselling to grow into a man. The counselling helped him journey back in time to address complex emotions and significant trust issues.
Paul continues to be proactive and participated in a closed session with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to share his experiences. He heard many other stories that resonated with him and which showed how common abuse is in our society. Abuse destroys lives. Society must no longer tolerate verbal, mental, sexual or physical abuse of any kind.
This book is one story in the millions that exist. One story about the extent to which a victim must be prepared go if justice is sought.
This is Paul’s story, written from the heart. There are no shortcuts as he explores what happened and how deep and lasting the impact has been. This story is about doing what is right and fighting for justice.
Being asked to write a foreword relating to Paul’s inspirational journey is humbling, to say the least.
Working in criminal investigations and survivor support for over the past 38 years has been a privilege for me, and I have always been inspired by the courage and resilience I see in victims. I have been told of more experiences such as Paul’s than there should be throughout the years, and I continue to be in awe of the ability of the human spirit to overcome such heinous crimes.
The road to recovery for survivors of sexual crimes can be complex, horrific, and traumatic, but more often than not, it is a road that is validating and brave. A road that can eventually take the onus of responsibility off the shoulders of the survivor, and put it squarely where it belongs – on the shoulders of the perpetrator.
Paul’s story is indeed a journey that covers every aspect of the justice process, with its ups and downs, frustrations, and anxieties. The telling of his experiences is retraumatising to say the least, but in turn, his journey has provided him with growth and insight into the extraordinary person he is. On his own admission, it has taken him quite some time to see this himself; but he now appreciates himself – as he should.
Paul’s book is inspirational and courageous. No-one can stand in another person’s shoes when it comes to reactions and recovery regarding crimes of this nature. Nobody can truly understand the losses experienced by the survivor – the loss of innocence, the loss of childhood, the loss of trust. Telling someone what has happened, whomever that person may be, really is the most important step to the road to recovery.
I wish Paul – and all survivors of childhood sexual assault – a future that is their own, to hold onto and to enjoy their life in their recovery. We cannot change the past, but we can certainly change the impact the past has on our future life.
Numerous times in the past six years, I have been asked ‘Why are you writing this book?’ It’s hard to answer with a quick, one-sentence reply. I suppose people might think it’s like writing down your worst nightmare – something better forgotten. In truth, there are three reasons I wrote this book.
Firstly, I started out writing my story to try to clarify and position the abuse in the context of my life. I really wanted to be clear about how it happened and all the ramifications that followed. I feel I have achieved this.
Secondly, I wrote this story because my young children don’t yet understand what happened to their dad. This book will help put my life and theirs into a bigger context.
The third reason – and the major purpose of the book – is to show other victims of abuse that you can overcome it. You can never rid it from your memory, nor forget the physical occurrences. You live with it all the time and must come to terms with this. I wanted to explain to others how I overcame my abuse, and the considerable hurdles that had to be jumped along the way. I have achieved the happy ending, which is that I can live with myself. I hope this book inspires other victims to come forward, and encourages family members and friends to support abused loved ones by listening, and not judging.
I am incredibly heartened by, and proud of, all the people who have come forward as part of the Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse. There is no justification for sexual abuse. It should not be accepted or condoned. It is a crime. Society must have zero tolerance. It is something that no child should have to deal with. If this book brings greater awareness about the insidious threat of sexual predators, then fewer children will be abused and more paedophiles, still at large, will be brought to justice.
If this book helps one victim, or motivates one person to help a victim, then my book has achieved its aim.
Sunday mornings, we would head off to church. At 13 years old, I felt I had outgrown Sunday school, but my younger siblings still enjoyed it – or pretended to – and it was our family routine. Anyway, my dad was one of the Sunday school teachers, so attending was obligatory; there was no point in moaning, feigning illness, or trying to get out of it.
We’d pile into our 6-seater Chrysler Valiant and head off to church. Halfway through the service, my sisters Sharon and Jasmine and I went with my dad to the rooms at the back of church for Sunday school, while Mum stayed at the service with my youngest brother Gary. Dad disappeared into one room with a bunch of reluctant-looking teenagers, while Sharon and Jasmine and I joined the younger kids to be tutored by Jim Andrews. I didn’t have much of an opinion of Jim then; besides, he wasn’t into football and cricket like I was, so there wasn’t much to talk about. I didn’t respect him or like him; he wasn’t going to be a role model in my life. He was my Sunday school teacher and that was that.
One of the good things about the church was the youth group excursions. Sometimes we stayed overnight at a beach house and had camping trips. It was all good fun with a fantastic group of kids. However, right from the start I noticed there was something strange about Jim. His actions and mannerisms were very effeminate, and he acted much younger than his actual age.