GEOFF SMITH – SURVIVOR OF FATHER ROBINSON, ARCHDIOCESE OF BIRMINGHAM
My name is Geoffrey Smith, I am 11 years old, and I am standing outside a butchers shop in Station Road, Aldridge. It is summer 1961, and in front of me is the most beautiful, powerful looking, and it appeared to me at the time to be an enormous motor cycle, a Triumph Bonneville. It is parked in front of the shop, and as I stand looking at it, a man comes out and starts to talk to me. He introduced himself as Jimmy Robinson; he had a job in the butchers. I was asked if I would like a ride, and I said I would ask my mom, the day after, mom agreed, and off we went, but I did not get the ride I was looking for. I sat on the back of the bike, my arms stretched out around his waist, holding on for life and death, I now realize, this is what he wanted me to do, he went faster, and I held on tighter, common sense. We travelled for about 10 minutes, and stopped outside a house in Leighs Road Pelsall. He switched of the bike and we got off, I stood there looking confused, I asked where we are? And he told me we were at his mother’s house; he wanted to call for something. We walked up to the front door; he got out a key and pushed me in. He then forced me to go upstairs, to the back bedroom, and abused me. I did not realize it was abuse, I thought he was queer, and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After 20 minutes, he told me to get dressed, and we went downstairs, to go home. But before he opened the door, I was threatened, with shadow boxing, and this was when he told me that he was a former professional boxer. He took me home on the bike, dropped me at the top of our street, and drove away. I went home, said nothing, went upstairs and had a wash. I did not tell my mom what had happened, as I believed that I would have not been believed, and would get belting for telling lies. A couple of days later, he was waiting outside my school, and again threatened me, and so I had to go. In all this abuse lasted I would say 10/12 weeks, always the same routine, If I hid, and went home another way, he would call to the house, to have tea, and a cake with my mother, then she would tell me to go for the ride with Jimmy. He always told my family, that he was a trainee priest, from Oscott College,Sutton Coldfield, and that his butchers job was for the summer holidays. One day out of the blue, he arrived at our back door, gave me a gift of a pair of professional boxing shorts, and left, never to be seen again. I cannot remember if they were red or blue, all that I can remember is the blood on the front of them, dried on blood, all over the “Lonsdale” waist band, the blood was dried black, that was the last time I ever saw that evil priest, I say priest, he was not ordained, but it was he who introduced me to Catholicism, and I did not like it. I threw the shorts straight in the dust bin, together with the memories of that evil, evil man.
My name is Geoff Smith, I am 60 years old, and I live in Southern Ireland. I am standing outside Court no 3,Birmingham Crown Court, it is 22 October 2010.Richard John James Robinson, has just been convicted of 21 counts of sexual abuse, on six victims, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison, and it was stated that he cannot put in for parole, for 14 years. I am feeling very relieved and very happy at the outcome of this trial, I have waited 50 years for my day in Court, and I never ever thought I would ever see Jimmy Robinson again, after 50 years, this was not long enough. But I do have the satisfaction, of knowing, that after 50 years, I did have the opportunity to do the right thing, I am only sorry for my fellow victims, some of whom, suffered sexual abuse, for the pure and simple fact, that as an 11 year old, if I had had the courage, to report my abuse, they would have been spared. I can only say, sorry.
As I walked with my brothers in the Public area inside Court, a man was on a mobile phone, he looked at me, put his phone away, and came to me to shake my hand. This we did, he congratulated me, and I was told that the Defence, had sent a man to California, to get details of the Parishes Robinson had been in, the LA Diocese, would not talk to them. He was sent to the Vatican, and again they would not talk to them. This is the Institution, that, back in 1985, after a priest, in charge of Children’s Protection in the Birmingham Diocese, had informed his Bishop, and the West Midlands Police, that Robinson, had abused victims, whilst he was in Ministry in Birmingham, but the Police did nothing about the allegations, it does appear at the trial The Bishop of Birmingham, got the investigation dropped. In fact there is a victim, in Scotland, with a letter, from West Midlands Police, apologising, some years later, for not doing an investigation.
During the sentencing of Robinson, the Judge, The Right Honourable Patrick Thomas QC, called for a Public Enquiry, into the handling of this priest, by the Birmingham Diocese and in particular, The Catholic Church, I suppose that says everything there should be a Public Enquiry, in fact in Northern Ireland, I do believe there is going to be one, for the same reasons. If it is good enough for them, why should the victims in Birmingham, go without, I would be very much in favour, I would even volunteer, to give its first victim statement. I live for that day.
I have spent a few months, writing my story, and I was given the opportunity, to publish a blog, I would be very pleased if you would go to
It is my way, of trying to get the word out, out to other victims, either children, or grown ups like me, the message I would give them is, you are not alone, there are people out here that will listen, will understand, will believe you, I think that is so important, I waited 50 years for help, its now my turn to help others.
Childhood Sexual abuse by clergy causes brain damage
All childhood abuse is a criminal travesty and the effects and ramifications are wide- reaching across families, communities and even through generations. It pervades our individual and global conscience as a crime against the very nature of the human condition – but what are the long-term effects on a survivor of abuse?
How are survivors REALLY affected?
What effect does trauma of this nature have on an individual? Psychologically and biologically?
Survivors Voice is involved in a collaborative project with SMART-UK where we explore, research, and teach the neuro-biology of childhood trauma.
The psychological effects of childhood abuse are well documented and contain some very worrying statistics, but we do feel that by and large the effects of clergy abuse are widely under-estimated and sometimes even trivialised.
There are many opinions about the effect of abuse, many ideas for it’s treatment, all based on experience or education or personal involvement. Nothing wrong with opinions of course, it is how we learn to survive. Not so helpful, however when you are trying to find consistency, or indeed educate.Often we find that people will do the wrong things, despite them being very much for the right reasons.
Our understanding of Childhood clergy abuse, goes underneath all of those opinions and sticks with the biology.We explore, research and teach the neuro-biology of trauma.
We know that if you have a thorough understanding of something, you have a greater chance of effective intervention.
We are aware that that commonly people who have been abused will experience:
Shock-disclosure in later life can be as raw as when it happened.
* Fear of the Dark
* Fear of Intimacy
* Fear of Sexuality
* Feeling alone-rejected
* Fear of change
* Fear of doctors, priests,authority, that list is endless.
* Panic attacks
* Body Dysmorphia
* Physical pain
* Obsessive / Compulsive issues
* Self harm
* Eating disorders
* Deeply damaged trust mechanisms
* Suicidal tendencies
Anger, Shame, Guilt, Loneliness, Isolation, unworthiness, poor coping mechanisms, inability to self nurture, flashbacks etc. etc. this list could go on and on.
And when the abuser is a trusted person like a clergyman, then the effects are further compounded.
That there are symptoms which are common to abuse victims is clear, they vary from person to person and can range from a fear of the dark to a full blown mental illness.All of these symptoms are , however, the manifestations of what is going on within the brain.
The human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. It controls everything about us, our breathing our heartbeat, our thought processes, memory, feelings and our behaviour. It is made up of 100,000,000,000 neurons and at least as many other cells which help brain the function.These cells communicate with each other such that the number of connections in a single brain outnumber the total number of atoms in the known universe.
The major pathways and functional units of the brain is under genetic control and are formed before birth ;however, synaptic connections are shaped and sculpted by individual experience , forming the structure for memory and learned behaviour.Every emotion we feel, every thought we have spring from the workings of the brain.
When pathways experience repetitive stimulation or trauma, those pathways become “entrained” This is called Long Term Potentiation. Part of the brain has permanently changed it’s function. Once entrained it can no longer go back, it is a permanant physical change. This is the mechanism for “triggers” , the brain has learned the experience of profound trauma, and what caused it, and these persistent memories are potentiated.
So if someone experiences or even thinks about something reminiscant of that trauma, then those pathways are very quickly reactivated again due to Long term potentiation.
The human brain doesn’t come “complete” at birth, it is only partially wired, the rest gets moulded by the environment and life experiences. Some parts of the brain are not fully connected until our late twenties and early thirties.
It seems obvious therefore that the effects of abuse will have a permanant effect on the brain and consequently on the persons we are.
The implications of our research are massive, and we continue to study and teach this in our “Brains Bombs and Baddies” courses for professionals.
* There is long term potentiation of neural pathways
* Abuse will damage the Amygdala and the Hippocampus
* It will raise glucocortisoids, and therefore perpetuate the damage
* It is possible that stem cells in the brain resposible for very low level of neurogenesis suffer
* It even suggests that those who suffer childhood trauma like sexual abuse may have shorter life spans.
The work done by therapists and treatment approaches can be very effective, and so one should not feel despair at the severity of this issues,but it is crucial to have a proper understanding of it in order to make any real headway with any person’s recovery.
The severity of childhood sexual abuse by the clergy is far reaching, can be life limiting and indeed life threatening. It is essential that the enormity of clergy abuse is understood by everyone concerned with abuse survival, and the wider public so that correct and appropriate interventions can be accessed, but also so that these criminal acts should be acknowleged and given the correct persepective.
So what price brain damage?
What price Loss of potential?
What price a distorted life path
What price a shortened life?
Survivors Voice Europe
Graham Wilmer – Salesian priest abuse survivor
I was born in Bedford, England on 20th October 1951. Three years later, my parents moved to Pyrford in Surrey, where I grew up with my four sisters. I went to Pyrford Primary School, where I was very happy and did well. In September 1963, aged eleven, I went to the Salesian College in Chertsey, Surrey, an independent Catholic school for boys. For the next three years, I enjoyed school, made good friends and continued to do well academically.
Then, in September 1966, a new teacher joined the school. Hubert Madley. Within a few weeks, he began to be very friendly to me, taking me home after school and working his way into my family. Then it began, and for the next two years he sexually abused me as often as he could and wherever he could.
In February 1968, following the tragic death of my closest friend, Martin Allen, I went to confession and told my housemaster, Fr Madden, what Madley was doing to me. Fr Madden then told the headmaster, Fr O’Shea, who informed the Rector, Fr Gaffney and the Provincial Superior – Fr George Williams.
But, instead of helping me, they swore me to silence and moved Madley to the Salesian College in Battersea to protect him and the school’s name. I was left to fend for myself, without any support from the school. Neither my parents nor the police were told. I failed all my exams and was thrown out of the school.
The impact of the sexual trauma I had suffered was compounded by the betrayal of the Salesian priests, after I had gone to them for help, a combination which created deep- seated psychological issues within me that would continue to damage me for years to come. This damage manifested itself in different ways as I developed a range of harmful behaviours as ‘coping mechanisms’, in order to survive, including alcohol abuse, self-harm and sex addiction.
I found it difficult to settle and was incapable of forming lasting relationships. I tried to pretend that it had never happened by burying the memories deep in my mind, and for the next 30 or so years, I stumbled on through life, but the legacy of guilt, confusion and anger was never far from the surface.
Then, in 1995, the hidden memories began to re-emerge. A trickle at first, then more, and more, each time becoming sharper in focus and more detailed. They pervaded my mind during every moment of every day, and haunted my dreams at night. Eventually, at the beginning of 1997, I broke down, unable to cope with the force of these awful images, which totally overwhelmed me and took me to the brink of self-destruction. I was lucky though; I had someone who stood by me. She looked after me while I tried to find the support and counselling that I needed, and, eventually, I began to recover.
During my treatment, I was advised by my counsellor to tell the police about what had happened to me, so, in November 1999, I made a full statement to Surrey Police who launched an investigation. In April 2000, Madley was arrested, but he denied that anything had gone on between us. Fr O’Shea also denied knowing anything about it, and, based on their denials, the CPS decided not to prosecute due to lack of evidence, even though the police had not even interviewed Fr Williams by the time they made that decision.
Despite this, I was not prepared to give up, so, In October 2000, I informed the Salesians that I intended to start civil proceedings against them They responded by offering to mediate with me, although they continued to deny having any knowledge of what I had happened, saying that it would be far less painful and much quicker to mediate, rather than go through the courts. I agreed, and they began conducting their own internal investigation in preparation for the mediation.
The mediation took place in February 2001, at which the Salesians continued to deny having ever had any knowledge of what I was claiming. However, they offered me £20,000, on the understanding that I would not sue them or Madley, nor would I say anything about the matter ever again. I took the money, but I did not stay quiet. Instead, I began my own investigation, using some of the money to fund it. The breakthrough came In April 2004, after I tracked Madley down and told him that I intended to bring a private criminal prosecution against him.
This time, instead of denying everything, he wrote me a series of letters asking me to forgive him, and he had numerous telephone conversations with my friend David Williams, in which he confessed everything he had done to me. He also disclosed the full nature of the conspiracy the Provincial, Fr George Williams, had cooked up with him in 1968 to keep the lid on everything.
Surrey police decided that these letters, together with the phone calls, which David had taped, contained enough information to enable them to launch a new investigation, so, Madley was arrested again on October 17th 2004, at his home in North London, and taken to Collingwood police station, where he was interviewed under caution. Madley was subsequently charged with buggery and indecent assault, under the Sexual Offences Act 1963, and sent for trial in December 2005.
The full story of what happened to me, and the struggles I endured in my quest for justice, is told in my book ‘Conspiracy of Faith’, which was published by Lutterworth Press on 22 February 2007. Since then, allegations of sexual abuse have emerged against Fr George Williams, spanning decades and involving pupils at Shrigley Hall, the former Salesian Missionary College in Macelsfield, Cheshire. These allegations have been brought into the public domain by a former Salesian Priest, and are outlined in an open latter, published by the former priest on 23 August 2007 (this letter and the trial documents are on my website www.grahamwilmer.org.uk).
Greater Manchester Police, together with Bolton Social Services, investigated these new allegations. Following the investigation, Bolton police gave me the following statement: ‘Mr. Wilmer – regarding your allegation of sexual abuse at the hands of Fr George WILLIAMS. The matter was jointly investigated by the Child Protection Unit at Bolton and Bolton Social Services. All the information raised in your complaint has been passed to DC Mike HOBBS from Surrey Police, by DC PARKER of our unit. The reason for this was that the historical offences you outlined in your complaint were committed in the Surrey area. The Salesian College has been visited and Fr Michael WINSTANLEY is aware of the allegations. Fr WILLIAMS is now house bound and has no contact with any vulnerable persons, and he is deemed currently not to be a danger to children. In respect of the Police at Bolton there are no further lines of enquiry to pursue. Keith Isherwood, Detective Sergeant, PPIU – Child Protection Unit.’
In 2003, I set up The Lantern Project, a counseling and support service to help other survivors, but I still didn’t fully appreciate the scale of child abuse or the extent of the damage child abuse causes both at the time, and after long the abuse may have stopped. I do now, as, since then, the project has supported thousands of survivors, male and female, and of all ages, and what we have learned through that work has enabled us to develop a recovery framework, which we call Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure, which is now recognised by our Primary Care Trust, who now fund us under contract as a specialist support and counseling service for victims of psychosexual trauma.
All of the cases of child abuse that we deal with are horrific; there is no other way to describe the damage that is caused, yet, despite all of the child protection measures that schools, churches and the myriad of other organisations in the UK, which interact with children and young people, are supposed to have in place, we continue to see cases of child abuse coming forward, both historical and current, which demonstrate the inadequacies and failures of the measures that are there, enshrined in law, to protect children from abuse.
My case was far from unique; I have evidence of more than 20 other cases of child abuse occurring in Salesian schools in the UK over the past 40 years, and there are many more. The majority of the victims who have come forward and asked me to help them name the same Salesian priests, including Salesian Provincials, yet my ongoing attempts to have anyone in authority inquire into these allegations continues to meet with a deafening silence from Education Ministers, Secretaries of State, Church leaders, and, of course, the current Provincial of the Salesians in the UK, Fr Martin Coyle.
Only last week, Beverley Smith (Child Safeguarding Division – Department for Education), in response to a document I had sent to Michael Gove, containing the personal disclosures from victims of abuse in Salesian schools, and asking him to set up an investigation, wrote to me saying ‘it would not be appropriate for the Department to consider such an investigation, not least given that the allegations relate to a period so long ago.’
This is, simply, unacceptable. Child abuse is a crime. It is now, and it was then. If we can’t look to those we elect to protect our children, then we must find another way. It is only through an inquiry on a national scale, that we will be able to expose the level of abuse that has, and still does, take place in schools, churches and other institutions in our land. I support the calls from such an inquiry.
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For more information contact:
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STOP CHURCH CHILD ABUSE.
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