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Brave sex abuse victim forced to reveal identity in fight for justice
A 32-year-old man repeatedly subjected to sexual abuse whilst under the care of a West Yorkshire special school has been forced to waive his right to anonymity as he pursues his fight for justice.
John Brooke, originally from Heckmondwike but now living in Huddersfield, had hoped he would not have to reveal his identity when he broke his decades-long silence and appealed for witnesses and other victims to come forward. But he delayed contacting the media at the request of police whilst specialist sex offence officers from Operation Topaz investigated his claims. When nobody was subsequently charged and the investigation had officially concluded, Mr Brooke found that the law prevented the media from then naming the school he had been abused at.
“As I can’t tell people which school I was at when I was abused, I’ve been left with no choice but to waive my right to anonymity in the hope that people will remember my name – John Brooke - and what happened to me and others at this school in the early 1990s.”
Mr Brooke has undergone years of psychological treatment and counselling and was only first able to speak about his childhood ordeal last year. Mr Brooke, who is unmarried and registered disabled, hoped that by coming forward he would trigger the memory of others who might be able to help corroborate his account of how he was abused for several years while under the care of a specialist school in the area.
“My mother has muscular dystrophy and my father wasn’t around,” said Mr Brooke. “I was suffering from emotional behavioural difficulties and she couldn’t cope with looking after me, so when I was nine I was placed in a specialist psychiatric unit for children with special needs.”
In 1991, Mr Brooke joined the specialist school in West Yorkshire. “Whilst I was there I was sexually abused,” he said. “The abuse was regular and constant, and I’ve struggled to come to terms with it every day since.”
Mr Brooke said he was big for his age, and after a few months at the school he was placed in a dormitory with older boys because of his larger build. The room housed six children, most of whom were 14 and 15 years old. He was just 11.
“It began the first night I slept there,” said Mr Brooke. “I’d fallen asleep and was woken in the middle of the night when I felt someone’s hand forcing my head down. I was terrified. They raped me, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop them.”
Although Mr Brooke could not identify his attacker, he knew it was a strong, large male and so believed it was a member of staff. “He must have abused me 20 times over the next few months,” he said. “It was always the same pattern – I’d fall asleep, and then in the middle of the night I’d be woken and raped.”
Mr Brooke said his situation went from bad to worse when he became the victim of a second attacker. “There was another pupil at the school who had a reputation as a bit of a predator,” he said. “I know he had been caught in bed with at least one other child, and he started sexually abusing me in the night. I couldn’t stop him because he was so much bigger and stronger than me. He would force himself on me every couple of days.”
Mr Brooke said he wanted to tell a member of staff about the abuse, but felt he couldn’t trust anyone at the school. “If I did complain, for all I knew I could have been talking to the person who was abusing me in the night,” he said.
“The one day I did pluck up the courage to say something, I told a member of staff that I was being ‘hurt in the night’. It was the only way I could think to explain what was happening to me,” he said. “The staff member said he’d keep an eye on me, but the abuse continued and no-one ever intervened.
“At the time I felt so ashamed for not being able to stop the abuse,” he said. “I felt like it was my fault in some way, like I’d done something to deserve what was happening to me. But over the last few years I’ve learned to accept that it was not my fault at all.
“I was entrusted to the care of that school. They were supposed to care for me, look after me, to watch over me. But instead, I was attacked relentlessly for two years,” he said. “It has really messed up my life, and now that I’m starting to come to terms with it I feel bitter and angry that nobody did anything to help me.”
Mark Hatzer, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP, is representing Mr Brooke. “He left the specialist school in 1993 and went into mainstream education, but after his experiences over those few years he was never sure who he could trust, or even what normal behaviour was,” said Mr Hatzer.
“Unfortunately as is so often the case in situations like this, the issues arising from his abuse made this young man even more vulnerable and he fell in with a bad crowd. The downward spiral led to a dependency on drugs and subsequently to petty crimes and a criminal record.”
Mr Hatzer explained how the abuse Mr Brooke was subjected to as a child had made it difficult for him to form relationships as an adult, but he was determined to overcome all of the problems he has since encountered.
“Despite the horrific ordeal he suffered as a child, he is working hard to turn his life around,” said Mr Hatzer. “He is currently studying Archaeology in order to obtain a degree from the Open University, and is undergoing regular counselling and therapy as he fights for his future.
“It has taken many years for him to find the strength to talk about what happened to him almost 20 years ago,” he said. “We hope that the bravery he has shown in breaking his silence – and even more so in waiving his right to remain anonymous - will inspire others who witnessed his abuse, or who might also have been subjected to it, to come forward and help him as he begins his fight for justice.
“No child should have to go through the ordeal that he faced as a young boy,” said Mr Hatzer, “but there is a possibility that many of the children he shared those few years with were subjected to the same or similar abuse.”
Mr Hatzer urged anyone who remembered being at the specialist school with John Brooke, between 1991 and 1993, to come forward.
“We are hoping that anyone who witnessed my client or any other children at the school being abused will speak up,” he said. “The events of so many years ago nearly destroyed this man’s life, and it is high time that those responsible were held to account.”
Can you help? If you attended school with John Brooke between 1991 and 1993, if you witnessed any attacks over that time, or if you were subjected to any similar attacks, please contact Mark Hatzer at Fentons Solicitors LLP on 0844 854 3078. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence, and any detail – no matter how insignificant you might think it is - could be hugely important to this case.
Media coverage of this story can be found here:
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