A Whisper in the Storm – Peter

*trigger warning; sexual, physical and pastoral abuse

Innocence lost.

And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:27-29

The decision to finally have my story written was not an easy one. However, it became a necessity to make a personal stand and draw a line in the sand. Part of my journey to wholeness. It has been my experience that there is a huge stigma attached to boys who have been molested.  When they share their stories, they lose their friends, especially male friends. While I am very aware that we have an enemy who would like to bring up my past and destroy my soul constantly, I will no longer bow down to the shame and guilt I have worn as a cloak for so many years. Its power will not be used against me; my identity is found in Jesus!

Prior to turning six, I have only faint memories.

The green gate scraped the dirt as I swung back and forth on its hinges. My earliest memory, insignificant for so many years, now means more to me than I ever thought possible. The next memory I have is of nearly drowning in a waterfall on the same premises.  My mother saw me flailing in the water and ran and pulled me up before I went down completely. I remember swallowing water and feeling complete terror that I was going to die.

Growing up, I lived in a low socioeconomic suburb with my solo mum, and we struggled financially week to week. There were a lot of times we went hungry. The harsh reality of New Zealand, as beautiful as it is depicted, is that to this day, one in five children lives in poverty.

Mum’s choice of boyfriends over the years was deeply unhealthy and mostly included addicts and abusive monsters. She seemed to accept this as her lot in life, as though that was all she deserved.  We became accustomed to doors being slammed, screaming, sobbing and my mum pleading for them to stop reverberating through the house.

Moving from my home of Christchurch to the city of Auckland when I was six, mum met a man who promised her the world and delivered her a living hell. They started a family. However, his façade didn’t stay for long, and his true nature was evident when he began to beat her daily.  Mum began to save little bits of money for weeks and weeks until she had enough money to fly us back to Christchurch, to start again. In my eyes, my mother is a hero.

 “Quick, behind the couch!” My sister Julia warned. My siblings and I tumbled down as we heard another rapping at the door. My heart racing and hands sweating, I held my breath until sure it wasn’t our father coming to take us back to Auckland. Every time my mother would get a visitor, this scene would play out; we were terrified of the man we called Father.

I developed deep anxiety from this. I was a very nervous and highly-strung young boy who continually wet his bed. School was also a nightmare, and I was unable to learn to write well due to my constant state of fear. The children at my school learned I was a bedwetter and were terribly cruel towards me. And, of course, no one befriended me. This suited me as no one asked questions about why I was the way I was. I was terrified of people knowing the full extent of the squaller and abusive environment we lived in. Later in high school, I kept my distance from people, even from my only friend at the time, avoiding becoming close friends just in case he found out about my life. When you have a dark past, it’s easier not to have anyone around. It’s easier being isolated so that no one can find out.

Social Welfare became a part of our story when my younger sister, Charlie, was still a baby after Mum began seeing a truck driver, Frank. When Frank visited, he would often take us for rides in his truck. On one occasion, we went for a ride to the dump. I remember Charlie’s pushchair was left alone with her in it. With no one looking out for my little sister, a bulldozer ran the pushchair over. Her small head was ploughed into the ground, and she was in a coma for months to come. While Charlie was in a coma, Social Welfare was called, and all of us were removed from our home. I was by then, seven and a half years old. Being separated from mum and not being in familiar surroundings was so scary.  It’s challenging to explain.

After being removed from our home, we were transported to Strathmore Girls’ home. It was a home for troubled girls, similar to what Kingsley used to be. We witnessed many incidents of violence, physical abuse, mental abuse and suicide. My older sister, Julia, was nine years old when we first arrived, and Charlie was just a baby in a cot. At times, Charlie would be crying, and they wouldn’t let us near her to comfort her, which to this day still haunts me.

After Strathmore Girls’ home, we were sent to many different children’s homes. I was sent to about twenty different foster homes and about five or six different children’s homes. I ended up being placed in a well-known children’s home run by a church organisation and a local minister. At the time, the minister seemed to have a good rapport with the children. However, the staff would always say, “Watch out! He looks down the girls’ tops, you know.”  The horror of what he was truly capable of I wasn’t warned about. I didn’t have a father figure in my life. I believe that this plays a massive role in how predators select their victims.

Many young boys that were in my position had a natural desire for a ‘normal’ family. The minister would visit me at the children’s home, and for some reason, I still can’t get my head around, they allowed him access to the shower room. Often, he came up to the shower room and would get into the shower with me. I was sexually molested in the shower repeatedly, and with no framework of what was acceptable adult behaviour, I said and did nothing.

The minister invited me to start visiting him at his home. At first, this seemed like an excellent opportunity, as he had children of his own. Visiting his home meant that I was required to stay the night in his bed. This progressed to the weekend and eventually during the holidays too. All sorts of traumatic sexual abuse would take place on these overnight stays. The minister was a widower, and it remains a mystery to me that Social Welfare would allow him to look after an eight-year old little boy.

The sexual abuse from the minister continued for several years until I was about eleven. I had learned to accept the abuse as normal and, in fact, permissible. At one point, I asked him, “May I call you Dad?” He refused. In hindsight, I understand why he said no. Why would you want someone to call you ‘Dad,’ who you’d been abusing for years?  However, it shows the level of grooming and psychological abuse that had twisted my mind into believing that this man was a worthy candidate for a dad. However, when he said no, it broke my heart. I was looking for something, anything, some sort of love that we as humans are created to search for. Created for connection, nurture, safety and love.

When I was eleven, I met a rugby coach who also worked in a cinema. The coach provided me with free cinema tickets, which in my mind, was awesome. By this stage, I was the perfect child to take advantage of. It was as though I had a tattoo on my forehead, invisible to all but paedophiles, stating they could do what they wanted with me. Before I knew it, I would be invited to go to the cinema after hours with no one around. The coach would make excuses to my foster parent, who was another of my abusers, and say that I had to be somewhere. The coach introduced me to ‘starring’ in children’s pornographic movies.  What I look back on as my lowest point was when I was on a trip with the coach. He ushered me into a room and said, “Come in here.” I asked, “What for?” He said, “You’ll know.”

There was an older man in the room who liked young boys. My coach said to me afterwards, “Now I’ve got petrol money to get back home again.” That’s what I was worth, petrol money. Cash was exchanged for an eleven-year-old boy’s body.

The hardest part of my story came around the age of twelve to thirteen, and I ended up being sold into prostitution. Prostituted to paedophilic older males who wanted to sexually abuse young boys. Life began to be worthless and less. Despite the hell I was living, I didn’t suffer from suicidal thoughts. I always believed there was a better life around the corner. So, I always looked for the better. I now know this was the hand of God protecting my mind from yielding to that darkness.

I relied on myself then no one could let me down and no one could harm me. I escaped the people who were prostituting me at the age of fourteen, but soon after, I ended up in another boys’ home for bad behaviour. Boys’ homes often lead to periodic detention (PD), which consequently leads to prison. On separate occasions, I did three months, six months, and eighteen months in prison. I would stay out of prison for three months or a month in between. Yet, it was safe and comfortable being in prison because while I was there, I didn’t have to worry about anything.

After being released, there was always the complication that someone would find out about my past, which felt pretty scary. I would rather face guys coming at me with knives than to even consider people knowing any of what I am sharing with you now.

As I got older I would walk into rooms and feel like the odd one out, feeling as though no one could relate to me because I what I had done as a young person. The choices I had made because of the abuse I had suffered. I would hear people talking about brotherhood and sharing their lives and would shudder in revulsion and terror at the thought. In defence, I put up walls, great big walls that would keep everyone at a distance. I was determined no one would know the real me. This continued until I met my wife, who became my one true friend forever. By the time I met her I had been in prison, a stripper and a regular sex worker. I still haven’t worked through all the shame and condemnation that tries to hold me down from those choices.

There were times when I would get drunk, and while talking to someone I would share bits of my past. It might only have been a little bit. The next day I would remember what I’d said and would endeavour to never see them again.

Throughout my life, God has been pursuing me. His grace has sort me out at every turn. His hand has protected me. I have been at the hands of horrific abuse and pain, but God. Could He have prevented it? Yes, He is all omnipotent. And though I do not understand many things, I do know He is good. There are many mysteries that I have come to be at peace of not knowing.

After giving my life to Jesus and growing in Him, I was always worried that the pornographic photos or videos were going to be found on the Internet. The devil has a way of keeping you captive, holding you in fear and isolating you so that you don’t get close to anybody.

However, I realised after accepting Him into my heart, I wanted to do God’s work, and the only way I could do His will and serve Him with all I had in me was to be set free. Since sharing my testimony I have found that every time the Lord has used me, I have had to share an aspect of my past. And each time I’ve gone home and thought to myself, “I’m never going to look at those people again. I’m never going to see them again. I will never talk to them again. I can’t look them in the eye. I’m leaving the church.” The anxiety is real. This is hard because I don’t want to have this reaction each time God uses me. Quite honestly, I don’t want to be in this skin. This skin I’m in now makes me remember what happened. While I have yet to work through things, I know He sees me as pure and spotless before him because of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

A few years ago I got involved with a law firm to try to get justice through the legal system. I thought that if I got involved with this law firm, I’d be able to sue Social Welfare and could put this all behind me. I’ve been through so many interviews, which continue to this day. It’s an ongoing process that will hopefully prevent other children from going through the horrors I did. I believe that we have a responsibility to the next generation to do better. To be a voice for them.

God has me on a journey, an undoing of lies. An undoing of pain and mental pathways of belief. I’ll never give up until the very end of my life, I will cling to Him till my last breath. I’ve got to change some things in order to move forward. My beautiful children don’t even know that I’ve been in prison, let alone anything else that happened to me.

I pray that if you have been hurt as a child you would find a safe place like I have – a place to be accepted for who you are, a safe harbour. I pray that most of all you find your safe place in Jesus. Psalm 46:1, “God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble.” I believe there were many times when I could have lost my life, but He saved me.

God is going to use my wounds for the good. May my testimony bring others hope, hope for the future. Hope for the darkest of days, may you know that God is our Hope. Our anchor for the soul. In Him, ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him.

I find myself in a fellowship where I am accepted wholeheartedly. They love me for who I am. I get to worship next to my wonderful wife. Through my testimony, I hope people can see who I am, for better and not for worse. Not someone to be pitied, a conqueror in Jesus.

Bless you, as you journey to wholeness in Him.

*names changed for privacy

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