At 12 years old, Kenneth knew almost nothing about sex. So when groundsman John Monaghan drew him into a shed and put a hand down his pants, Kenneth didn’t understand what was going on.
Monaghan worked at the Anglican high school that Kenneth attended in the 1950s. Kenneth’s dad worked there too and he knew the groundsman, but had no suspicions about him.
In fact, both of Kenneth’s parents were so nonchalant about Monaghan’s relationship with their son that they happily let Kenneth visit him one day during the summer holidays.
‘He invited me to his house’, Kenneth recalled, ‘saying he was a photographer and wanted to take some nice pictures of me’.
As soon as Kenneth arrived, Monaghan pulled him inside, removed his pants and started performing oral sex on him. By this stage of his life, Kenneth had experienced erections before but never in a sexual context. He stood there, frozen, until ‘something happened that made me feel faint’. Kenneth now knows that the ‘something’ was his first ejaculation.
‘There was no pleasure associated with it at all. I said, “I feel faint”, to which he replied, “Are you alright?” He seemed to take fright and quickly saw me out … He couldn’t get rid of me quickly enough. He thought something had gone wrong.’
Kenneth went home and told his dad what had happened, avoiding the explicit details. ‘His response was to have a profound effect on me. He said, “I don’t suppose it was very serious”.’
Kenneth’s father never reported the matter to anyone and no official action was taken. Still, Monaghan never went near Kenneth again.
Kenneth, meanwhile, put the matter out of his mind. By his 20s he had forgotten the incident completely. Even as he battled addiction and depression and grew increasingly fearful and anxious about sex, he never turned his thoughts directly to the abuse.
He married, raised a family and enjoyed a fulfilling career. Then one day, more than 30 years after the abuse, Kenneth fell ill and, on the recommendation of a friend, sought help from a medical professional who offered a holistic approach to healing.
‘Her holistic approach led me, for the first time, to really think about influences on my emotional life. This was important for the depressive aspect of my illness. Suddenly, and quite out of the blue, I became aware that I was a victim of sexual abuse.’
Kenneth disclosed the abuse to the therapist and then to his wife and some close friends. It was a step towards healing, bolstered by Kenneth’s conversion to Christianity, but in many ways it was a false start and he got worse before he got better.
Depression and addiction resurfaced and it was some time before he was able to get his life back on course, but he did, thanks to the efforts of a wise and patient counsellor.
‘I faced the issues through her help. And the emotion, again, was similar to when I found out I was a victim – that deep, absolute weeping from the depths of my soul, and realising afterwards that it was good to do that … Emotionally and spiritually I’ve been helped and am at peace these days.’