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Preston Peter's story

Preston was born in the 1960s into a highly dysfunctional family. His parents fought a lot when he was young, and both his mother and father had extramarital affairs which caused many arguments. He was his mother’s ‘favoured punching bag’ (she also called him a ‘fucking little fairy, good for nothing’), and his dad would lay into him with a leather strap.

They would laugh at him when he ran away from home, and beat him when he returned. ‘Why did they bother bringing me into this world? I didn't feel I belonged. Certainly not loved.’

He spent time in foster care, and was sexually abused in one of his foster placements.

When Preston was in his mid-teens the family experienced a bereavement, and his mother sent him to see a psychiatrist, Dr Maher. During the several sessions Preston attended Dr Maher would hypnotise him and then put his arm around him, drawing him closer.

‘He embraces me, reassuring me “it’s okay, you can call me Daddy, I know you don't have a relationship with your daddy”. Confused as I smell the odour of his smoker’s breath, just like my father.’

The psychiatrist would then sexually abuse him by fondling his genitals. Preston was very confused by what was happening, and the physical reaction he had to being touched by Dr Maher.

‘I hated, I feared - yet I still attended. Why? Because I'm stupid? Because I knew no better? I am stupid, stupid for believing, stupid for accepting his words and his actions based upon his instructions.

‘The erections I'd felt during those years are remembered to this day, not because there was any pleasure, but the confusion I felt, the conflict at a result of actions against my will, by a professional. Years on, every time I was able to feel erections, it was felt as something dirty, inappropriate feelings to be shrouded in shame. Intimacy was a learned behaviour, no pleasure, just robotic to please another.’

Preston told the Commissioner that he has also been sexually abused by numerous other men, and some of this abuse continued into adulthood. He feels that the lack of affection from his parents made him particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse.

‘I craved love, even to be held by my parents but never was. The warmth of an abuser’s body and his soothing words, even his breath were all comforting to me in a way I know as an adult it should not.’

Preston attempted suicide a couple of times as a child, lives with depression, and is hypervigilant about his surroundings. ‘I've never slept well, never been able to sleep where I can't see the door. That goes for being out and about too. Always planning my exit strategy. As a kid it was the same, at the back but nearest to the door. I've never been able to break it. For years I thought it a habit so I tried to change that. Anxiety levels increased and life dysfunction escalated. It just never seemed worth it to me.’

He is currently supported by his partner, and also mental health professionals who help him deal with the impacts of the sexual, physical and psychological abuse he experienced as a child.

‘Through counselling and psychotherapy I'm slowly and for the first time able to recognise the difference in safe pleasures and those of an abusive past. I’m learning now I can actually feel compassion, pleasure, safety and a willingness to participate in a life lost for 40 years.’

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