When George Summerson was ten he was abused by an uncle which ruined his life. He now wants to help other victims of abuse. Catherine Scott reports.
“All I want is to start my own family, but I just can’t get close to anyone after what happened to me,” says childhood sexual abuse victim George Summerson.
George was just ten when he was abused by an uncle for more than a year. He has now decided to speak out in an attempt to gain closure and move on with his life after he was denied his day in court when his uncle died before he was due in court..
He also wants to raise awareness of the fact that many abusers are known to the victim by taking part in this weekend’s Great North Run for the NSPCC.
“I was a bit of a loner in school. I had a couple of close friends but I kept to myself a lot. I wasn’t particularly good at anything and wasn’t sporty but I did like art,” says George now 35 from York.
“One of my uncles who we saw a lot was into art as well. When I was about 10-years-old, he asked my dad if he could take me away for a night in his camper van to a nice part of the countryside where we could do some painting. I was excited by the prospect too because it was nice that someone I looked up to wanted to spend some time with me.
“We went away and painted in the day and at night we played some games in the camper van. He suggested that we played strip poker. I thought it was a bit strange at first but went along with it as he was an adult. While we were playing, he started to abuse me. I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t know what to say. Part of me was still flattered that an adult was paying attention to me.”
he abuse continued over the course of a year during various trips out. Finally George realised that what was happening wasn’t right so he stopped going out with his uncle. After that, he still saw him during family gatherings but nothing was ever mentioned so George tried to just forget about it.
“Over the years, I bottled things up and didn’t talk to anyone about what had happened. As a family we don’t talk about our feelings much; we just tend to get on with things.” But as George got older he found it increasingly difficult to forget what happened to him.
At 16 he started smoking cannabis.
“For the first time in my life I actually felt free from it all,” he recalls. “I moved abroad and tried to move on with my life but what happened to me affected my relationships and I pushed people away and didn’t want to let anyone close to me.”
For the next 16 years George used drugs on a regular basis as it was the only way he says he could feel happy and relaxed.
“To start with it would help me forget for a day, then just a few hours then only about ten minutes or so until it wasn’t working for me any more.”
One day, on a visit back to the UK, George was told that his uncle had been jailed for having explicit images of children on his computer.
“Although this brought back all the feelings again, I thought I could finally move on but instead found myself getting more depressed.” After 20 years of bottling it up George decided he had to at last talk about what had happened to him.
“I decided to open up to my brother Paul as he was the only one of my siblings that I thought had any connection to that uncle.. At the time I was told nothing had ever happened to him but he told me I had to tell my dad.”
Over the next year George started to tell his family one by one what had happened to him and they were all devasated.
“In 2013 I realised I could no longer live with myself and decided the time was right to return home to deal with the demons that have been haunting me for over 20 years. Just before my return, Paul called me in tears and opened up to say that my uncle had in fact abused him too a few years earlier.
“It was at this point we decided to go to the police together to make a statement.”
It then emerged that George cousin Jennie had also been abused by his uncle when she was just five.
“With all three of us, there were 32 counts of indecent abuse against him. Finally, I was building myself up to giving evidence against him in person in court,” says George, who works in a call centre in York.
“ It would have been the first time that I had seen him in years and it was a daunting prospect.
“My dad said I shoukld give evidence via video link, but I wanted him to look me in the eye and see what he had done to me and how it had affected my life.
“Then about a week before the trial he died after drinking himself to death. I felt cheated that he wouldn’t go through the trial and it’s left me feeling like I’m limbo.
“The police were so confident that he wouldn’t get away with it due to the amount of evidence so I was awarded compensation but it’s just not the same. I wanted to gain some closure, I hoped that after the court case I could at last move on with my life. But if anything I felt worse.”
George hopes by speaking out about what happened to him it will give him the closure he hoped he would have had by seeing his uncle in court.
“I really want my own family but somehow when I do get close to someone I find a reason to find something negative which ends it.”
He also wants to make sure with all the publicity surrounding the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal, that people don’t forget abusers can be much closer to home.
“At the minute, the news is constantly filled with celebrity abusers but I want people to remember that what we see as normal, everyday people abuse children too and that the affects aren’t any less devastating.
“ I would urge people who have suffered abuse to speak out and tell someone. You don’t have to feel ashamed and you don’t have to live in silence, people can help if they know.
“I have decided to do the Great North Run for the NSPCC again as a way of channelling my feelings into something more positive by helping raise money to help children who have suffered abuse.
“I really hope that one day I can work with other victims to help them move on with their lives.”
George’s Great North Run
George Summerson will be taking part in this Sunday’s Great North Run to raise money for the NSPCC. He raised £800 taking part in the event last year and hopes to raise more than £650 this year and greater awareness of child victims of sexual abuse.
He also want to knock at least 10 minutes of the time he did last year and finish around 1hr 42 minutes.
The NSPCC is the only charity fighting to stop child abuse in the UK.
For more information visit www.nspcs.org.uk
To sponsor George visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/George-Summerson