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How To Abuse A Child
December 16, 2003
by George Rolph

I was about 11 years old when my English teacher at the boarding school I attended began to teach me how to write poetry. Somehow he caught my imagination and I wrote reams of poems. I loved it. I would play with the rhythms and the different constructions. I would sail away to fantastic places that existed only in the deep recesses of my mind and describe them in verse heavy with rhythm. I would make the wind visible on the page and explore the flames dancing in the fireplace. My teacher read, cajoled, encouraged, marked and enflamed my work still further. I found that in the realm of poetry I did not have to be bound by the stifling rules of the language and its need for accurate punctuation. Inside a poem I could run free with the pen. I felt as if my soul was soaring above the landscapes that I drew. I felt like God creating the universe and the creatures in it. It was heady and deeply intoxicating.

By the time the year had passed a poem I had written called "Words" was entered in an inter school competition alongside another called "Mysterious Waters." Both won and I was handed a small trophy and a certificate. I remember the applause as the prize was handed to me on the school stage. I felt whole and I felt proud. I felt as if I was finally worth something. I was a poet.

A few days after my award my father visited my school. He was a lorry (truck) driver for a company called British Road Services. I was upstairs when I heard the roar of the huge truck as it pulled up the drive of the ancient house that was my school. I ran to a window and watched with awe and respect as my father threaded the massive, snorting, monster between the higgledy piggledy parked cars on the driveway. Finally, with a last gasp, the truck hissed as its air brakes were applied and the engine shuddered to a halt.

I ran to meet my father standing by his truck in green work overalls amongst the posh cars of the teachers and other visitors. I was excited because of my news and I was happy to see my father after months of being away from home. That he would beat me regularly did not matter. I loved him.

I leapt into his strong arms and smelt the familiar smells of tobacco, diesel and oil. I felt his strong arms lift me higher and then hold me out from his body with those arms held straight. My grin must have split my face like an axe wound. His dark eyes flashed and twinkled and he looked handsome and strong. He put me down gently on my feet then held my hand as we went inside to meet the headmaster and the teachers. As they talked with my dad I ran to get the trophy and the certificates. I hadn't told him about them. I wanted it to be a surprise. I wanted to see the pride on his face and hear his approval.

When I returned to the room I interrupted their talk and with my heart hammering from the run, I opened the paper bag I was carrying and produced the contents. My English teacher looked at me and smiled warmly. "Look dad, a trophy... And I got these." I handed them to him and my grin grew wider still.

My father looked at the little silver cup first. It was made of real silver and stood on a Mahogany base. It was engraved with my name and said, "First prize for excellence in English" Under those words were inscribed the date it was won. On the Mahogany base there was a small silver scroll with the name of my school written there. "The Marchant Holliday School" Marchant Holliday was the name of the schools founder and head master who now stood watching my joy and my overwhelming pride as I watched for my fathers reaction to my success. As he read the words on the cup he reached out and rubbed my head tousling my hair. "Well done son." He said. Those words meant everything to me. There was precious little love in my home for me or my sister. Every little compliment became huge words that seemed to drip with love, as a honeycomb drips with honey.

When you are starving a crumb can seem like a banquette.

Dad turned his attention to the certificates in his hands. He turned them around and lifted them slightly to bring them into focus. It seemed like an hour passed until he had read them both. The atmosphere seemed pregnant with my anticipation. He read. He frowned. He read again and then he looked up. His eyes met mine. His mouth opened and his words stabbed my young heart like a hot knife. "POETRY?" He roared. "You won these for fucking poetry?" He laughed loudly. "What are you, a fucking poof"

My heart crumbled within me and a deep shame spread through me like a rain of slime. I turned and ran from the room and kept running deep into the woods that surrounded the school. I climbed "my" tree and high up in the branches I cried and cried for an age.

Later I threw the trophy and certificates in the school lake. I never wrote another poem in that school and for years later. Even when I did write poems again, it was never the same. That fire which once had raged within had been extinguished. Every word I wrote made me angry at my fathers jibe. For many years if anyone called me a "poof" (homosexual) I would fly into a rage and beat them until my hands bled.

This Christmas, when your kids are doing things that maybe you don't approve of be careful what you say to them. You words can cut deep and rob them of talent that could one day help them to achieve something in life. Let your present to them be your love, not your prejudice.

This Christmas, as you eat your feast and open your presents, remember those who will be crying alone. Remember all of those men, sons, fathers and brothers who are being abused by women that you have tried so hard to ignore all year.

This Christmas give yourself a present. Open your heart to ALL who are abused: The elderly, the young, the women and the men. Then make yourself a promise; that this year you will help them in some way. That this year YOU will make a difference to THEIR lives. This new year will not be, for you, a year of prejudice but a year of healing. That you will help those men who cannot find help without your support.

Join us and say with us that for these male victims of abuse you will strive to help them overcome the prejudice of others and you will say with us that, when it comes to male victims, you will tolerate no more silence!

God bless you and have a great Christmas and a Happy and loving New Year.

George Rolph is webmaster of Man2Man

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