‘Living Without Justice: Overcoming sexual abuse’ tells of the writer’s thirty-year battle to deal with abuse that took place in the early 1980s. This is a story of courage and resilience. It is a must read for all parents so that they understand how easily a child can be groomed, and will be helpful for families and friends of anyone who has been subjected to abuse, to help them understand what the victim may have been experiencing. The book is also helpful for general readers wanting a little more perspective on life and to understand the internal battles some people have to overcome.
At thirteen, Paul Richards was sexually abused by a trusted family friend, Jim Andrews. He needed to be protected, but he was helpless. Thirty years later, Paul tried to unravel the past, survive, and prepare for his future. Paul went to extraordinary lengths to free himself of the shadow of abuse. Along the way he had to forgive his parents – and himself – to figure out who he really was.
This story demonstrates how a child can be manipulated by an adult for their own pleasure. It describes the classical grooming of a child, siblings and parents by an abuser. Jim ingratiated himself with the family in order to commit his heinous crimes. Even with family support networks in place, Jim still managed to abuse Paul.
What is extraordinary about Paul’s story is how he lived with this abuse for so long. The consequences could have meant suicide. Paul never stopped thinking about the abuse and bottled it up until it could no longer stay inside. Before telling anyone, Paul was burdened by guilt, sexual misunderstanding and confusion. He had to constantly hide the abuse from others and deny that it happened to him, just to live his life. Paul was even taunted by his own family and felt extremely uneasy whenever Jim’s name was mentioned.
Slowly and carefully, Paul began to tell people about the crimes that occurred to him. First, he decided to tell his wife, Lisa. Then there was the difficulty of telling family. Eventually, Paul confronted Jim. This failed miserably, yet reinforced to Paul that Jim needed to be held accountable for his crime. This was enough encouragement for Paul to go to the police and make a statement. This started a sequence of events that ended with Paul being the key witness for the Public Prosecutor at the County Court. Paul was even helped by the police to record Jim making confessions about the abuse, which formed a strong basis for the Public Prosecutor’s case.
The description of the court proceedings that followed demonstrate just how difficult achieving justice can be. Paul contributed an enormous amount of effort to just this one action to prevent his life being derailed. His fight for justice turned out to be half a life’s work.
All Paul wanted was an apology and for Jim to have an appreciation of the impact his actions had on Paul’s life. Paul went to extraordinary lengths to try and achieve this apology.
Paul was emotionally stunted by the abuse and required extensive counselling to grow into a man. The counselling helped him journey back in time to address complex emotions and significant trust issues.
Paul continues to be proactive and participated in a closed session with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to share his experiences. He heard many other stories that resonated with him and which showed how common abuse is in our society. Abuse destroys lives. Society must no longer tolerate verbal, mental, sexual or physical abuse of any kind.
This book is one story in the millions that exist. One story about the extent to which a victim must be prepared go if justice is sought.
This is Paul’s story, written from the heart. There are no shortcuts as he explores what happened and how deep and lasting the impact has been. This story is about doing what is right and fighting for justice.