The CYC-Net Press CYC-Online

eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 37 FEBRUARY 2002 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

youth in care

My story

My name is Tommy McCafferty and I was born in Glasgow in 1968. From what I can remember of where I lived, it was a run-down area called Easterhouse.

My father was an alcoholic and very violent, and I wondered why he was like this. When I was three years old, I had my leg broken by him. I used to wet the bed and he would come into my bedroom to see if I had wet it. If I had, he pushed my face into the mattress. I did not struggle as it meant that I would have got a real beating, but I was crying my eyes out. I don’t know if this made him worse because he picked me up and threw me down the stairs, and that is how I had a broken leg. I was placed as a child at risk. I still do not know why he did this to me. I cannot remember a single detail of what happened until I was 4. I can remember getting on the coach to come to England with two broken wrists. From then on, I got regular beatings from both my parents. I was the second eldest, and the oldest boy, but every time something happened I was the one who got the beating even though I had done nothing wrong. I kept asking myself, ‘what if I am doing something wrong?’ But I could not ask anybody if I was, because it would get back to my family. If there was ChildLine then, I am sure I would have contacted them.

‘My life became violent’
I really hated my parents Every time they said they would put me in a home, I wished they would. It would have been safer. I used to imagine being in another family, someone to love me and take care of me.

When I was 7 years old, I was sexually abused by a person I used to call my uncle (but he was not an uncle). I never told anyone about this. He warned me not to, saying my Dad would beat me up for lying. Even at that age, I felt really dirty. It took me a long time to tell someone, and that was when I was 21.

My problem in those days was that there was no one I could turn to, to talk to — no friends or teachers. So this became a major problem in my life. I would not ask for help, or if someone did try and help me I wondered what they were up to. My life just became violent and it still hurts when I think about it.

When I had games lessons I had to lie to my teacher, saying I’d forgotten to bring my PE kit in. Or I had a sick note from my Dad saying I was to be excused from games. The real reason was that I was black and blue. The teachers never questioned me about it, but I wished they would. I started playing truant from school as I could not think properly. But I always got caught and it meant that I got another beating.

Even at the age of 8 or 9, I wanted to die because I could not cope any more. I can still remember my Dad saying, ‘I should have killed you at birth as it would have saved me from a lot of pain’.

‘I started to run away’
My Mum and Dad divorced around this time, but she got re-married to another violent man. He used to hit me for taking a biscuit out of the tin. When my little brother was born, we went to the christening party at a local pub. At this age I could not eat cheese, but he told me to eat some. I told him I did not like it, so he belted me right across the face with his bare fist and broke my nose. But the thing that annoyed him was that I never cried.

I started to run away from home, maybe for a couple of hours or overnight. But every time, I got caught by the police and it meant another beating. I was put into a children’s home by my parents for a couple of weeks, then I went back home. I carried on running away and getting into trouble, even with the police. Eventually the Juvenile Court sent me back to the home for a couple of months. I really wanted to stay there, because I was not getting beaten up.

I eventually left home at 15 and went to London. I stayed in night shelters and hostels, and became involved with solvent abuse and drink. Looking back, I think it was just to forget everything that was happening to me.

‘Do not be afraid’
I am now 25 years old and I am in prison, serving a life sentence. I can blame no one for this except myself. But I do blame my parents for what has happened in my life. And I blame myself for not asking for help when I needed it most.

My Mum wants nothing to do with me now. I wish I could have stayed at the children’s home and got new parents. I have no one now. There is a big gap in me.

I am on a therapeutic wing in the prison. I’m sorting out my problems and trying to find out why I am the way I am, and how I got into this situation. As I said before, my biggest problem was not asking for help. All I can say to anyone with a problem, however big, is that you should talk to someone. It helps. I know now that if I have a problem, I can talk about it.

I could not stand by and see someone going the same way as I have. I would talk to that person and let them know what had happened to me, and hopefully that person would see things differently.

My reason for writing this is that there are kids out there who are getting beaten up and sexually abused, as I was. My message to them is to ASK FOR HELP. Do not be afraid. There are people who care and want to help. I had to find out the hard way, but hopefully this will help you to find out before it is too late.

Acknowledgements to Who Cares? the UK magazine for young people in care.