Childhood torment in 1960s still vivid for him

PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

For most children, home is supposed to be a safe haven. But that was not the case for "Ben". His Pasir Panjang kampung home in the 1960s was where the "devil" lurked.

"He would wait until nobody was home before approaching me," said the 51-year-old, recalling the abuse he suffered as an eight-year-old at the hands of his brother-in-law.

The man, who was about 20 years older, would put his hands into his shorts. "He would pinch my nipples and tell me dirty things. He would tell me that I was beautiful."

His brother-in-law would also take him on drives in his car, sometimes with his toddler son in tow. Once at a secluded spot, the sexual attacks would begin again.

Ben's abuse took place decades ago, but like many other survivors, the torment remains vivid.

"I told my mum about it, but I think she couldn't understand me. Maybe she didn't want to understand because it was too disgusting," he said, explaining it was why he constantly ran away from home.

"I would walk far, far away, I could walk from Pasir Panjang to my uncle's home in Depot Road," said Ben, the youngest of eight children.

When he was in his 20s and 30s, he sank into depression and tried ending his life. "I've tried so many attempts that I can't buy insurance any more," he said.

He admits he has not had professional counselling.

Grappling with his inner demons is still a daily struggle, but he keeps busy with his job and the community work he does with friends. He added that support from his gay partner of seven years has also provided him with emotional strength.

"Now I have someone who loves me, and I'm learning to love myself," he said.

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Childhood torment in 1960s still vivid for him'. Print Edition | Subscribe