Peter Barfoot - My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse - Part 1 (as told to Sarah Girvin, The Sunday Life Newspaper : 7th July, 2013)
" I'VE BEEN ROBBED OF MY DAY IN COURT - I FEEL LIKE A VICTIM ALL OVER AGAIN "
PETER’S ABUSER DIES THREE DAYS BEFORE TRIAL - A MAN who suffered horrific sexual abuse at the hands of his depraved headmaster has been robbed of justice following the death of his abuser just THREE DAYS before he was due to stand trial. Brave Peter Barfoot has now waived his right to anonymity to encourage other victims to speak out and get help — but said being denied his day in court has left him “feeling like a victim for the second time around.”
Now 42, Peter was a tender nine years-old when convicted sex offender John Agg-Large then his headmaster at the private North Down school Rockport, began to abuse him. He was sexually assaulted numerous times by the monster until he left the exclusive school aged 13 in 1984. Agg-Large, who had been in charge at Rockport since 1978, continued as principal until 1986 when he resigned due to overwork. He went on to teach in England, but in 1997 his vile past finally caught up with him and he was convicted of several charges of indecent assault.
Peter told Sunday life he is “adamant” there are other Agg-Large victims out there who are still to come forward.
His own abuse, which Peter describes as being “at the upper end of the scale”, began in 1980 when he was sent to the headmaster for help learning his times tables. “He would bring me into the office and make me lock the door myself, then we were alone,” Peter recalled. “Every time I had to stand outside that office I was just terrified, because I knew what is coming next. I still have nightmares. When it first began, I was only nine so I was very young and totally innocent — you think everything is normal,” he said. “As I got older I knew it wasn’t normal, but by that time I had developed an acceptance.”
Describing the man whose abuse would change his life forever, Peter said: “He was very overbearing. He wasn’t loud — he adopted the softly, softly approach but you knew not to cross him.”
After leaving Rockport, Peter continued with his schooling in Scotland and by his own admission became “extremely rebellious”. Still carrying the secret burden of his abuse, education took a back seat for Peter as he dealt with “pent up frustration and anger”. When he heard about other victims of Agg-Large speaking out in 1997, Peter said he wasn’t ready to go to the police and hadn't even told his parents about the abuse. “I couldn’t mix with people socially — I suffered anxiety and found crowds very difficult. It was hard to find my niche in society,” he said.
He went on to train as a chef and opened a successful bistro in Bangor before moving on, unable to settle. Peter travelled around Canada and France until finding himself in Donegal and engaged. When that relationship broke up, he began to drink heavily. He was just 26 and had already gone more than a decade without getting help. “For me, the alcohol masked my real problems," he said. “It was a massive crutch to me in dealing with the legacy of abuse.” Peter’s drinking began to spin massively out of control and after hitting “rock bottom” in 2001, he told his parents about the abuse.
Between 2001 and 2003, Peter became so depressed that he tried to take his own life three times.
“My parents were devastated, they thought sending me to Rockport was best for my education, but to them it explained a lot," he said. “The first step was definitely the toughest for me but they were hugely supportive and encouraged me to get help."
Peter now hasn’t had a drink since 2007. He married in 2005 and had two children, but throughout that relationship Peter continued to battle low self esteem and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Those issues led to the collapse of his marriage and in 2010, the day after his wife walked out on him, Peter went to the police and told them he had been abused by Agg-Large. “That was the catalyst for me, I just knew I couldn’t go on without dealing with my problems,” he said.
On Peter’s evidence, Agg-Large was charged with 10 counts of indecent assault. In May 2012 Peter came face to face with his abuser in court for the first time in more than two decades. “I wasn’t scared but I was certainly anxious,” he said. “We didn’t make eye contact — I don’t think he even knew I was there.”
Agg-Large would later plead not guilty to all charges.
Last year, Agg-Large’s legal team said he was too ill to travel from his plush country home in Lincolnshire (England) to stand trial because he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Eventually, his trial date was set for April 8 this year but, just three days before, Peter received the earth shattering news that his abuser had died. “A chain of negative events robbed me of my day in court and left me feeling like a victim for the second time over. I've just been left reeling from this,” he said. “I never got my day in court or that sense of closure. If he had just stood up in court and admitted to what he had done, that would have been enough for me — it would really have helped with the healing process. It’s a thorn in my side that I believed progress was being made — and now I’ll never know.”
Despite the fact he never got justice, Peter encouraged other victims of sexual abuse to speak out and also paid tribute to the work of the Nexus Institute who helped him through his abuse.
"People shouldn’t feel ashamed to speak out,” he said. “I bottled everything up for years, much to my detriment."
"Help is out there, you have to be prepared to swallow your pride.”
Peter admitted he had been left with mixed feelings following the collapse of his court case and Agg-Large’s death.
“For years I cursed him and called him every name under under the sun. I thought about meeting him in the street and me having a baseball bat."
“But now that he’s dead, it’s different,” he said. “I missed out on a lot of things that people take for granted. In many ways I’m still in limbo — but I want to create something positive from this.”
Posted by: Peter Barfoot
April 29th 2015
April 29th 2015