Like Mick Carter, I had to face my childhood abuser in court – and I finally got justice
When I saw this frail little man – my abuser – sitting in the courtroom dock, I wondered what could have been going through his head while he acted out his wild fantasies on me when I was 11 years old over 40 years ago.
Did he think about how he might be destroying my life in the process?
When the foreman of the jury repeated the word ‘guilty’ on 31 counts last Thursday and Friday, the fear was finally gone.
Just like Danny Dyer’s character (Mick Carter) in EastEnders – whose childhood abuser Katy Lewis (Simone Lahbib) received a guilty verdict and was sentenced to 10 years in jail last week – I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief after so long.
In the soap, Mick had to come face-to-face with his abuser in court, something I had to do, too – not once, but four times. It was a long road to get there, though.
From an early age, I learned ways of making money any way I could – from helping the milkman, or on the paraffin round and a paper round. Coming from having nothing in my childhood made me want to have the things other local children had.
So I jumped at the chance when a local man, Nigel Clayton, offered me a job in the flats where he was the local caretaker. He seemed like a friendly man, so I assisted him in the gardens where he lived.
He seemed to really care about me, which was a novel experience at the time, but after a few months he became a bit touchy-feely and began asking me some odd questions like, did I have a girlfriend? Had I had sex? Did my penis get hard? I didn’t know how to respond, and the questions made me feel uneasy.
At the time, I had no awareness or world view on life as my mother – who died in 2017 – was too wrapped up with her own life to ever warn my sister and I about the dangers of such men.
Clayton eventually became more touchy and cuddly. I realise now that he was grooming me, but at the time I thought he was just a kind – if a little over-friendly – man. That was until a Thursday evening in 1977 when he asked me to take my clothes off, explaining that he wanted to see how athletic my body was.
When he asked me to remove my pants, I told him no and left a short time later. I still believed him to be a nice man until the following Thursday when his lust got the better of him, revealing what he had planned during the previous six months of grooming me.
Clayton sexually abused me in the living room of his flat, committing the most vile, unspeakable, humiliating and painful sexual abuse that no child should ever have to endure. From that moment on, my life was never the same.
Gone was my childhood innocence and in its place was an angry boy who trusted nobody, and who pushed away any person who offered him kindness and friendship.
If things in my life seemed too good to be true, then that was how I treated them. In my adult years, I became an occasional lover, never wanting to get close to anybody. I strove to be the best at everything I did, to prove that Clayton had not beaten me.
After he had committed the abuse, Clayton told me that if I attempted to tell anyone about it that no one would believe me, and that it was my own fault because I had teased him by turning up at his flat in my running shorts and vest.
He also threatened to kill me if I told anyone. I was just 10 years old.
I wrote my memoirs in 2007 after my only son had moved to the USA, as writing was the only response open to me after feelings of loneliness and missing him so much.
I wrote for three years in the hope that it might prove therapeutic, and then a friend read my words and said I should try to get my story in print.
You Can’t Hurt Me was published in 2012, and although I changed people’s names and the dates when events had occurred, it opened up a massive can of worms.
A police friend informed me in 2014 that historic sex abuse was now being looked into and that I should approach the local police as their reaction was likely to be supportive. He also advised me that I should tell them the real name of the abuser.
In 2015, the events related in my book were read by another victim, which led to an investigation into Nigel Clayton. I started to feel nervous and apprehensive at the way the situation was developing, as it was moving out of my control.
But when I first saw Nigel Clayton behind the glass screen in the courtroom, a wave of determination gripped me. I remembered the advice I had been given by the prosecution QC, which was to remain calm at all times and only answer questions when I clearly remembered events.
So as I stood in the witness box, time and time again cross-examined by Clayton’s defence team, I remained calm throughout.
The defence team’s words were painful to hear. My response to any such questioning about my character was always straightforward: ‘Well, that’s your opinion.’
There were times during the trial when I began to believe that Clayton might again evade justice, just as he had done from me for 43 years.
You can imagine the relief I felt when all 12 noble people of that jury found him guilty of all the charges against me.
On 21 May 2021, Clayton was convicted of 31 counts out of 35 for multiple incidents of rape, buggery, sexual assault, indecent assault and assault by penetration. These charges were made for offences against eight victims – though he was only prosecuted for seven – over a 43 year period.
Finally, after most of my life being cast as a liar by various people – including my own mother – I had been believed.
I took no satisfaction after hearing about Clayton being sick in the dock at the realisation that his reign of terror was over. All I could think of was how these other men could now finally start to rebuild their lives.
I pitied this man who had affected my life and stolen my innocence. I thought about all of the beautiful people I had hurt in my life because I was not able to love them in the way they loved me.
I also felt a sense of sadness at this old man who will die alone in a prison cell because of an illness in his brain. How appalling to be so overcome by lust that you lose your self-control and your sanity.
Just like Mick in EastEnders leaving the courtroom after his abuser’s sentencing with his family in tow, I too felt comforted with support.
From Roxana at SurvivorsUK, my counsellor, the two lovely police officers who had chaperoned me through the worst of the criminal proceedings, and the judge, who made an awful experience more bearable with her sensitivity.
However, Clayton had no thought for how his violating me might have a long term effect on my mental health, or the scars it would leave across my early life.
Nevertheless, I will not allow him to win and I will rebuild my life and encourage other victims of such heinous crimes to come forward and tell their stories to put these awful and dangerous men behind bars.
Paul Stevens is a Zitebooks author and a new edition of his book You Can’t Hurt Me will be available from the Zitebooks website in June 2021. If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, please contact SurvivorsUK a specialised organisation for support.
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