Heather Bellamy spoke with Graham Swann

Graham Swann
Graham Swann

Graham Swann was subjected to systematic abuse as a boy and as a result became controlled by alcohol and violence as a man, spending time in prison. Having seen his life turned around when he became a Christian, he has now written his life story in the book "Prison Without Bars". Heather Bellamy spent time with him to hear his life story.

Heather: So let's start at the beginning. What was life like growing up?

Graham: To start with it was lovely, like every little child really. I had lovely holidays with my granddad and grandma. My mam and dad brought me up with lots of love, but unfortunately my dad always suffered very badly with his nerves. He was beaten as a child and had a terrible upbringing and it caused a lot of depression and anxiety in his life. He used to have a lot of breakdowns. I can always remember that he used to worry a lot and tell us that it was a thing that runs in the family, but apart from that it was just the average kid who loved waiting for his summer holidays because they never ended, the sun always shining and life was pretty good until I was about nine or 10.

Heather: Is that when you started getting bullied at school?

Graham: It was, yes. My oldest brother started getting in trouble with the police a lot and that was causing a lot of problems in the house. My dad wasn't a very strong man. We used to have two rooms in our old council house, a front room and a back room and when the police used to come round, they used to tell me to go into the back room to protect me, but all that did was stuff me with insecurities. I started thinking that my family didn't love me and I'd go to school and kids would pick up on this - that I was a bit timid and they started bullying me, so that's where it all started.

Heather: And how bad did the bullying get?

Graham: Well it was extreme. It became worse than bullying. Torture is a strong word, but literally that is what they were doing. Some of the older kids were taking me out of school and then some of the older kids that weren't even in my school. I'd say I was around the age of nine by this time and the kids were probably 15 and 16. Some of the older kids would take me into the woods and they would strip me naked and beat me and make me run off into the woods. Then they'd come and hunt me like a scared fox. I can remember once, they thought it would be funny to tie me up and they ripped my toenails out with pliers and they cut my privates and then made me put my underpants back on and put ants down my underpants. There was all sorts going on. They would tie me to a rope swing and then push me off this little hill and when I came back they would beat me with sticks, so it was sheer torture.

Heather: That's just absolutely horrific. What effect did that have on you in your soul and in your mind?

Graham: It destroyed me. I kept that secret and never told anyone. I was scared to go home and tell my parents, because they told me I'd get twice as bad and I knew there was a lot of trouble going off at home, so I hid it. It just absolutely filled me with fear. I couldn't talk about it. Just to think about it was tremendous pain; the pain was awful and petrified me, but after about, I would say it felt like a lifetime, but I'd say probably seven months after this, I was coming home from school one day and a man who lived on my council estate, I don't know if he had seen a weakness in me or whatever, he called me over. I knew it was wrong, as it was a very hostile voice and he called me over and told me to come into his house. Sadly, ironic as it is, he sexually abused me. So not only was I being bullied and tortured by these kids up in the woods, I was also on a daily basis, over a three year period, sexually abused every day. I'd go to this paedophile's house and do whatever he commanded me to do. Since I have been healed of all this I have put it down on paper and mathematically it comes out over a thousand times I was sexually abused.

Heather: And nobody stepped in to help you at that time, your mum or your dad?

Graham: Nobody knew, I just kept it all to myself. I was 13 by this time and I cried myself to sleep. I was very thin as I was never eating anything. This was a concern for my parents, so they took me to the doctors and said, 'he's not eating'. He asked me if anything was wrong. I was getting trouble in school, my mam and dad were saying I was just like my older brother was and I just kept this secret inside of me. It was basically poisoning me.

Heather: At some point, you turned from the victim into being a bit of a bully and a thug yourself, didn't you? What happened to make you change in that way?

Graham: Yes I did, that's right Heather. What happened was classic bullied became a bully. When I was 13 I went to the High School and this older kid who became a friend stuck up for me. When I was being hit by this lad, I realise now looking back that a power come into me and I thought from that day, no-one is going to touch me again, but what was inside me was anger and revenge. I became the classic, 'What you looking at?' I convinced myself I was sticking up for myself, but really what I was doing, I was intimidating people. I was becoming completely crazy. I started hanging around with a gang and we were taking money off people. I was just absolutely running wild. But I will say at that time, sadly, I kind of enjoyed it, or it was like a release. I was scaring people instead of people scaring me.

Heather: And you ended up in prison?