“I am a victim, but I won’t be beaten. I am a survivor.”
That is the message of a Tinkers Bridge man who was one of the children abused at Beechholme children’s home.
Because 55 years on Paul Seabourne wants his story to be known, and for other people who suffered to come forward and get the support they need.
Paul Seabourne was sent to Beechholme in Surrey in 1963 with his twin brother.
The two boys had been rejected by their mother at birth, and by age seven ended up at the complex made up of around 23 cottages which houses roughly 300 children.
“I remember arriving there,” said Mr Seabourne. “The social worker took us, but it wasn’t long until they started knocking us about.
“It would be even for the smallest thing, like if you couldn’t do your shoelaces, or if you didn’t tuck yourself in properly, or just for no reason at all. It happened to all the other kids, too.
“It was like they thought it was their right to knock you around – and we were so young we didn’t know any better and didn’t have anyone we could talk to.”
Fortunately Mr Seabourne was not subjected to sexual abuse, but it has emerged that many others were in their time at Beechholme.
He added: “I didn’t have any family I could talk to.
“Some kids did have families, but if it was ever reported I think the whole thing must have been swept under the carpet, and whoever was accused would have just been transferred to do the same thing at a different children’s home.”
Mr Seabourne emerged from Beechholme with emotional difficulties which still affect him to this day.
He was also diagnosed as an epileptic during his time there, but staff never told him and he only discovered the diagnosis when he was in his 20s.
He said: “They gave me pills but I never knew why.”
And when he left Beechholme at age 16 –“With nothing but the clothes I was wearing” – he briefly moved into a hostel with his brother before finding himself homeless and surviving by shoplifting.
In time he found a new hostel in Notting Hill Gate and work as a hotel porter, before his warden helped him get a home in Milton Keynes in 1980.
He has been here ever since.
Mr Seabourne said: “I thought it was brilliant when I came here, and it’s been my home ever since. I got work within two weeks of arriving, at Bletchley Park, and I’ve alwayshad a roof over my head.
“My brother and I lost touch for 17 years, but he’s now got his own family.
“When the Beechholme story came out and was across the newspapers my sister-in-law phoned me.”
Mr Seabourne is now working with police on their inquiry into the abuse.
He added: “My first reaction was shock. I knew that children were abused, but I never realised the scale.
“I do feel bitter about it and I don’t know why this is only coming out now.
“I am a victim, but I won’t be beaten. I am a survivor. More than anything else what I want is answers.
“I’m not ashamed, because none of this was my fault. And I know that not all the people there were child abusers - there were some good people too.”