Thursday, 1 May 2014

My featured author for May is Phil Thomas

Introducing Phil Thomas author of Shame, a true story.About Phil Thomas (aka Raymond Poar)

Ray, born in Widnes, met his wife Denise from Runcorn, in a night club in 1982. Denise and Phil married in 1996.
After suffering two miscarriages they had a daughter Michelle in 1987, and a son Mark in 1988. However, Mark was born prematurely and only survived for a few days. Phillip, their second son, born in 1995, also premature, is now a healthy university student. Ray and Denise are extremely proud of both Michelle and Phillip.
Welcome Ray,
It is an honour and a privilege to have you as my featured author for May.  I know a lot of my readers are eager to learn more about the man behind this harrowing story. 
Boy on the bottom to the right is Ray

Can you tell me a little about your new book Shame?

Shame is a story of my true experiences. It starts with a childhood filled with utter degradation and neglect. It proceeds through an inevitable trail of court appearances, borstal and prison incarcerations. However, this story perhaps really begins when I was sexually abused by a warder in one of the borstals I was sent to – Medomsley. This was a horrific event for a boy who with no sexual experience at all, of any sort, until that point. (I was always too dirty and smelly for any girl to look twice at me!) This assault set the tone for the rest of my life. It gives the book its title – Shame. 

The shame that I felt that I had not fought back when I was attacked, that I had given in to the most degrading and horrifying abuse haunts me still. In this book I allow the reader into the life of a victim of abuse and what happens long after the headlines have faded. My abuse at the hands of a paedophile, now dead, who has been described as ‘more prolific than Jimmy Saville’, has coloured every part of my life since I was seventeen. 

My story takes the reader from my first forays into crime (climbing out of the bedroom window to steal bread and milk from doorsteps to eat), to the night that I turned up at the home of Neville Husband, my abuser, with a gun, determined to shoot him dead for what he had done to me and to other boys. It is a ‘warts and all’ look at the youth offender penal system and highlights the good and the bad of that system. It covers my escapes from borstal and the harsh treatment I received from the courts. 

It examines, without self pity, what happens to a child who is allowed to grow up feral, to be beaten in front of the police by his mother as a punishment for his crimes, and to be beaten every day by that mother whether or not he had done anything wrong. 

Ray and Denise on the right
I share with the reader the loves I had, and my eventual marriage to Denise, who is still the love of my life. My story tells of the death of my first son, and my suicide attempt that was fuelled by the all-encompassing shame that has influenced my whole life. It covers the court case against the Home Office, which includes the experiences of fellow sufferers. 
This is an observation of how the world was for a young boy who was abused first by his mother and then by various other people in authority, but who throughout his childhood steadfastly believed that adults were always right.

Why did you title your book Shame?

The reason for the title 'Shame' is firstly the all consuming shame I felt about the things he made do and the fact that I hadn't kicked and screamed until he stopped? But I was just a terrified boy and he was very strong and had shown that he could and would kill me if i didn't do what he wanted. Therefore I became completely compliant. 
As the years have passed and especially after the birth of my son my shame became overwhelming. When I reported what had happened to me to the police and the investigation started I found out that Husband was known to the police and the home office and had known about his behaviour for a decade before he assaulted me. Even the officers at Medomsley knew what he was doing to young boys and it is their shame too that he was allowed to continue abusing young boys/men for twenty five years.

Readers say:
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to appear in print 28 Mar 2014
By Jenny
This book is a good read but the subject is harrowing. Phil Thomas shows the same humour in describing his early childhood as Frank McCourt did in Angela's Ashes, though Frank seems to have had it easy by comparison, with only extreme deprivation to contend with. It is a wonder Phil survived, and with humour intact, as well as any faith in human nature.

The wry tone of the first part of the book changes with his terrible experiences at a youth detention centre. That a public institution should have treated him like this, then given him an uphill legal battle, is appalling. While other young people were starting life in jobs or at university, this was the start the state gave Phil and the legacy it left him with.

He shows great courage and character in writing about his experiences and making them public. In doing so, he turns the moral spotlight on those who have had much easier lives, and yet, when the time comes to do the right thing, make keeping up appearances and protecting their reputation their top priority.

His family and friends must be proud of him.

What led you to wanting to share your life’s story?

I was encouraged to write my story by an abuse councillor who told me it would help me deal with it.

Your story depicts some devastating experiences, how did you find the process of writing about these very personal experiences?

It was really hard for me to write the book. At first I spent a lot of time crying to myself in a log cabin in Wales. The problem being it was really hard too separate the boy I was then from the man I am now and it still is every time I think about what happened back then I become that boy again.

What next for Shame, can we expect to see any form of dramatisation?

There will be a follow up to shame called 'Shame - the guilty and the survivors.' This will cover our long fight for justice and the exposure of the cover up by the police and home office. It will also give an insight into the psychological damage caused to the many victims and how they have coped gone on to live with it.
I do hope to get 'Shame' turned into a docu-drama and I have approached a few film company's. I have also written and produced five songs that would accompany the docu-drama so fingers crossed it will be produced.

Each song fits into a part of any dramatisation that is produced fingers crossed.
'My sanity' was written during and after the court case at the High Court in 
London in 2006 which we lost. I really thought I was losing my mind. 'In the 
mirror' was written to illustrate that it is wrong to treat people badly as you 
never know what they are going through. 'Your mine' is for my lovely Wife. 
'Crying in secret' is about me going to secluded places to cry before I told 
any body about what had happened to me in Medomsley. 'Same room' was 
written when Kevin another victim asked me to do him a big favour which I did 
he thanked me and said he knew he could rely on me because we had been in 
the same room (With Husband) .

Links to the songs on You Tube can be found here:

What made you decide to become an ‘indie’ [self published] author?

I chose to self publish mainly for financial reasons, but also to retain control of my book.

Can you tell us more about the other victims of abuse that you are helping?

Over the last 11 years I have met many of Husbands victims and I have become firm friends with them all. We all connect really well with each other, and I am proud to call them my brothers. We attended every court case together, all the way to the House of Lords, where we managed to change the statute law. As a group we have been on holidays in the Welsh mountains and this is where we wrote and recorded songs together the lyrics expressing our emotions and feelings. We all had a great time relaxing and singing in safety. Keeping in touch on a daily basis with this group of people has been the best therapy anybody could ask for, because we know each others 'shame.'

What can others do to help/support victims, who can they contact?

If any body wants to report abuse suffered at Medomsley they can call Durham police on 101, quoting operation seabrook and ask to speak to Paul Gaundry. Or any office involved in operation Seabrook.

There is a short film on You Tube by Zoe Lodrick, a sexual abuse consultant, which I found very helpful. It made me in feel better about myself, and I am sure it will help other victims as well. Durham police will also offer appropriate counselling to any victim if requested.

Thankyou Ray,

I really appreciate your time and your honesty, sharing these very personal experiences with us. I hope that this feature will go some way to helping raise awareness for the victims and their families. I think your book is an important story that needed to be told, and I for one am glad that you had the courage to share it. I look forward to the sequel which I know a lot of people will be interested in given recent news events.

Many best wishes for a positive life ahead for you, your fellow victims and your family.

Sarah Jane