I will never forget my mum’s scream that day. I was 15 but I remember it like it was yesterday, the kind of chilling memory that sends shivers up your spine.
I ran down stairs to the sound of her scream and I could not believe it – my brother was gone.
Sometimes I can’t believe it is my brother, his story, my story. Declan had taken his own life aged 13 the evening after he had seen his abuser, then on bail for multiple charges of indecent child sexual assault and attempted buggery.
As children we were made to wait almost a year to appear as Crown Prosecution Witnesses in a case which should have been fast tracked. During that time we were forced into silence and told if we spoke of the abuse with counsellors it could contaminate court evidence and the perpetrator could walk free.
Ironically after his death it would take me over 20 years to take the step to get some support through Survive, an amazing small charity who help victims of sexual abuse.
David Fisher, a confectionery worker, admitted indecent assault against three boys in the community. He pleaded not guilty to a range of others.
After Declan’s death he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on several charges. He also wrote a letter of remorse to a member of the family explaining “scum like me deserved more prison”.
Charges against Declan were kept on file as he could no longer be called as a witness. Fisher was sentenced to four years which was halved on appeal.
‘He was a beautiful kid’
Today I remember Declan’s life and pay my respects to him, 23 years since he took his own life. He was beautiful kid, kind hearted and gentle, the first to volunteer to help mum with anything.
He had a sweet smile, light mousy brown hair and an angelic face, the kind you never forget. I still miss him and as an adult I have tried to campaign for awareness raising around the subject of suicide.
Last year I co-produced a music video project with hip-hop and grime artist Kritikal Powers and singer songwriter Golden Firs, to raise awareness about suicide prevention, highlighting the vital work of Papyrus.
We wanted to turn negatives into positives and turn our passion and talent to create something that helped highlight the issue and encourage more people to talk about the issue.
We live in a time where sadly child abuse is so prevalent. Perhaps as a consequence of more poverty and more broken homes we have created a generation of young people who are struggling with emotions, mental health, self harm and suicidal thoughts.
I remember the day of his funeral, and all the love people from York showed for Declan. It was overwhelming and so sad that Declan did not know how much people loved him. Child abuse damages people, emotionally and mentally it can live with you for a life time.
Similarly the impact of suicide is a ripple affect, it effects people profoundly from the direct family right out into the community.
As I stood and read the incredibly articulate poem on Declan’s grave stone, which he had written at school, the profoundness of the words made me feel more determined than ever to tell his story in the hope it inspired, gave hope to others and affected change.
Still failing abuse victims
I am working on creating a documentary which tells the story but also highlights that the system has not improved and is still failing victims of abuse.
I can’t see how in this day and age we cant create a support mechanism that is neutral and robust enough not to enable court proceedings to prevent children victims of trauma and abuse the support they need so badly.
I have even been thinking about a law in his name, legislation that forces the court to fast track child abuse cases so children don’t have to suffer in silence.
You never really get over the loss of a brother to suicide, you just learn to adapt and cope with the pain. I miss him as much now as I ever did.
I am privileged that by speaking out I can give hope and confidence to other survivors who don’t have the confidence or don’t feel strong enough to speak out.
It’s important that victims of any form of abuse learn to accept that it is not their shame to carry and that you can make positives even out of tragedy.
I am really blessed that I get the opportunity to speak publicly about Declan to highlight the issues and spark debate in order to affect change. The most difficult subjects are the hardest to talk about, but that makes them no less important to speak about.
Speak out, save lives
The stigma is not ours, the problem is attitudes and lack of understanding. We all have mental health, it’s a scale and the impact of certain experiences affects where you sit on that scale.
But it doesn’t make you less of a person, it just means you’ve spent a long time being strong, but eventually people need support and that is what I would advise to anyone affected by these issues.
Speak out, if you can’t go to an organisation or charity talk to your family or your friends or a collegue at work.
People don’t usually want to die, they just don’t see a way out. But like for Declan there could have been a way out with the right support, had we not had to wait so long in the silence, he might even still be here. If we talk more, together we can prevent suicide and save lives.
Kev Curran is director of the digital media production and arts social enterprise Inspired Youth