A survivor of brutal child abuse at a notorious Fife residential school has bought the first Christmas tree of his life, despite the festive season leaving him feeling “terrified”.
Dave Sharp, who is now 62, suffered repeated attacks by priests at the former St Ninian’s School in Falkland during the 1970s.
He is hoping his decision to celebrate this year will be a message of hope to others living with the legacy of abuse.
Before being moved to St Ninian’s, Mr Sharp was looked after by nuns at the Nazareth House orphanages in Kilmarnock and Lasswade, as a result of his mother dying just after he was born.
“We had it beaten into us that were not deserving of Christmas,” he said.
“I spent my first 16 years in care and many people know what happened to the children of Scotland in these homes.
“The truth is I don’t remember one single Christmas during this time.
“Since then, I have always been terrified of Christmas and I have always spent this time on my own avoiding anything to do with it.”
This year, Mr Sharp, who now lives in Northamptonshire, said he is determined to enjoy himself, even if Covid-19 restrictions mean not seeing family.
This is my first ever Christmas tree. I am very emotional and my message to all survivors of child abuse in Scotland and all over the world is. WE CAN OVERCOME. God bless you all. pic.twitter.com/hlss1bNT8W
— Dave Sharp (@davesharp59) November 21, 2020
“I am isolating in England and I have not seen my family for months and things are not looking too good for the near future, so I made the decision I was going to make a real effort to enjoy Christmas and to buy a Christmas tree and make every effort to enjoy it even though I am on my own.
“It is a challenging time because I am dealing with supressed emotions but my message is that we can overcome.”
Mr Sharp shared a video on Twitter of his living room, which is tastefully decked out in festive decorations.
He said amid all the bad news around coronavirus, there are positive stories to be told.
However, he said abuse survivors should not suffer in silence and urged them to reach out for help by contacting organisations like the Moira Anderson Foundation, which supports children and adults affected by childhood sexual abuse.
“This year during lockdown I have been in contact with dozens of survivors who have had different reactions to this pandemic.
“Sadly some have taken their own lives because it has been too much for them. In the survivor community we are losing children and adults all the time but there are also a lot of positive stories coming out where survivors are actually thriving through this period.
“We are in a safe secure environment and this has also allowed many survivors to spend more time than usual on their own and actually start to deal with their own issues at their own pace and with no-one telling them what to do, and in the safety of their own home.”
St Ninian’s is one of the institutes under scrutiny in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, chaired by Lady Smith.
Mr Sharp gave evidence to the inquiry about the repeated beatings and rapes he endured at the Fife school, which was run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic organisation, before it closed in 1980.
A victim who attended the school a few years after Mr Sharp was recently awarded more than £300,000 in damages.
The man was raped, beaten and molested at St Ninian’s when he boarded there in 1979 and 1980.
More information about the Moira Anderson Foundation is available via https://moiraanderson.org/.