Calls to speak out about abuse and safeguard children

Derek Bell
Derek Bell who runs safeguarding courses.

Former Newcastle player Derek Bell , who was sexually abused by his coach during the 1970s, has spoken of his experience as part of a free Mental Health Chats series with Clare Davis.

Derek, now 57, was groomed by George Ormond between the ages of 12 and 16 in the 1970s while playing for the Montagu and North Fenham boys football club.

Ormond was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of a string of sexual assaults on young boys over a 25-year period.

Derek, who runs safeguarding courses, decided to speak out to raise awareness and help other victims.

Derek Bell who runs safeguarding courses.

Impact

The effects of the abuse led Derek to attempt to take his own life on three occasions and be sectioned until the Mental Health Act in 1996.

But it was here where he received psychiatric help and first spoke of the abuse he had endured as child.

Derek has taken medication daily for the last 15 years to manage his anxiety and depression, as well as learning coping strategies to manage low moods.

Derek said the abuse has impacted on his relationships as an adult. He said: “One day I may come off the medication, but at the moment it keeps me calm.

“Inside I used to be a raging lunatic – an angry man. I also turned to drink as I felt angry and ashamed by what had happened.

“I could be volatile – smashing things and lashing out, then quiet for days and not saying what was wrong.

“It was hard on my wives and while they wanted to support me, it was impossible to have a relationship with me.”

Speaking out

Derek kept the abuse secret for decades but waived his right to anonymity in 2016, so he could speak out publicly. He said it has made him a ‘better person’.

He has gone on to quit heavy drinking and use his experience to help and protect others through the Carroll and Bell Consultancy safeguarding training.

Derek said: “I didn’t know who to turn to and the longer the left it, the less I thought people would believe me. I felt ashamed and thought I was the only one it had happened to.

“Speaking out has been such a relief. I don’t think I’ll ever really get closure but think I’m more confident now and my behaviour is no longer erratic. I’m generally more open and a better person to be around.”

Spotting signs

He now wants to encourage others to speak out and get help, as well as to educate adults to spot possible warning signs.

He said: “Children may be at greater risk today as they can be groomed online. The perpetrators don’t always come across as evil and can in fact be quite charming and funny, as Ormond could be.”

Ormond befriended Derek’s family and would stay overnight at their home. In private, he would threaten to block Derek’s football career if he did not do as he said.

Derek said: “If someone in authority is using their power to harm or hinder you, this is a massive warning sign.

“I would encourage people to speak out and know it’s not their fault to have been caught in a situation which was difficult to get out of. Find support – be it parents, teachers or doctors.”

He said something may be wrong if children suddenly become withdrawn, disassociates from friends or shows a drop in performance or confidence.

He added that an adult showing favouritism, offering lifts and buying gifts could also be a cause for concern.

He said: “These signs do not necessarily mean abuse is taking place, but it could be cause for concern and it’s worth taking it seriously.”

* To watch the video and to see other interviews in the Mental Health Chats series, visit Nova Associates.