One-third of childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated by another child. Shannon Molloy tells his story – and urges us not to look away

Journalist Shannon Molloy is used to sharing his story. In his 2020 memoir, Fourteen (now adapted for the stage), he wrote about growing up gay in regional Queensland in the 1990s, enduring severe bullying.

He wrote in a piece that sparked the memoir:

I was bashed, ridiculed, taunted endlessly, you name it. I was almost run over. At a school camp, I was tied to a tree and beaten with an oar. Teachers seemed indifferent. Some blamed my “personality”. I lived in despair, although in hindsight, it’s clear I wasn’t really living at all.

But despite having shared his childhood despair, he’s been a man with a secret. A secret most men wouldn’t talk about: his experience of being sexually abused as a child, from the age of five.

What made it especially challenging to talk about was that it happened not at the hands of an adult, but another child, who was only three years older than him.

Not just another trauma memoir

This memoir-turned-case-study, turned-research-exploration, is a fascinating read. It’s filled with horror, secrecy and shame, but it’s also tempered with hope, insight and healing.

It stands out within the growing genre of “trauma memoirs”. Molloy uses his personal journey, peppered throughout with case-study vignettes from men he has interviewed about their own experiences of childhood sexual abuse, to illustrate what we know from research and clinical practice.

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