A child sex abuse survivor has revealed how his homophobic mum voluntarily handed him into care where he was raped by “hundreds of men”.
Richie Barlow, 39, was tortured and beaten by the sadistic parent, who would “pour fairy liquid and chilli powder down his throat” from the age of four, just “because he was gay”.
At nine years old, she handed him over to Nottinghamshire County Council to live in a children’s care home claiming he was “a predator” and outing his sexuality to the other children and care staff.
During his four years in care, Richie was beaten, abused and trafficked to a paedophile ring where he was repeatedly raped – but claims neither the police or care home staff ever listened to his pleas for help.
Today Richie’s mum is deceased but he was given £40,000 and a letter of apology from Nottinghamshire County Council, which until last year, claimed it never had “a duty of care” because he had been given over “voluntarily” by his late mum 30 years ago.
Speaking to the Mirror and bravely waiving his right to anonymity, Richie said: “Even in my earliest memories, my mum beat me and tortured me for being gay.
“I knew from about the age of four that I was different and she could tell.
“I was imprisoned in my bedroom with no access to the toilet, no blankets or pillows and no food for days on end.
“When I was about nine I was taken into care and for the first two weeks I thought I was in heaven.
“For the first time ever I had a bed and food and a warm roof over my head.”
However two weeks later his mum came to visit him and baselessly accused him of horrible crimes that “forced” Richie into having to admit he was gay.
“That was the beginning of my nightmare,” he said.
“I was beaten within an inch of my life constantly, I was raped, I was trafficked.”
Richie’s admission came at a time when Margaret Thatcher ‘s government had introduced Section 28, an act of legislation which “prohibited the promotion of homosexuality”.
It made the UK a dangerous and hostile place for LGBT people who were not seen as “victims” but as “subhuman”, Richie says.
Over four years in two different care homes, he claims he was beaten, sexually assaulted and trafficked to a paedophile ring where he estimates he was abused by hundreds of men.
He says he was forced to be complicit in crimes with people who were abusing him as they threatened to kill him if he didn’t do as he was told.
Despite desperate calls to the care home staff and police, he says his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Richie said: “I was beaten almost to death if I didn’t do as they said. I was sexually assaulted at knife point.
“I remember I was taken to the centre of Nottingham and actually taken to a handler’s house and presented before him.
“Everywhere I went, I was telling them what was happening to me, the police knew about it, the staff knew about it and they wouldn’t do anything about it.”
Finally at the age of 14, Richie was removed from the clutches of his abusers who ultimately freed him by dragging him along in an arson plot, which saw him moved to a secure unit by the courts.
With the support of his foster mum Anna and case worker Pauline, he survived his ordeal and now runs an award-winning dog walking business in Yarm, North Yorkshire, with his husband Ben.
The brave survivor has even penned an autobiography titled ‘Richie – Who Cares?’ which is set to hit the shelves at the start of next month.
Three years ago while unpacking his trauma with the help of Ben, Richie became determined to change the narrative for vulnerable children in care.
But he claimed he was left stunned and felt “victim-blamed” when the council told him that he had ‘sought’ the company of his abusers.
In a letter seen by the Mirror, from council-appointed law firm ‘Weightmans’ to Richie’s solicitors, Nottingamshire County Council (NCC) claim that he had been in its care “voluntarily”.
It adds: “As a general rule, local authorities do not owe a duty of care of children to protect them from harm caused by others.
“There is an exception to that general rule where there is a Care Order, but that is not the case here.
“We would add that even if there were a duty of care owed, it would not have been breached.
“The alleged abuse is by either your client's peers, or by members of the public with whom your client sought contact.
“Your client positively rejected assistance offered by both the police and our client at the time.”
But after a long legal battle to get his records of care, a chronology of concerns in Richie’s case work shows the council knew of 26 reported incidences of abuse which were not acted upon.
Richie said: “When I got my records it was absolutely damning.
“It was an acknowledgement of what had happened to me, but they wouldn’t take responsibility.
“Seeing it written down in black and white, exactly what had happened to me to the letter was hard to look at.”
In February 2021, Richie finally received an apology from the council and compensation for his ordeal, settling out of court for £40,000.
Colin Pettigrew, Corporate Director for Children’s Services at NCC, wrote: “My purpose in writing is to apologise to you for the abuse you experienced as a child within our care.
“You entered into the care system at a young age and you should have been safe from harm and it is clear that this was not the case and I am truly sorry for that.”
Now Richie wants to use some of the proceeds from his book to set up a charity for vulnerable children in care to ensure that no one else is ever subjected to the same abuse.
He said: “I’m surprised I survived, I shouldn’t be here to be talking about this, there were countless times that I could have died.
“I do feel like I have offloaded by writing this book but ultimately the only thing I want out of it is to protect people and show people what bigotry can do.
“Section 28 was ultimately responsible for my abuse because nobody cared about me, and I never want anyone else to go through that.
“Before I met Ben I felt like I was in survival mode, I wasn’t really living, it’s because of him that I’m living my life and I’m happy.”
Today the council claims that it has developed its services for victims of abuse, historic or otherwise, and encouraged anyone in need of support to come forward.
NCC’s Colin Pettigrew said: "I am genuinely sorry for the abuse Mr Barlow suffered while he was a child in our care in the '90s and I have both written and spoken to him to apologise. He should have been safe from harm and this was not the case, this is a matter of deep regret to the County Council.
"This council has worked to reduce the time taken to settle claims and we are committed to ensuring victims and survivors of sexual abuse have access to appropriate ongoing support services.
"The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our care is our utmost priority. I would urge anyone with information about alleged abuse, however long ago, to come forward. They will be listened to."
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