By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Hollywood star Gabriel Byrne has revealed he was a victim of sexual abuse as an 11-year-old when he was studying at a junior novitiate in England in preparation for the priesthood.
In a Sunday newspaper interview, Byrne said the long term effect on him was an erosion of his self-worth.
"I grew up with a deep sense of shame, a tremendous lack of confidence and no self-esteem whatsoever," he said. "That sense of wanting to hide and feeling ashamed was bred into me at that time."
Born in 1950, Byrne went to a Christian Brothers school in Drimnagh in Dublin, where he said physical abuse was part of daily life. The physical abuse was accompanied by sexual violation.
He recalled children being beaten with the legs of chairs, being lifted off the ground by their hair and one being held out the window by his leg.
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When he went to the junior novitiate in England at the age of 11, he was abused, he said, by his Latin teacher.
"Nothing incredibly damaging to me happened, but it was definitely sexual abuse," the star of "The Usual Suspects" and "Defense of the Realm" told the Sunday Times.
"It was a severe physical invasion of my privacy, done under the guise of affection. One of the incidents took place when I was being told the facts of life.
"He was a man I really trusted and I really wanted to be good at the subject he taught me because he seemed to really like me.
"I responded to the man because he was so encouraging. It never occurred to me that his liking for me was questionable, until much later.
"I am not carping about it and I’m not being sorry for myself. To be honest, not a great deal of damage was done to me physically. The damage was emotional and that took me a long time to shake off."
Byrne said he felt sorry for men in the priesthood who were forced to deny their sexuality.
"One of the great gifts of life is sexuality and to ask a man to deny himself that is to, in a way, castrate his humanity. In such an unnatural life the sexual instinct becomes twisted and perverted.