Football

Richie Sadlier Opens Up About Sexual Abuse He Suffered As A Teenager

Richie Sadlier Opens Up About Sexual Abuse He Suffered As A Teenager

Richie Sadlier has spoken publicly for the first time about sexual abuse which he suffered as a teenager.

The former Ireland international was a guest on Friday night's Late Late Show.

"I was sexually abused when I was a young lad," Sadlier, now 40, told Ryan Tubridy.

"I was 14 years old and it was a period of over six weeks by a man who was giving me treatment for an injury I had.

"I was football mad when I was a kid, so I was playing in all sorts of teams.

"I would go to see this man, my mum would bring me, drop me off and pick me up afterwards.

"There's loads I can't explain, I would play along with his nice guy act afterwards when there would be a conversation with mum and him and me. I didn't tell any of my family, I didn't tell any of my friends at the time. That was my response.

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"Because I never spoke about it, I never had a conversation about it, I was left along with my own interpretation of what happened and my interpretation of what happened was that this was my failing.

"I almost gave him a free pass. It's a weird thing to explain. I was like, 'Why didn't I stop it? Why didn't I run? Why didn't I hit him back? Why didn't I tell someone? Why did I go back?' I tormented myself with those questions for years.

"If you don't tell someone what you've gone through, you don't give your mates the opportunity to give you their version of events and you don't get the opportunity to hear out loud what your thoughts are and my thoughts were completely bonkers about the whole thing.

"I thought it was my failing and the more I thought of it as that, the more I was determined that you or anyone else would never find out."

That determination to never have anyone know about the abuse was cemented by the response he received when he did tell an adult.

"I was at a training session," he said.

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I had a moment where I was with one of the adults and he asked me about how I got on with the treatment. I told him a couple of things.

I said, 'I have to get naked for every session'. I told him one other thing, which was the nature of what would go on in the room.

He found it amusing. There was another man just out of earshot of where we were speaking. He alerted the other fella to the story and said, 'Listen to this'. It was a joke.

I remember at the time going, 'Oh you fucking eejit, why did you say this?' Everyone was laughing. What they knew about what went on in the room was a source of fun. I did this self-protection this, I said I'd better laugh along too.

I retreated back into my shell and never considered saying it again until about five years later I was walking around Marlay Park and I said it to my mum. She was amazing. I remember being back in the kitchen and swearing with anger about the other person. It was one of the rare moments I turned the anger on him and away from me.

I said it to a mate a few years later. We were two or three days into a weekend bender. We were full of drink and drugs. He just said, 'Don't ever say that to anyone. Seriously, don't'. I remember going, 'Yeah, you're right'.

During his 20s, Sadlier drank to excess and also took drugs. He believes it would be overly simplistic to pinpoint the sexual abuse as the sole root cause of that self-destructive streak.

"When I was playing football, I had a calendar on the kitchen wall and my uncle said, 'Why are there X's on some of the days?' I said, 'They're my drinking days. I know my fixtures, I know when we train, so I knew when we have days off and that's when I drink'.

"My life used to be football days and drinking days. When I retired at the age of 24, it was just drinking days. When I knew I wasn't going to be drug tested anymore, I said I'd throw drugs into it as well."

Going to therapy, coupled with his own worked as a psychotherapist, has helped Sadlier overcome his troubles.

"The more I talk about it and the more I heard out loud what my thoughts were, the more ridiculous I realised that they sounded. Over the last few years, working with young people, the more I appreciate what a 14-year-old is capable of and what their limitations are. From helping others, I've helped myself.

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"I stopped drinking when I was 32. I got a lot of help from a lot of great people. Facing into a life without drink, like facing into a life without football, I had the most bleak outlook possible.

"I didn't do anything with anyone that didn't involve drink. I thought,'I'm 32 now, I'm going to be single and celibate forever. I'll never be a parent. I'll never be able to go on holidays, festivals, nights out'.

"Of all the things that I would have found baffling in life to try and do sober... How do you go on a date with someone? How do you flirt with someone? How do you know when to hold their hand?

"I was well over two years in recovery and off the drink before I was even able to consider holding hands with someone.

"I am now a really happily married man. Myself and Fiona got married at the end of May."

If you or someone you know has been affected by childhood sexual abuse, you can contact One In Four. Phone: 01 66 24070

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You can watch Richie Sadlier's full interview on The Late Late Show on the RTÉ Player.

See Also: Dublin's AFL Combine Record Breaker Taking Pro Journey In His Stride

 

PJ Browne
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