Billy Connolly talks about childhood sexual abuse which led to a life of alcohol and drug abuse. Guardian & BBC2.
I watched the The Review Show on BBC2 which had a very frank and open discussion between Billy Connolly and Kirsty Wark. He talked about childhood sexual abuse for many years by his father after being abandoned by his mother aged just 3 to a cruel aunt.
He also spoke about being ‘saved’ by his wife Pamela Stephenson (a psychotherapist and psychologist) from a lifetime of self medicating with alcohol and drugs.
I found this article in Guardian/Observer from 2001. Billy Connolly has always been a hero of mine and now I have even more respect for his courage to speak out.
And of course his comedy.
Connolly: my terror at years of sexual abuse.
Billy Connolly, one of Britain’s greatest comedians, has spoken for the first time of the sexual and physical abuse he suffered as a child and how he overcame drink, drugs and the demons of his past with the help of his wife.In a moving interview with The Observer , coinciding with today’s serialisation in Life magazine of Connolly’s biography by his psychologist wife Pamela Stephenson, the comic describes himself as ‘a work in progress’.
Connolly said the sexual abuse he suffered from his father was a dark secret he had shouldered through adulthood. He said he lived in fear of his father’s approaches and of his aunt’s violent attacks.
The comedian said he was still coming to terms with a sense of betrayal by his father William. ‘I have no lack of love for my father. I love his memory now, as much as I loved him when he was alive. It was disloyal of him to do that to me,’ he said. ‘But there were other facets of his character that were great. So you know, you’ve got to get over it, you’ve only one life to do it. But still, I kept thinking, if I’m still troubled by this, if I’m still carrying it around like a big rucksack full of bricks and my father’s dead, I need someone to tell me how to get rid of this great weight, you know.’
Connolly lived in poverty in Glasgow with his elder sister and his two aunts Mona and Margaret. He shared a sofa each night with his father. Describing the abuse, he said his father often came home late and drunk: ‘The most awful thing was that it was kind of pleasant, physically, you know. That’s why nobody tells.
‘I remember it happening a lot, not every night, but every night you were in a state thinking it was going to happen, that you’d be awakened by it. I would pray for the holidays. I couldn’t wait for us to go to the seaside because then we had separate beds.’
He also describes harrowing attacks by his aunt Mona who took her frustrations out on him by hitting him with wet cloths, kicking him and pounding him on the head with the heels of her shoes. Connolly was abandoned aged three by his mother. He says he has struggled for years with idealised memories of her. ‘When we met, I didn’t feel any bond with her, and she didn’t seem to feel one towards me,’ he said.
When his father died in 1989, Connolly at last admitted to his wife, who trained as a psychologist after making her name as a performer in the BBC’s Not the Nine O’Clock News , that he had been sexually abused. She persuaded him to talk to a therapist.
Stephenson traces the impact of abuse through Connolly’s twenties. ‘He could not bear to be touched by anybody at all and would jump in the air if another person got within 18 inches of him,’ she writes in Billy .
‘Billy knew he was attracted to women. But, because abusers always design their victims’ future sexuality to some extent, Billy had a nagging question about his sexual orientation and was drawn to seek a few experiences with other men to satisfy his curiosity.’
Connolly admits surviving members of his family may take the revelations badly, but his wife’s book has been dedicated to them, in a spirit of ‘healing through understanding’.
Connolly, who has five children – a son and daughter by his first wife, Iris, and three daughters with Stephenson – has a mansion in Beverly Hills and an estate in Aberdeenshire. He confesses, though, that he has strong feelings of alienation towards Scotland. ‘I hate my country for the way it holds people back, tells them they’re not good enough,’ he said.
Connolly’s ability to be honest about his pain, and give up smoking and drinking heavily, is down to Stephenson. He said: ‘I had to own up to everything, which no one had ever asked me to do before. And then it all tumbled out.’