Listening to the news bulletin describing how a defrocked priest was cleared of rape over a technicality, his victim felt a numb pain squeezing him inside.

Like a tree, you’ll only grow as strong as its roots – but I’ll survive

But while the ruling sparked outrage online, LC, who only feels safe going by his initials, is devoid of anger.

“I never thought I’d see my case on the news. The hurt remains, and every day is a challenge not to let anger reign. Who knows what I’ll do if I let anger take over; I don’t want to go there,” the 34-year-old told The Sunday Times following Wednesday’s court decision.

LC was the only boy to be raped from the 11 who were abused by priests in Sta Venera’s St Joseph Home. However, the rape charge against Godwin Scerri, who has since been defrocked, collapsed because of a mistake on the charge sheet over where the abuse took place.

Mr Scerri, 75, was last August convicted of abusing boys in his care about 20 years ago and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He has since appealed.

However, the former priest was acquitted of rape because the victim testified it had taken place in Sta Venera, while the police charge sheet said the incident occurred in Marfa.

The Attorney General had appealed against this ruling, but four days ago the appeals court upheld the original decision – saying the prosecution had had adequate time to correct this mistake but failed to do so.

LC reflected on the case and conceded he had taken it for granted that the former priest would be convicted of the rape.

“All I want is justice and for the priest to stop trying to hide from reality,” he said.

“We were children under his care. He was there to protect us and uphold our religion’s values,” LC said, adding that at least recounting what he had endured in court and being believed had brought some closure and relief. “My conscience didn’t allow me to rest until I got this off my chest. The priest did whatever he did against my will – he robbed me of my childhood. Now I just want him to recognise what he did and stop fooling himself, otherwise he will never rest – he is just escaping reality,” he said.

LC has since found his own semblance of harmony in life, but he feels it’s a “24-hour struggle” to maintain this inner peace.

Life was never easy for the young man. His mother put him in Fra Diegu, a nun’s home, when he was just seven months old. He described his mother as an aggressive woman who had children from different men.

By the age of nine he was transferred to St Joseph Home – where he was sexually assaulted by three priests. By 18 he left the institute, but felt like a misfit entering a world where he had nowhere to go.

He fought hard against life’s currents that threatened to drown him, and although he remains a loner he seeks normality in football and work – living a simple life in the north of the island.

Asked if he would take up the Church’s offer to provide the victims of abuse psychiatric and psychological support, LC smiled.

“What’s the use of seeing a psychologist today? We’ve been through so much and I’ve had to deal with life’s uphill struggles on my own to seek peace,” he said.

The sexual assault and rape are woven into his psyche and fleeting visions of what happened pop up every day.

“Like a tree, you’ll only grow as strong as its roots – but I’ll survive.”