THERE are some stories so harrowing that they have the power to knock the breath from your lungs.

Broadcaster Nicky Campbell’s memories of the endemic abuse perpetrated against children at the Edinburgh school he attended in the 1970s is one such story.

For the last two years, journalist Alex Renton has been working on a documentary for Radio 4 called ‘In Dark Corners’ which exposes the systematic abuse that occurred in some of Britain’s private schools.

In his BBC podcast, Campbell recalls the moment when his wife called him into the kitchen to tell him that his own school, The Edinburgh Academy, had been mentioned in the Radio 4 documentary.

Physical abuse by teachers against pupils was normalised within the school.

In one incident, Campbell was "badly and brutally’’ beaten by a teacher.

He was "kicked, slapped and viciously tossed around like a rag doll’’ and he disclosed what had happened to his parents at the time.

After a meeting with the headmaster, his mum was stonewalled by the school and he says that for the remainder of his school career, he was labelled as a trouble maker.

While the physical violence by teachers at the school was an open secret, the sexual abuse was buried deep beneath layers of shame, fear and intimidation.

One of the teachers mentioned throughout Alex Renton’s documentary, ‘Edgar’ (not his real name) was somebody that Campbell says was well-known for predatory and violent behaviour.

He was also a teacher that Nicky Campbell had witnessed sexually abusing one of his friends in the school changing room when both boys were only ten years old.

He describes the incident as "unspeakable’’ and when he recalls the nervous laughter of his friend during the attack, the terror and confusion both boys must have felt is palpable.

"My friend is laughing but I know from the fear in it that it’s not a good laugh’’ he said.

"It’s that primal point when laughter becomes fear but carries on in spite of itself.’’

There were other incidents. One of Nicky Campbell’s school friends spoke of the teacher’s "ritualised abuse’’.

He vividly recalls boys lining up with their jotters each lesson as 'Edgar' put his hand in their shorts and then in their underpants.

This predatory man is mentioned both in Alex Renton’s documentary and in the on-going Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. So far, more than 20 people have come forward with allegations of abuse against him.

'Edgar' is still alive, retired and now lives abroad with his wife.

Despite the allegations against him, little can be done until he is back on British soil and so far, attempts to extradite him have failed.

Nicky Campbell says that it has now become his mission to see his abuser face justice and he won’t rest until he does.

It’s impossible to overstate Nicky Campbell’s bravery in speaking about own experiences of abuse and the horrifying things he witnessed as a boy.

Abusers thrive in silence and find cover for their crimes in places where speaking out is made as difficult as possible.

That’s why residential private schools are so often scenes of these horrific acts.

Children, living apart from their parents and subject to the – often violent – discipline of the adults who should be there to protect them, fear what will happen if they admit what they have suffered.

One former student of the school referred to that fear as "the normalcy of the system’’.

"We knew it was wrong but you didn’t question it, let alone complain about it because who would believe you?’’ he said.

When Nicky Campbell recalls the moment when he realised that some men had came forward to speak about historic sexual abuse in the Edinburgh Academy, he poignantly mentions his relief that "now, at last, the grown-ups have been told.’’

There’s a sense of security in knowing that you aren’t standing alone. Which is why when we see stories of predatory men in the news, further accusations often follow in a trickle and then a flurry shortly after the first.

In his candour and his unimaginable bravery, Nicky Campbell is using his platform in a way that will help others who have experienced childhood abuse.

That’s a hugely emotionally generous thing to do and not an act that comes without personal risk.

Five decades have passed since his time at school but the memory of all he endured still has a lasting impact. He carries the trauma with him but by speaking out, he will give hope to all those who have felt forced to suffer in silence.

Men often find it particularly difficult to speak about their experiences of sexual abuse.

They are bowed by the unfair expectations that society places on them: to be brave, strong and stoic, regardless of the horrors they have endured.

These gendered beliefs about masculinity and strength mean that many male survivors process their pain without help or support from others. They internalise their experiences and force down the fears and negative feelings that emerge as a result.

Nicky Campbell says he is pursuing justice for these men so that they don’t have to suffer in oppressive silence any more.

He said he will act "for all the men in their sixties who are perfectly fine, beyond the broken marriages and the rehab and the shadows on the ceiling at three o’clock in the morning.’’

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Academy said it "deeply regrets what has happened in the past and apologises wholeheartedly to all concerned.’’

They added: "The Academy has robust measures in place to safeguard children at the school with child protection training now core to the ethos of the Academy.’’

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, which was launched in 2015, has heard evidence about abuse at a number of Scottish schools, including the Edinburgh Academy. It will report its findings to the Scottish Government and make recommendations on what policies or changes to the law might be necessary.

Survivors of historic childhood abuse deserve for their stories to be heard and lessons must be learned to ensure that such horrors can never happen again.

But alongside that, they also deserve to see the perpetrators brought to justice.

For those who suffered abuse at the Edinburgh Academy, the bravery of Nicky Campbell and all the men who have spoken out might just help make that prospect a reality.