THE BLOG

Are the Invisible Finally Becoming Visible?

14/12/2014 20:44 GMT | Updated 11/02/2015 10:59 GMT

No one saw it happening. Not my family, not my friends, not my school teachers, no one - not even me! I sometimes even question whether he, 'Jack', even saw it for what it was, what he was doing. Those that knew me didn't see it because I hid my confusion about it really well. I didn't fully see it because I didn't know that's what it was, what was happening to me... I didn't know that I was being sexually abused and raped.

It wasn't until I was 28 years old that I even saw it. Sat in my therapist's consulting room, which I did every month as part of my education and training to become a qualified therapist, Heather reflected back to me something I'd said whilst I was thinking out loud. BANG! In that moment, I realised the truth of the matter. Since being 15 years old, I had told myself one thing and yet here I was now, with a whole new set of truths, THE truth. Memories and realisations cascaded through my mind like water busting out of a dam that's just had a massive hole blown in it. And I cried.

Still to this day, seven years on, I'm not too sure what I was crying about. I can't work out if I was crying because I realised I'd been sexually abused; realised that everything 'Jack' told me was a lie; or realised that I'd been lying to myself all these years about what those experiences were.

It's something that over the years I've observed to be a common experience for many boys and men... that sudden realisation when denial turns to instant awareness; the invisible becomes visible; the darkness suddenly becomes light; and the deafening silence is broken by sound.

Since I started Survivors Manchester in 2009; during my 2010 academic enquiry; and throughout my work with male survivors, which I have the absolute honour of doing daily over these past five years; I've asked a thousand times, why do we keep so silent? Why have we, as male survivors, been so invisible to the naked eye?

Ono, a 32-year-old client who was sexually assaulted and raped by his gym teacher on a number of occasions once said to me

"but how do you speak about something you don't have the words for? Sometimes silence seems the only option"

So if we don't publicly talk about boys and men as victims then we're not providing them with the words that allow them to speak the language and set them free from that darkness. Does not talking mean that we collude with the silence, the pain and the suffering?

But things are definitely changing for the better.

In late 2013, Channel 4 drama Hollyoaks announced they would run a male rape storyline, which was met with colourful conversation and debate on social media; then in early 2014, the Ministry of Justice announced a £500,000 fund for organisations supporting male survivors. With today's announcement of the recipient organisations, such as my own, being awarded funds, we can certainly begin to assure the silent that spaces are available to make some noise!

And whilst after the excitement subsides, we will no doubt continue to argue and debate the need to secure more long term funding in one of the most difficult financial climates in recent history; try to create better joined up working relationships with our female services counterparts, without homogenising the whole sector or loosing sight of some of the important gender specific sensitivities; push decision makers to set UK policy to include male victims of sexual violence, rather than negate them like the Violence Against Women and Girls agenda does; we must not forget to recognise the overall importance of this new Male Rape Support Fund.

Having the government publicly set out a fund that is for the provision of support to male survivors of sexual violation is saying loud and clear... "WE SEE YOU". It says to country, "male survivors exist", we know they do and we're trying to help.

The invisible are finally becoming visible.