I have just completed a 12-week programme at SurvivorsUK and was asked by one of the facilitators to write a short blog.
My story is that I was abused by my dad between the ages of 9-10. I am now 54. It took me until I was 27 to talk about my abuse and the years since have been about getting on with my life and managing my life and some of the recognised 'side effects' of abuse the best way I can.
I'm not from a broken family, my parents will soon celebrate 60 years of marriage and my abuse remains a firm family secret. In the years since first speaking up I've had good times and bad times but abuse never leaves you and is always just around the corner. There have been the alcohol problems, failed relationships, too many career changes to really enjoy success and I'm moving home again for the 17th time.
Abuse can affect you in a number of ways: drug and alcohol abuse is common; victims can choose casual sex and pornography over creating an intimate relationship with a stable partner. The instability it creates in your career and home while you try and grasp a sense in a world rocked beyond anything imaginable. I think once you have been abused it is difficult to understand any sense of permanency in life, you learn to be untrusting, fearful, suspicious; you'll probably suffer anxiety and you're probably more likely to have problems at work, become a victim more frequently in different guises and suffer poor health.
Since first talking about my abuse I have used Samaritans for support, received one-to-one counselling and more recently became involved in the 12-week programme at SurvivorsUK. The 12-week programme was an opportunity to meet other survivors, share our stories, look at the issues that affect us all; shame, guilt, anger, and begin to process these collectively. The group offered each other support and for the first time for many of us we could identify with others who had been abused. The group also offered the opportunity for individuals to look at how they had managed their abuse and if they weren't living the life they wanted how their life could be changed to live the life they wanted.
The effects of sexual abuse are devastating but as people gain courage and talk about it, begin to understand it, tackle the isolation of the victims, we as a society can deal and manage the issues and where there has been despair hope will prevail.
I was prompted to contact SurvivorsUK following the Andy Woodward story and the other footballers that came forward to talk about their abuse. This news story had a profound effect and the way I viewed the effects of my abuse.
In my case the silence has ensured the illusion of a family has remained intact. I have and still visit my family occasionally, I have been 'playing' that part since I was nine years old so it is well rehearsed and practised. These days I'm kinder to myself and won't be emotionally blackmailed into visiting, visits are more on my terms, it will never be 'right', I guess I would have liked it to just be normal. 'This Be The Verse' by Philip Larkin jumps to mind ... 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad'. I get that the way I manage it wouldn't be for everyone but with abuse you lose control and power and I guess somewhere this has to be given back to the abused, by respecting how I manage it I get back some of that control and power.
SurvivorsUK has changed my life for the better. I am now in a steady relationship and not playing a part as I have in past relationships. I am more confident at work and finally understand what it is to be authentic. I know I am not alone any more and understand there are many guys like me 'out there' who have similar experiences and face the same challenges. At the end of the 12-week sessions everyone in the group received a card signed by the other guys in the group. One of the guys in the group wrote in my card 'I feel you are in a more healing place than me which gives me hope that if you are there I can get there too'. I carry this as I have never wanted to be a victim of my abuse or be defined by it. Early in the group I said 'I didn't want to just survive I wanted to thrive'. I intend to continue to support SurvivorsUK and there are future groups that I can join if I wish. I will definitely keep in contact, I feel I may have made some good friends, I'm keen to know how the other guys get along and would like to think I would be there for them and vice versa. Abuse doesn't have to be an unhappy ending.