Last year in early September my life changed. It took me to a place that I had never been before and hopefully will never have to return. I was raped.
I'd not long moved to Manchester with my then girlfriend. We were just beginning to get settled into our new home and to begin our lives together in this new and exciting place. A good friend of mine decided that he would come visit so that we could embrace this new city's nightlife together alongside catching up on all the events of recent months. Starting in bars moving on to clubs, you know how things can get on a "lad's night out", they escalate quickly. Before I knew it the lights came on, the doors opened and the doorman ushered people into the street. That's when I realised something. I'd lost my phone. Not just that, I'd lost my friend.
As many of us do I thought nothing of this, it certainly wasn't the first time that I had been separated on a night out and I have phone insurance for a very good reason. I began chatting with people in the street asking them if they had seen this person that, let's be honest, they'd never met. However, as we all know drunken logic is wonderful and fascinating thing. One friendly group asked since I'd lost my friend why didn't I join them for another drink. Why wouldn't I? Back home I'd meet people on nights out all the time, in fact some of my best friends stemmed from a disorientated chat outside of a kebab house. This later turned out to be a decision that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
A hazy walk with a group of people I'd just met led me to what I later found out to be a hotel room. Stories, laughs and drinks were exchanged until all but three were left. Two others and myself. The final drink of what had already been heavy night was poured. Unaware of what was about to happen I drank my drink but then, without warning, my mind went blank. Snippets of memory show the removal of my trousers, the sounds of their wicked discussion and the agonising pain of penetration. The two men relentlessly took it in turns for a number of hours to pleasure themselves at the expense of my wellbeing. I did nothing to stop them, I wasn't in a position to, and all I could do was focus my attention on anything but what was happening. I wasn't giving my consent; my subconscious was aiding my survival. I was powerless.
Shock. I was in shock. That was and is the only logical explanation for what happened next. As I walked home I took out my rent, bought myself a drink and strolled towards my flat in which my girlfriend and best friend would be there waiting. The more I walked, the more my mind began to wander. Then as I crossed a bridge around the corner from where I lived. It hit me. Should I jump? How could I live with what had just happened? What should I tell people? Who should I tell? If I end this now no one will ever know, right?
The un-doubtable devastation to my friends and family is what kept me walking over that bridge.
As months passed life didn't get any easier. I would do anything that prevented my mind to have the freedom to think about what happened. Whilst working ridiculous hours I sheltered myself, speaking about my experience as little as possible. The thoughts of suicide hadn't left, thankfully I never came to close to taking action with my thoughts but they still resonated in my brain for longer than I'd like to admit. Bottling it up and trying to be a "man" about what had happened wasn't helping, in fact I think it made things worse.
I did one thing on that first day which I genuinely believed saved my life. I told my girlfriend and my best friend. Telling those two people led to my parents being informed and then later, with my consent, my immediate family and close friends. I had my own support group and I didn't even know it. Although no one could say or do the right thing, it was having them there, protecting me from a distance that kept me going and gave me that gentle nudge to the first step of my recovery.
2017, new year new start. Not quite. Having already being diagnosed with PTSD and depression in those early days coinciding with my refusal to attend therapy or take medication, I broke down. This is when I finally accepted that I needed help in order to make it through this. I referred myself to Survivors Manchester and began weekly clinical therapy. In the beginning I avoided opening up to my therapist but with his perseverance I started to accept and talk about what had happened, how it made me feel and what I could do to make things "normal" again.
Six months later. Suddenly I started to feel again, feel me and feel free. I was almost the happy confident young man that I was before all of this. The key word in that sentence being "man". The moment I started to open up about what had happened or "break the silence" to my therapist, my friends and my family, that's the moment that I started to recover. Just because this has happened, just because this has made me upset and just because I have spoken about my ordeal... it doesn't make me any less of a man. Trust me I've checked and I can assure you of that.
I decided that I wanted to share my story wide and far is because in order to turn what happened to me in to a positive. By sharing my story worldwide there are a few messages that I wanted to get across to you all:
1. This can happen to anyone. I didn't believe that men could get raped and I genuinely think that is a mind-set that the majority of people have. Rape has no boundaries which means it can happen to anyone no matter what your background, profession, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or culture. Be safe.
2. You still have a life to live. I know first hand how hard it is to live with yourself after any form of sexual abuse but that doesn't mean that it won't get better. The first step to recovery is breaking the silence; my story is the perfect example of that. I can only hope that by breaking my silence on a national level it will help you to find it within yourself to talk to a friend, your family or a professional. This doesn't stop at sexual abuse; this goes for anybody suffering from PTSD or depression. Be brave.
3. By talking about my feelings, showing emotion, acknowledging that this has happened to me and admitting I didn't fight back I'm not any less of a man. This is 2017 and it's about time that what is perceived as "manliness" changed. Be strong.
And remember one thing. In survival we unite.