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In 1974 I was a troubled and vulnerable young man. 18 years old and struggling with my sexuality I had been seeing psychiatrists, was anxious, and in a lot of conflict with my parents. My struggle was to come to terms with being gay and get my parents to accept me. I had one gay friend who I was at school with, and he left Surrey where I lived, and went to live in London. We kept in contact and not long afterwards told me he was lodging in a flat in South London and invited me to go and live there. I thought this was a great opportunity to get away from my parents and explore gay London. My friend lodged with an older man who was a social worker with one of the London councils and given that information this seemed a safe haven for me. I was on medication for anxiety but life seemed to be taking a very positive turn.

About a month after I moved there, we all went out to a local pub for lunch and then when we returned I went to lie down on the bed for an afternoon rest. I had not been there long when the landlord, the social worker, came crawling on his hands and knees into the bedroom, saying ‘Daddies been a naughty boy.’ He was either naked or partly naked I can’t remember. He was certainly masturbating himself, I saw his penis which I found revolting. I recall being repulsed by his appearance, and as I type I can still smell his particular odour. He was in his thirties which to me at the time seemed quite old and I found his physical appearance very unattractive. There was no way I wanted sex with him, but I froze not knowing what to do. He performed oral sex on me, I became erect, and I had an orgasm. He left the room. A few minutes later I remember being consumed by the most awful wave of disgust and self-loathing, so I reached for my medication and took an overdose. As I became unconscious my friend found me and called an ambulance. That’s the last thing I recall for a couple of days. I was unconscious in intensive care at King’s College Hospital, and at one point my parents were called because the doctor was not sure I would survive.
When I came around it never occurred to me I had been assaulted- all I could recall was being ‘depressed’ and I did not make any link between the landlord’s act on me and the dreadful wave of revulsion I felt. I didn’t understand why he came to the hospital looking very anxious and asking me why I took the overdose- I just kept saying I was ‘depressed.’

For decades after that I suffered from terrible depression, and went through cycles of self-loathing and despair. On two more occasions in as many years after the assault I tried to kill myself, once I almost succeeded. For years I battled with the question ‘why do I get depressed’ even going through therapy without touching on the truth.

Then in 2003, I was on holiday and I was lying awake in Australia with jet lag, my thoughts were whizzing over and suddenly the incident came into my mind, followed by ‘oh my god that was a sexual assault.’ Since then my recovery has taken bouts of therapy and working on myself a great deal but I can say without any doubt, that since that moment of understanding came to me I have never been depressed again. Of course I have bad days and good days, that is life, sometimes that happens, but the terrible dark dragging depression, which I know was the wave of revulsion turned inwards as it had nowhere else to go, has gone for good.

My path to healing has often been interrupted by thoughts of ‘It wasn’t that bad’, ‘it was only oral not penetration’, ‘it only happened once.’ There are still times that I think this, then I drag myself back to the thought ‘he almost caused my death’ and I realise how foul his act was. He was a social worker, he knew I was a vulnerable lad, he was my landlord and in 1974 the age of consent was 21. It was a despicable act- he of course would have gone to prison if I had said anything. Another aspect which I have struggled with is that when he performed oral sex on me my penis was aroused and I had an orgasm. I believe that the wave of revulsion I felt after the act was for a number of reasons; firstly I was revolted by him, secondly I loathed myself because I did not say no or resist, and lastly because part of my body enjoyed it.

I still do not understand how the human mind works- for 30 years I dissociated the physical act he performed on me, from the wave of raw revulsion which followed, and then never linked it with my grinding depression.

Now aged 63, and fully recovered, I have never been bitter, I’m in a loving long term relationship and have enjoyed years as a successful businessman. Life is good, but I remain deeply angry this man almost caused my death, and angry he stole all those days from me when I could not get out of bed because I was so depressed. I don’t know if he is still alive, he could be, I did once think I should pursue the matter and decided against it. I am still working on the concept of forgiveness.

Charlie

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