Steven Engles

Steven Engles (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

 

This is the first time I’ve ever written a blog, I don’t really know where to start so I guess I’ll just start with the basic background of how I came to starting up a blog about being a male survivor of sexual abuse.

It all started when I was around 4-5 years old, it’s hard to look back and estimate your age, but this is the closest I can be, I was sexually abused by a family member, at the time I didn’t think anything of it, I was very young and naive, I guess I thought it was just a game or something, it didn’t feel good, or bad really, it just happened.

Nothing else happened immediately after that and it was just sort of swept to the back of my mind, I was just a boy, I didn’t have any cares in the world, then a year or two later I found myself naked and in the bed of my abuser, he was also naked, him trying to passionately kiss me whilst rubbing his erect penis on mine and making me touch it, I didn’t fight it, I didn’t tell him to stop, I was only 6 or 7 years old, again I didn’t know how wrong or sick it was, to me it was just another strange game, I was at most a little confused about what was actually happening but not enough to make me alarmed or concerned.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was being used in some sick, perverted, incestual sex game, if only I knew then, if I told someone at the time, then maybe, just maybe, these unknown secret traumas wouldn’t have caused so much damage, maybe they wouldn’t have changed the way I viewed the world, maybe I wouldn’t suffer from Anxiety, Depression or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder all these years later, a grown man, a big strong 28 year old man with kids of my own, a man who suffers from constant hypervigilance, a man who has such deep dark depressive episodes that he never knows how he will come out the other side, a man who has extreme anxiety when entering a room of people, a man who can be floored by a single memory, thought or trigger.

Many people think that the traumas are the worst thing about childhood sexual abuse, well for me, at the time, it wasn’t bad, I wasn’t physically forced, I wasn’t hurt, I didn’t even think about it much at the time, i even pushed them so far to the back of my mind that I blocked them out completely, but in my mid twenties, I guess my mind couldn’t keep them contained any longer, they all came flooding back, what I mentioned above, and more, after a lifetime of feeling different and struggling with relationships with freinds and family and an adulthood of mental health issues, the source of all my issues reared its ugly head, the confusion of it all took a long time to sink in, but over time, I realised that I had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse.

After struggling to come to terms with what happened in my childhood, it really impacted my mental health to the point that I was giving up, I had tried to get help, mainly through my GP which only resulted in medication, I thought that this was the only help available, you see it’s not something that I’ve heard much about, I mean yeah I knew it happened, but the only stories I had ever really heard was from female survivors, this made me feel like there wouldn’t be anything out there for male survivors, I also felt like I wouldn’t be believed.

So after a period of feeling alone, and my mental health spiralling out of control, I attempted to take my own life, it felt like the only way out, I felt like my family, including my children would be better off without me. Luckily I wasn’t successful, but even after a suicide attempt, I still wasn’t offered any more help, this made me feel even worse, was there no help out there for men? What did I need to do to be heard? I tried my best to struggle on but my mental health only grew worse, I was in such a deep depression and state of paranoia, I remember a lot of healthcare professionals coming out to my home over a few days, there were doctors, social workers, crisis team etc, I also remember thinking how strange it was that all of a sudden everyone wanted to help, in my paranoid state of mind, I didn’t engage with anyone, I just sat quietly on the sofa listening to the album One More Light by Linkin Park on repeat, such an amazing, relatable album by one of the only other male survivors I had heard about, I still listen to those songs now however they weren’t the best choice of music for the state of mind I was in, I sat thinking if Chester Bennington couldn’t fight it, if he felt like his only way out was to take his life, what chance did I have, he had the money, fame, wife and 5 kids and a whole lot of fans that loved him for who he was, and if he couldn’t get the help he needed, how could I?

So after refusing to engage with any of my visitors, I was placed under section 2, but of course I refused to go with the paramedics that came to take me to hospital, I had no trust in anyone, I thought if I went with them that I would never be allowed out again, So along came a police officer, I was getting pretty worked up at this point, I said some pretty nasty things and I’m pretty sure I made some threats (This was totally out of character for me) so he called for back up, in the end I was forcibly arrested in handcuffs, I wasn’t violent to anyone but I definitely resisted, so after being on a secure ward for 8 days, my crisis was over and I was discharged, this was a huge turning point in my life, it was when I decided that enough was enough and I had to be heard, upon returning home, I had a lot of involvement from the community mental health team, including being assigned a community psychiatric nurse, as great as this all was, I realized how bad the system really is for people with mental illnesses, I had been trying for so long to get help, and I had to get to my lowest point and have a breakdown before it was offered.

So a few months passed and I made the decision to go to the police, I won’t get into too much detail about this so long story short, he was questioned and came out with his usual lies and manipulative ways and the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence, I really struggled to come to terms with this too, I was angry, I felt let down, I thought I had been through all of it for nothing, it took me a while to see that it was a positive thing still, it was one of my first steps to healing, I had added to the male statistics, I had helped to show that it happens to men and boys too, but most importantly, it was now logged against him in the event that anyone else ever came forward.

I took the next 5 to 6 months a day at a time, it was difficult to figure out where to go from here, I attended a DBT course to help me cope with my emotions, I also started to look around to see what was out there for male survivors. After a lot of searching I found SurvivorsUK and Shatter Boy’s UK on Facebook, I instantly felt like I wasn’t alone anymore, I followed the posts and campaigns and became inspired and empowered to do my bit, I set up a small fundraiser to shave my beard to raise money for SurvivorsUK to try to help as much as I can, it was also a way for me to raise awareness in my local area and show that it happens to males too. It quickly grew and gained the interest of the local media. The Newcastle Chronicle contacted me to see if I would like to do a story with them, this was a terrifying thought, was I ready for this? Truthfully I don’t think I was fully ready however it’s something I was thinking about attempting in the future and I felt like the opportunity was too good to miss, not only could my voice be heard locally, I could also raise awareness about the amazing work that SurvivorsUK do. A few days after I had worked with the journalist and photographer, I was then contacted by BBC Radio Newcastle, this was even more of a daunting thought, but again, would I ever get this great opportunity again? I decided to agree and recorded an interview with the too. I felt very overwhelmed when the time was coming for the newspaper story to be published, shortly followed by the radio interview being aired and of course me going live on Facebook for the first time in my life to shave my beard. Although it admittedly did impact on my mental health and caused quite bad episodes of anxiety, I don’t regret a single second of it, who knew that finally going public with something that you had considered to be a disgusting and shameful secret could release so much pain and completely change the way you thought about not only being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse but also how you felt about yourself as a person, I felt a great sense of pride and purpose for the first time in what seemed like forever.

I read a post a few weeks ago from Danny at Shatter Boy’s UK, he said about helping other men to make the transition from victim to survivor, out of everything I had read about male survivors, this statement was the most thought provoking, I sat in amazement and slowly realised that I had made this transition without even realising it, to me this just highlights the importance of the great work done by SurvivorsUK, Shatter Boy’s UK and every other charity and group that fight tirelessly to challenge stigma, raise awareness and most importantly, support survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I will never fully heal from the traumas of my childhood, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I am finally on a journey of healing that can allow me to start living my life instead of just existing, I also feel like I’m finding my place in the world, I’m not just a victim on my own anymore, I’m a survivor and we don’t have to do it alone.

Steven Engles

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