My name is Alex Feis-Bryce and I’m really proud and honoured to be the new CEO of SurvivorsUK. I’m also a survivor.
I’ve experienced sexual violence twice, at very different stages of my life and in different circumstances. When I was raped as a first-year university student, barely an adult, I’d just moved to a new city and didn’t know where to turn. The idea of reporting to the police or seeking support didn’t even occur to me – instead I hid what happened from most of the people closest to me and tried to forget about it. In fact, I don’t think, back then, I’d ever even heard of men being sexually assaulted or raped so I didn’t think for a minute that there would be specialist support out there for me. When I look back, I only wish I knew of an organisation like SurvivorsUK who would have been there to help me heal and come to terms with what happened.
The other experience was when I was sexually assaulted a few years ago by a public figure and experienced the whole criminal justice process – from reporting to the police to giving evidence in court in a trial which made the front pages of the newspapers every day. This was made so much easier because I knew where to go to get support and had people alongside me throughout the whole process.
We are all shaped by our personal experiences – good or bad. These experiences were a big reason why I’ve spent most of my professional life working in organisations supporting survivors of sexual violence and victims of other serious crimes – most often marginalised people who are targeted by offenders – and fighting to change the systems which perpetuate injustice. I was the founding CEO of a charity called National Ugly Mugs (NUM), which supports sex workers when they experience crime and sexual violence. During my six years as CEO we were lucky enough to win lots of awards and get lots of national and international recognition. Those were the proudest days of my life. As well as delivering services I felt that it was really important for me, as CEO, to speak out publicly against injustices and challenge the authorities when necessary – speaking truth to power was always a key part of my role. I always tried to do this alongside, not instead of, the voices of those most affected.
I’ve also tried to speak out publicly about my experience as a male survivor. Nobody should ever feel pressured to speak out but everybody should feel that they can and if they do that they will be believed and supported and that justice is something within their reach.
Ever since I started working in this area, I have admired SurvivorsUK and I’m so delighted to have been given the opportunity to become CEO of an organisation so close to my heart. I’ve only been in post for a few days but I’ve already been overwhelmed by the passion, commitment and expertise of the team and I’m really excited to work alongside them, the board of trustees and, crucially, the people we support to reflect on how we can continue to improve and offer the best services we can.