Like other countless survivors of male sexual abuse, I have spent a huge amount of time trying to make sense of what happened to me. I have put myself through many emotional states of mind – from blaming myself, anger, hate and feeling betrayed to eventually finding some kind of acceptance. The path to acceptance has been a long and difficult one to tread, but finally I feel I am getting closer to where I want to be at this point in my life.
The one thing which has helped me to find my way has been my involvement with SurvivorsUK. I was directed towards the charity during a chance conversation whilst enjoying a meal with friends from the LGBT+ Leather community. At the time, I was preparing to become a candidate for the Mr Leather UK contest 2018 and was looking to find a way of making my campaign and title year meaningful. I had no idea that such a charity as SurvivorsUK existed until I was enlightened by a friend (Leighton De Burca). As soon as he mentioned this incredible cause, I knew that I wanted to become involved and help raise funds for them
The first difficult decision to overcome was deciding how I would be able to raise funds. Along the way I had many wonderful and exciting ideas including: running a marathon in my leather gear (may cause sudden death), abseiling down the side of the i360 in Brighton dressed in leather gear (bureaucratic issues and serious chafing) or cycling from Lands End to John o’ Groats in leather gear (restriction issues when needing free moving legs to turn the peddles)… and so the thought process went on. Finally, I decided on the more sedate idea of inviting friends for dinner and charging them for the privilege of sampling my gourmet delights. This was a successful plan and a fun way of entertaining friends whilst generating the much-needed funds for SurvivorsUK. To date I have hosted three dinner parties.
Another very successful idea was a charity leather sale that I hosted at Compton’s of Soho. I could not have pulled this event off without the help and dedication of many friends and generous contributors. The event consisted of a leather clothing sale, a raffle with some amazing prizes (donated by businesses in London and Brighton) and an auction made possible with the donation of a custom-made leather outfit, created specially by Spitfire Leather. I may need a little more work on my auctioneering skills before the next attempt; however, the evening was a huge success, tying in nicely with the monthly London Leather Social and highlighted the enormous generosity of the LGBT+ community.
I am currently attempting my next fundraising idea and I’m discovering that there is an art to candle making! I thought I would experiment with the idea of creating leather scented candles to sell to my friends within the leather community, but I’m having one or two issues. I’ve acquired all of the elements necessary to make candles, but combining them and creating a quality product has been a little tricky. Firstly, the leather scent smells a little like crude oil and I ordered rather a lot of it! Secondly, the soya wax doesn’t seem to melt properly, causing the flame to drown… and the final hurdle is the black wax dye, which has created a slushy grey colour wax. Of course, all good things come to those who wait, so I’ll carry on with the experimentation and, who knows, I may well have a saleable product within the next decade or so.
As well as raising essential funds, I’ve attempted to provide promotion as possible. I’ve been helping to raise awareness at various Pride events throughout the year by sporting a SurvivorsUK T-shirt and arming myself with literature for those who have expressed an interest. I have also been promoting online and have been overwhelmed by the many messages of support and encouragement. Several people have contacted me to enquire about the support that SurvivorsUK provides and I’ve encouraged them to contact the charity to find out more.
A highlight for me this year was a meeting I had with the guys at SurvivorsUK HQ. It was incredibly interesting and informative to meet the team who run this valuable organisation. I gained a huge insight into the day-to-day running of the charity and it really brought home to me how essential their fundraisers are. Given that SurvivorsUK is a fairly small charity, I was incredibly grateful for the resources they were able to provide in order to further my promotion and fundraising. Every member of staff was welcoming and incredibly grateful for the work I have done so far and I left the offices feeling humbled and motivated to move forward with the projects I have lined up.
My aim is to carry on working with the charity after my year as Mr Leather UK finishes. I now feel I have the momentum to generate even more support from the LGBT+ and wider communities. I plan to carry on representing Survivors UK at various Pride and other events and hope to get others on board to help me in my quest. This charity runs on a limited budget with very little government funding, so it’s up to us, the fund-raisers, to work hard to help ensure this lifeline expands and continues to provide the valuable support that it has been providing to victims of male sexual abuse since they were founded by Martin Dockrell and Richie McMullen back in 1986.