My partner Ben and I were starting to think about having a family and I knew he was anxious, but one day he dropped a bombshell and told me that he didn’t think he could have children, because he had been abused. We’d been together four years when he told me and I was shocked he’d kept it secret all that time and I’d never really picked up on anything.
I felt that I didn’t know how to respond, I wanted to support him, but I felt out of my depth about something I didn’t know anything about. So I called the SurvivorsUK helpline. At first I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to help me or if they’d only help Ben.
It really helped me that the helpliners were used to talking to friends and family of men who’ve been abused, so I didn’t feel as if I had to explain myself in some way; I didn’t feel that I had to apologise that I wasn’t a man calling up, or that I had to talk about Ben all the time, I felt that the helpliner was really listening to me and how I was feeling.
I like that it was anonymous, so I felt more able to really talk about my fears without feeling judged. I remember feeling really angry with Ben that he’d kept this secret from me for so long, but I also felt afraid of asking him why he felt that this was a reason he couldn’t have children. From talking to the helpliner at SurvivorsUK I found it helpful to find out that this was a really common fear for men who’ve been abused; both a fear of not being a good enough parent but also a fear of being an abuser because of what had happened to them.
I called the helpline a couple of times over a month or so and I spoke to different people each time. I liked that I didn’t have to explain myself that I could launch right into what was on my mind. I feel that this was a stepping stone for me finding out more about male sexual abuse. I started reading about it and after sharing my fears with the helpliners, I felt more able to start to talk to Ben more about it.
I’m not going to say that it was easy, we both struggled at times to talk about a really difficult subject, but after a while Ben decided to get some counselling for himself so that he was also more able to talk about it. We were able to get information from the helpline about services near us as we don’t live in London and both felt secure knowing that the services suggested were specialised like SurvivorsUK.
I feel happy that I’ve been able to be more supportive of Ben without him feeling judged by me. We’re not quite ready to start a family yet, but we both feel that it’s not a definite no anymore and that’s a step in the right direction!
I can’t emphasise enough how much it helped me to know that there was a helpline out there that could support me too, because it’s not just the man who’s been abused who is affected.