This blog post discusses the impacts of sexual abuse. If you are affected and need to speak to someone, please contact us via our helpline.
“Well, you know what to do so just leave him”
I am sure many survivors have heard that phrase, or a variation of it, many times when seeking support. And, as a survivor, I had prepared myself to hear that very phrase from those I felt safe to talk to. By “those” I mean the people in my “inner circle”. My friends. I certainly hadn’t prepared myself to hear it from “professionals”. And yet I did. Repeatedly. They either told me to “just leave him” or they completely ignored my pleas for support. Not once or twice. Seven times. I reached out to seven “professionals” – doctors, mental health nurses, and even the police – but received no support. Seven times! And that was despite most (if not all) of them knowing I am legally classed as a “vulnerable adult” due to my mental health conditions.
Seven times of being ignored. Seven times of being left to fend for myself. Seven times of not being helped to escape a relationship where I was being regularly raped. This was despite being able to express exactly what was happening to me. The danger I was in. I might as well have just been telling a brick wall what was going on.
After the first few times of not being given any support, you’d think I would have given up asking. Just resigned myself to being sexually abused for the rest of my days. But this is where the irony kicks in. Due to previous jobs I had received safeguarding training many times. It was something I had become passionate about.
I knew what safeguarding was. I knew what needed to be done if there was a safeguarding concern about somebody. I knew the entire process. And, despite not being able to take safeguarding action in my own life, I did know that I deserved to receive support in my situation. And so, I persevered.
Due to being raped so regularly by my “boyfriend”, and knowing he was having sex with multiple people including me, I made sure I had regular STI tests. It was one thing I could take control of to give me at least a little peace of mind in my situation.
One dark and dreary early January 2020 evening I was going through the STI testing process at my local sexual health clinic. At the end of my appointment, I decided to ask about support but in a slightly different way to usual. I simply asked if they provided counselling to male rape survivors. The next half hour became a bit of a whirlwind. The sexual health nurse could not have been more fabulous. She immediately recognised it was a safeguarding issue and took all the correct actions to support me and help me find ongoing support. From the sexual health clinic, I was referred to GALOP who then referred me to SurvivorsUK.
Finally, instead of being ignored and being told I wasn’t in a situation that required safeguarding, I was on the safeguarding radar.
Finally, instead of being told I knew what to do, I was being given support with no judgement.
Finally, instead of being left to fend for myself, I was being held with genuine care.
With my own experiences in mind, it doesn’t surprise me, but does sadden me, that it takes male survivors an average of twenty-six years to reach out for support. No survivor should ever have to experience such barriers to receiving support. When a person is feeling so vulnerable reaching out for support just once can feel like a mammoth task – let alone the eight times like I had to.
I’ll never know for sure exactly why I had such difficulties receiving support. I have theories. Of course I do. Too much paperwork. I’m a male. I’m self-aware. But they are only theories. But I do know one thing. When people can access the right services and support their lives can change. Completely.
SurvivorsUK has been the right support for me. My life is now unrecognisable from how it was when I entered that sexual health clinic. I’m in a safe home. I’ve cut contact with my abusive “boyfriend”. I feel so much better about myself as a person. It hasn’t been easy. Not in the slightest. But it has been worth it.