boy playing with boat
John as a childImage by: #ItStillMatters campaign
boy playing with boat
29 November 2021

I am a male survivor of sexual abuse but with support I can now be myself

5 minutes read time

"I would never have written this ten years ago. I wouldn’t have talked to anyone about this, even my loved ones. A lot has changed since then.

I was sexually and physically abused from the age of nine until about the age of thirteen, at intervals, outside of, and unknown to, my family.

Looking back at the abuse, I felt many things simultaneously. I felt special, I felt wanted, I felt afraid, I felt pain, I felt dirty, I felt different, I felt other, I felt separated. Trauma fragments you, it split me into two worlds: one world of abuse and another of my normal life, of riding bikes and watching Dr Who. I didn’t feel comfortable in either and I didn’t want anyone to find out.

When the abuse ended, I just tried to get on with life. It wasn’t until I started struggling at work, as an adult, that I thought about reaching out for support. Everyone was saying what a great job I was doing but I was finding things more and more difficult. I started to change, like I became obsessed with organisation, I knew something was going on, but I didn’t connect it to the abuse. I just thought something was wrong with me.

I went to the GP for depression. I was referred to a psychiatrist and after spells off work, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I started self-harming and it became quite frightening. I moved to the south-west because I couldn’t keep my job, and I ended up on an ill-health pension.

One day I came across a book on childhood sexual abuse. I checked no one was watching and I picked it up. What I read sounded eerily similar to what I was going through. That was the start of me forming that connection with what had happened.

" The magical thing about group therapy is hearing your experiences coming out of someone else’s mouth. You realise that you’re not alone. "

I realise now that I was never ill. I was the victim of a crime.

I found specialist support at a group therapy session for male survivors. After walking around the block a few times, I finally managed to go inside. There was a fear that I didn’t belong there, that everyone else had been abused and I didn’t know what to call what had happened to me.

I heard a man speaking about his experiences, and how he had turned to alcohol to deal with the abuse. He was berating himself, perceiving himself as an awful person. I just thought, how can you put that on yourself after everything you’ve been through?

That was when the penny dropped for me. The magical thing about group therapy is hearing your experiences coming out of someone else’s mouth. You realise that you’re not alone.

I think it’s part of the process to speak out and say what happened to you, one step at a time somewhere safe with others that understand. I used to go parachuting and when I started doing that, it was kind of a similar thing to disclosing the abuse I had suffered. You’re taking a total leap of faith by jumping out of this airplane, and you need to know you’ve got a good parachute on your back and you’ve got the support of everyone around you. They’re going to guide you and work with you, because it can be scary stuff. To visit that shame can feel like opening a can of worms, but in reality, that can is already open – you just can’t see it. Disclosure is not dredging up the past, it’s about learning to be able to deal with it.

After these group therapy sessions, we started to have chats here and there. This evolved to us going to the café down the road. Eventually, that group became moMENtum Devon, a mutual support group I co-run for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We meet because we want to heal, find joy and ease in our lives, to be ourselves and know what that is for us.

What we offer depends on the person. Some people just want a text or phone call, others have been coming to group sessions for 8 years. It’s long term support, if wanted, delivered at the pace desired. However you are feeling, you’re always welcome here. All of you.

It is conservatively estimated that 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused. On average, it takes men 26 years to disclose and most never do. Some men are being held back by this idea of masculinity, of not wanting to appear weak or simply wanting to power on. As I know, you can push on through it for a while, but in the end, the wheels start to come off.

If you do decide to come forward and tell somebody, you can keep it under your control. The way to do that is to find a place that’s safe, a specialist support service. It’s not easy, but it can make such a big difference to your life.

We all want to feel heard and seen. What I really benefited from, in the end, was human kindness. People who wanted a chat, not just an appointment. Yes, I am a male survivor of sexual abuse, but I am also a heap of other things: I am a poet, an artist and more. My survivorhood is part of me but it doesn’t define me, and it doesn’t have to define you." - John

The #ItStillMatters campaign was launched by the Ministry of Justice to show victims and survivors of sexual abuse that they are not alone, it’s never too late to get support and that it still matters.

You can get confidential support from specialists who will listen to you, believe you and understand how hard it is to talk about. You can access support whether you want to report the crime or not.

Visit #ItStillMatters at to see the support on offer.