Permit me to be frank with you.
I had just had my eighteenth birthday. It was my second time in a small town nightclub. That same night my drink was spiked, I was raped and I was later found by my friends lying unconscious and face down in a supermarket car park.
This is not the reason that I will walk with Stay Brave UK on the 1st of October.
In the months and years that followed, I can only describe it to be like feeling that the person I was had died. Your mind becomes a passenger trapped in a body no longer in your control. You kick; push; scream; wake up laughing; wake up crying; trust nobody. Even find yourself physically vibrating like an old school Nokia if somebody succeeds in dodging the Total Wipeout assault course of insults and instability that you throw their way and come within five feet of you. I was angry and I was confused. My sense of self and even sense of masculinity were completely in crisis.
This is also not the reason that I will walk with Stay Brave UK on the 1st of October.
Eighteen year old me was in a way, forced to be brave. Nobody in our society should be in a position where they are being forced to be brave.
Looking back for evidence of that now hazy time in my life I stumbled across an email exchange between eighteen year old me and a Rape Crisis charity. Eighteen year old me wrote that he was, “always just looking for answers”; “unsure of how to cope or who to talk to” and perhaps most sadly for my present self to read (now surrounded by a network of support from friends and other survivors) “I feel so alone”.
The reason I will be walking on the 1st of October? Perhaps I should just leave you with the different charities responses passing me from one cash-strapped organisation to another each time with a different apology and excuse as to why they personally couldn't support a “male victim”.
I walk on the 1st of October and will continue on walking until no survivor of intimate abuse is any longer forced to be brave and to go it alone. I often think of how much further along I would be now if there had been easy to access professional support available for me at that early stage where the effort of even typing that initial email and reaching out had been draining. I would have several long nights of night terrors just for daring to engage and try to tackle what had happened to me.
Not only are the numbers of these incidents both shamefully hidden and also disenfranchised from the public eye and people like the eighteen year old me (men are routinely targeted by Rape Awareness campaigns as the purporters of the crime, rarely the victims) - I had to work through the years building, diagnosing and bravely engineering a way of coping. The emotional and physical after affects of intimate abuse don't just “get better” on their own. You find ways of reconstructing yourself in coping and only then do things improve.
So, my message to you; 'Stay Brave'.
'Stay Brave' and fight for visibility of male victims. Fight for increasing the availability of services for male victims. 'Stay Brave' until we can change the discussion and culture around male intimate abuse to the level that no one is alone and we as a society start to 'Stay Brave' for you.
If you would like to talk to someone about Finn’s post – Survivors UK offer an online chat and helpline for survivors of sexual abuse. Open Mon-Fri 10:30am - 9pm and Sat-Sun 10am – 6pm.
Finn is a supporter of Stay Brave UK. He will be taking part in Walking Brave, a 10-mile walking challenge across London, that symbolises the supposedly easy journey a survivor of abuse takes. You can find out more information here: www.staybraveuk.org/walking-brave