Alexander (left) with his mother, Sandie, (right) together in 2012.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for a parent hearing your child was raped.
I told my mum in an email. I wasn’t ready, but some not very nice people had found out things in my past that they could exploit and threatened to tell the world. Linked with these were the two times I was assaulted. I couldn’t let her find out that way.
I felt like I had no choice but to disclose to my family all about the attacks, numbness, and the lack of self-worth, bad relationships, exploitation, and the subsequent problems that followed. But there it was – all written down, cold, brash and in an almost unreadable emotional splurge.
I didn’t go into detail. I didn’t tell her about going into the bathroom or how I didn’t see him follow me. I didn’t tell her about the headlock or the pain as my head hit the cubicle wall. I kept it brief; knowing is already more than a parent could bear.
I remember being told by a sibling that my mum had read it. It was hard for her but she wanted me to know it is all okay.
We never spoke about the email again with one exception. Months later I visited home and it was like the email never happened.
I was making my mum a tea in the kitchen and she came out with the sentence that emotionally knocked me over; “What happened to you was terrible; now go out there and stop it happening to someone else”.
Fast forward and it’s 2017. There’s about 30 or so people standing outside a pub in the Docklands, all wearing the same charity t-shirt, chatting apprehensively about agreeing to this challenge. They’re all about to walk 10-miles across London, from Canary Wharf to Hammersmith, to raise awareness for survivors of abuse and assault. Walking Brave symbolises something that seems easy but is hard when you have to do it yourself – much like asking for help.
Source: ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales 2018
When I finally gather the courage years ago to ask for help, I was turned away due to being a man. Being told the help line was only for straight women, and without signposting me to another service, it shattered all the courage and bravery I had gathered to ask for help. And as per my mum’s wise advice, I was going to make sure that doesn’t happen to someone else.
Those words from my mum inspired me to create Stay Brave – a charity that plans on erasing the barriers survivors like me can face when asking for help.
Rape is mistakenly seen as a women-only issue. However, 72,000 males per year are estimated to become victims of rape, whether reported or not, with 138,000 cases of sexual assault recorded in 2017. The charity Stonewall also say that almost half (49%) of all gay and bi men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.
Even in a digital age of Snapchat and sliding into someone’s DMs; 1 in 4 victims of revenge porn are male – it makes sense that our solutions and help we provide be inclusive to all genders and orientations.
Walking Brave group in 2018
I was grateful to organise Walking Brave, but was more proud to stand by the side of some amazing people. Some were survivors like me, but others were regular people who could see that something needed to change. Most importantly, they all wanted to show other survivors that there were people out there that believed them, and were prepared to walk the miles for them to find the help they needed.
Money raised from the walk goes to help Stay Brave achieve its goal. Due to that gentle nudge from my mum, Stay Brave is now on its feet and generating projects for those who thought they were the only ones find the help they need.
My mum passed away suddenly in 2016. Each milestone Stay Brave achieves for survivors like myself always makes me think back to those words she said. She knew I didn’t need comfort, but a push. And with the support for Stay Brave’s mission growing every day I can’t help but think she lives on.
So, all right mum, what happened to me was terrible; together we’re stopping it happening to someone else.
This article was written by Alexander Morgan, CEO of Stay Brave. Alex is a survivor of abuse and exploitation and campaigns against gender stigma that prevent access to abuse services. You can hear more from Alex by following him on Twitter.