Guest Blog: Angelo's Testimony
For our first blog of 2017, we are starting the year as we mean to go on and make male survivors the centre to our work. In this months blog, Portugese born Angelos breaks his silence and shows just how far you can go in healing.
When I first disclosed and asked Survivors Manchester for help I didn’t quite disclose my experience as male survivor who was abused as a child. I asked for “help” – a generic help – because at that point I couldn’t even think myself as a victim, let alone a victim of sexual abuse. Putting those three words together was simply impossible for me at that time.
It was a long process for me until I reached the tipping point. For years I didn’t remember anything of my abuse and once I started remember it the consequences of it started influencing me as well. I was deeply ashamed because of it and I had a deeper feeling of guilty that would stop me from starting my own recovery. For years I truly believed I was guilty of all the abuse that was done to me and that I deserved that same abused. The legacy of that abuse, of all the grooming that the abuser did, made me believe “I had it coming”, that “I should have known better”. That I, an 11 year old child, should have deflected a well thought out plan of a paedophile that was manipulating me, like a guileful puppeteer. I even believed that I had seduced a perfectly naïve and innocent man; that I was a devilish and dirty child that had pervert an adult man that never, ever wanted to get sexually involved with a child but somehow was force to do so by that same very child. That’s how effective his strategies and grooming techniques were.
So I was devastated. For years I kept it all for myself. I couldn’t cope with the idea of disclosing to someone, because I knew that no one would ever believe me and would see how I had tainted and ruin the life of an innocent man. Until I couldn’t keep it inside anymore. Until a trigger unleashed everything on me and I couldn’t swipe all of those things under the rug again.
Luckily I had Survivors Manchester to ask for help. And I started participating in the support groups and the immediate effects was astonishing, almost too much for me. Hearing other men being able to talk about their experiences, about their abuse was simply breath-taking to me. Although our experiences were different, the effects and symptoms were practically the same. It was almost like they were verbalizing my own thoughts. And so I started talking too.
Some people say that the first step is the hardest, but to me is the second step; coming back to the group, was the hardest. The first time I didn’t know what to expect, it could be good or it could be bad. If it was too bad I wouldn’t just go back, but I didn’t know what I was going to find. The second time, no; I knew exactly what I was returning to. So the risk taking was bigger. But I’m happy that I did go back.
After a while, I started feeling the need of doing 1:1 psychotherapy at Survivors Manchester as well. Because the trauma from the sexual abuse made me look back to all the issues I thought I settled before: the fact I was adopted, my father’s alcoholism and other issues. I had to re-open all those boxes and re-examine them with this new lenses. And this time it was harder.
Doing psychotherapy 1:1 meant to me that I couldn’t remain quite if I wanted and let other men talk if I wanted. There was no chance of ‘dodging the bullet’. It was me and the psychotherapist and there were warlike moments, moments that I fought so hard the reality – the reality that today I know is the true. But in that moment there was a fight between my rational side against my emotional side. Even though I could say “it was not my fault” I didn’t believe a single word of it. My emotional denied everything and was transmitting to me “you know you’re wrong, you can say it but you know you are guilty, that you deserved that abuse, you asked for it”. So it took months and there were days I thought I wouldn’t be possible to feel better or to take back control of my life, until one day I was better. Almost without realizing, one day I noticed I was better.
After some months of ‘cleaning my inner house’ and putting everything on its place I decided one thing: I wouldn’t focus anything else besides the abuse issues. And I tackled it heads on. And that was a turning point, now I can see it. It wasn’t easy but it was necessary for me to get better.
My psychotherapist was essential in my recovery. Without Tom’s patience and dedication, I wouldn’t have made it. I know that we do the hard work and we have to travel all the roads, all the steps, but I didn’t do it all by myself. Tom was there by my side, helping me whenever I had to do a pit stop or whenever I needed a pause to catch my breath.
The process had its dark times, that I cannot sugar-coat, but I’m so happy that I did send that ‘generic’ request for help to Survivors Manchester in the beginning.
All the staff I met were so welcoming and caring, and Duncan Craig is one of the most amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet.
Using Survivors Manchester services was, by far, one of the best decisions of my life. Because of it today I’ve taken back control of my life and the abuse no longer affects me like it did just three years ago. Without Survivors Manchester I couldn’t have restored my inner peace and move on with my life.
Today I’m back in Portugal and I’ve started a non-profit organisation that helps male survivors as well. And again Duncan Craig and Survivors Manchester were pivotal in this. Without Duncan altruism and investment in us, we wouldn’t have done half of what we have done. Duncan’s insights, ideas and advices were essential.
Personally I owe Duncan and Survivors Manchester so much and Quebrar o Silêncio, my charity, and the Portuguese male survivors that we are starting to help, too.