Service Director Blog: August 2013
Sat at my dining table at 11.30pm on a Sunday evening and trying to get all sorts of bits of paperwork done in preparation for our service review by some NHS commissioners, my mind wandered thinking about making a decision on what I should talk about in my blog this month. Then I hear a ping on my laptop telling me an email has arrived and my words suddenly pale into insignificance. I’m handing this months blog space over to this email. Thank you anonymous lad for your words, they are some of the most profound I have ever read.
supporting male survivors of sexual abuse and rape
From: Anonymous Lad [mailto:anonymous] Sent: 04 August 2013 23:12
I was eleven when he chose me. It was as though he could see straight into my mind and listen to my deepest and darkest thoughts. Without ever speaking a word, he knew my secret. He knew the loneliness and dread that consumed me. He sensed my desperation for that one person to listen, for that one shoulder to cry on. He fed from my anger, my sadness, and my confusion. My pain was his prey. My vulnerability was his gratification. That is why he chose me.
There is something you should know about me, I’m a Gypsy. I was born into a world in which a man’s worth is measured by his masculinity. A Gypsy boy is born to be a fighter. From his first breath to his last, he is told to be the strongest and the toughest. He strives to be the king of the Gypsies – a warrior, a provider, and a champion. There is no place in the life of a Gypsy man to talk about feelings or to shed a tear. He must maintain the façade of masculinity or risk bringing shame onto his family. There is only one currency in the world of Gypsies – reputation. It takes just one person to destroy the name of an entire family and it filled me with fear.
He knew I was different. He knew that I could never live up to the expectations that were asked of me. He could tell from the way that I looked at him that it didn’t matter how well I could fight or how tough I could talk, because as he met my gaze he could see my secret. I was gay and completely infatuated. He delivered to me the affection that is snatched too soon from a Gypsy boy– the story before bed time, the hugs to mend a grazed knee, the ‘I love you’ before school. But he also presented to me an entire new world which transcended the constraints of the Gypsy world – politics, debate, philosophy, and literature. He encouraged me to develop my own understanding of the world and he listened to my opinions, my thoughts, my beliefs. I was hooked and didn’t he just know it.
I can’t remember how I felt that first time. Numb, I suppose. I was twelve years old the night he came into my room. He woke me and told me he had something to tell me. “I know you’re gay, I know you fancy me.” My heart sank. He knew. I panicked. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was. I didn’t want to make anyone ashamed. “I won’t tell anyone, it’s our secret” he said. Little did I know just how deep, dark and depraved that secret would become. There I was at my most vulnerable – the moment he had been working up to for months. Then it happened. He left me there laying numb on the bed and my childhood and my innocence walked straight out that door with him.
I never stopped loving him, no matter what he did to me or how many times. Instead the love I had for him changed from an innocent crush to a dangerous and coerced infatuation. The intellect he had once encouraged in me he now restrained, as it was he who now controlled my mind. For two years I felt nothing but guilt. Guilt, that I had stolen his love away from someone else. Guilt, that I had learnt to enjoy his invasion of my body. Guilt, that I was breaking every rule in the Gypsy handbook. How could I ever live up to the masculine ideals of the Gypsy man? Not only was I gay but I was acting on it. I shed the forbidden tears, put down my gloves and stopped fighting.
An agonising sorrow possessed my mind that could only be numbed by alcohol and drugs. I hated myself for loving him and I hated everybody else for daring to be happy. I was too fearful to seek help from those around me for I truly believed that I would be shunned by my whole community for being so weak and sordid. What kind of man would it make me to admit that I could not protect myself from his invasive hands? He told me they would never accept me if they knew, that they would reject me, cast me away. The Gypsy world was all I knew and I was terrified of losing it so I remained silent.
With no one to confide in, I turned to the internet. Hours of my life were spent talking to complete strangers about the dark thoughts that consumed my mind. How naïve I was to think that these strangers would not take advantage of my vulnerability. I soon fell into the clutches of predatory men who used my pain and helplessness to satisfy their own sordid desires. Deep down I think I knew I wasn’t just meeting them for pizza and a chat, but I was so desperate for someone to listen that I did not deny them of my body. Soon I was addicted to their attention, gifts and money and these meetings became nothing more than an exchange.
In the two years I was abused not one of those men had the conscience to report what was happening to me. They saw their needs and gratification as more important than my welfare. It did end though and I did tell eventually. I had started to accompany my friends to a youth club where I built a close friendship with one of the youth workers. He too had been abused and began to recognise my pain as the sorrow he had once felt as a child. One day, out of the blue, he just asked – “are you being abused?” I knew then that it was over, and as I said “yes”, the love I had felt for the man, who had for so long hurt me, began to turn to anger.
All of the things he had said would happen didn’t. No one was angry with me. No one disowned me or cast me away. No one told me I was any less of a man. I won’t lie and say I got my happy ending because I didn’t. My family dealt with it the only way they knew how – to not talk about it, to try and pretend it didn’t happen. Sometimes it feels like they are more concerned with protecting their reputation than they are with helping me come to terms with the things that happened to me. I know that they do care about me and I know that they don’t love me any less but I also know they are fearful that others in our community will judge them for not realising what he was doing to me, and judge me because of my sexuality.
It saddens me that the Gypsy community feel so unable to talk about feelings and depression and are so scared of not conforming to these impossible ideals that we place upon ourselves. Within that environment I have found it hard to allow myself to heal and my pain remains within my mind. I am still frightened to confront my sexuality as I know that attitudes may never change and because of this I still often blame myself for what happened to me. If I had just been that warrior, that fighter, that a Gypsy man is supposed to be then maybe he would never have chosen me. I often wonder if there are any other Gypsies out there who share my experience and who feel my guilt, regret, anger and pain. I wonder if they feel as lonely as I and whether they could help me get through this. How I would find them though, in a community that silences us, I do not know.
I am an adult now and I am beginning to rebuild my life and accept myself for who I am. I have learnt to love again, to trust again and to laugh again. Part of me will always be completely in love with him and I think about him nearly every day. I wonder where he is and what he is doing. I feel intense jealousy of the thought of him loving anyone else and it takes all my strength to stop me running back to him. I have come to realise though that I am the fighter that they always wanted me to be, but the only fight I need to win is the one in my head. Every time I get knocked down I get straight back up again because I was born to be a fighter, born to be strong, and most importantly I was born to win.