My personal life story begins like all of us at my birth. Being born in a small village in the West African country of Ghana gives me my uniqueness and an identity that has culture, history and politics in it. The village is called Dixcove after the British Captain who was called Captain Dixon who colonised the region in the 16th Century. My Mother is a Ghanaian and my Farther is from England, the North West a West Cumbrian. When I was four it was decided by my parents that I would live in England with my dad’s sister my Auntie Dot. ‘It was for the best reasons’ I have remembered my Auntie saying and after all it was the brave new world of the nineteen sixties, where the ‘civil rights’ movement was in its ascendency. Being sent to live in Egremount in West Cumbria had a number of challenges, not just for its white working class identity which served up a lot of prejudice for me; it was also the beginning of the sexual abuse that I had to endure as a child.
My Auntie had two Sons and one Daughter. This was my home and where I lived with them, my cousins, my Auntie and my Uncles. From the age of seven up until the age of ten I was sexually abused by one of the boys on a weekly basis, apart from a three month period in each year. I was forced to act out sexual favours for him. He was eighteen at the time and the abuse would always happen in mine and my dad’s room. This is mentioned for the reason of if I was reading this I may ask ‘where was my dad when this was happening? Dads are supposed to protect you aren’t they?’ He lived in Ghana working and living with my Mum where he would spend nine months in Ghana and three months in England.
As a black child, young adult who had no black friends, no black family members or black role models there has been a visible lack of ‘group identity’. My contact with blackness was watching Muhammad Ali win the heavy weight championship of the world, the Jackson Five singing ABC and the Brazilin footballer Pele being my school nickname given to me by my white peers. Having to live with experiencing sexual abuse has had a huge effect on me; anger, depression and anxiety have been emotions which were hard for me to live with but easy for me to relate to. Even so the sexual abuse had not affected the real sense of ‘uniqueness’ my situation gave me. It did not matter that there was a lack of blackness in my world to relate to, both subtle and overate messages every day gave negative, positive assurance of my sense of self, I felt black, it was certainly not the case of being proud of this fact after all I had been sexual abused as a child. Self-image has direct long term impact on self-esteem and is vital in helping a healthy development. When my cousin who sexual abused me told me ‘if I spoke to anyone about the sexual abuse no one would believe me because I was an outsider, a brown bugger no one wanted’ his words stopped me from saying anything to anyone.
After all I certainly knew at that young age that what was happening to me was wrong, how could I tell anyone these horrific things were happening to me? What would people think of me?
This experience has wrapped a vial of pain and fear around me, it has also had a dramatic impact on my sense of self, myself development impacting on my behavior and in affect causing really a big gap in between my self-concept (myself as I am) and the ideal self (myself as I would like to be). It was a case of how I saw myself and how much other people saw me. I strongly believe my journey through adolescences at a social level it was my task to shape my identity or self image in the best way I could in very difficult circumstances.
As a forty eight year old man, I believe myself image as I would like to be is much easier for me to be comfortable with. A steady charting of self-help activities has given me more ability to cope with not only the sexual abuse I have endured but those life events in which we all have to cope with. Close family members dying, separation from loved ones or chronic health disorder are among the usual suspects of potential emotional distress however it is my assumption that they are situations in which there can supportive interaction with limited judgment put on to individuals. We Are Survivors is a charity which ‘exists to break the silence of the sexual abuse and rape of men in order to empower those affected to defeat the legacy of abuse and move towards positive future’. In my case it took me over thirty years to come to terms with the sexual abuse I endured and there is no doubt in my belief that one of the biggest barriers is the shame of ‘outing’ the experience of sexual abuse.
As a man who identifies as Black with a dual heritage there are difficulties in accessing emotional well-being services in Manchester. My grasp of English and understanding of concepts like talking therapies, counseling and self help groups are quite good however if I’m from a different background where language and stigma are barriers to achieving support then professionals and community members need to be able engage with men. I had told myself that I can’t tell my white peers my life ‘Personal Life Story’ because there will be a no understanding of the cultural and political importance to that part of my story. I had also told myself surely the pain, fear, isolation and the shames of being sexual abused or raped, of not being able to talk about the abuse are elements that I can connect with.
From my ‘Personal Life Story’ there will be recognition that all of us are different and we all have a unique ways of coping with horrific life events like sexual abuse or rape.
Any man who is finding it difficult to be motivated, lack direction or may have low self esteem and feeling isolated due to the impact sexual abuse or rape then contact We Are Survivors, they save lives! A safe environment which We Are Survivors offers can be a place to be first listened too and then have the strength to tell your story.