In conversation with a survivor
It’s a privilege to work within such a specialist organisation, one with a qualified and professional understanding of trauma and its effects on the men who so typically carry it in silence. It is also a privilege, affirming and a pleasure to meet and speak with individuals who have navigated through such an organisation as a client and emerged on the other side, thriving and successful in their own right!
Today I was talking openly with such a person. I found myself sat opposite Peter Sishton in a café of his choosing in the city of Manchester. Peter is a survivor who spoke of accessing our service when other forms of therapy had not offered the right kind of support for the complexity of what it is to be a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In Peter’s own words, he simply would not be here today sat drinking his coffee and enlightening me about his new book, had it not been for the specific support of We Are Survivors. Between the warm humour and affable smiles Peter exuded when we met, I could see he was serious on this point; We Are Survivors had a profound effect on Peter’s life and had allowed him to pursue his ambition to give something back to others. It was that journey that had given us cause to meet in person professionally, to discuss Peter’s creative work and learn about his experiences.
You could be forgiven for settling on a view of ‘Heavy Metal: A Tribute to Manholes’ as being an unusual premise for a book because it is. Outside of initial observations of humour, however, is a brilliantly artistic publication capturing a craft rarely noticed. The photographs within and collected by Peter on his travels around the world, show in wonderful detail the many beautiful designs rendered on grids everywhere. More than their aesthetics however, speaking with the author I learned of a powerful metaphor for the survivor experience; behind a façade can lie a deep and illusive space that rarely sees the light until it is willingly explored.
“Purely by accident I came across the subject, after injuring my back I had been looking at the ground for weeks and I saw these fantastic art deco manhole covers. Initially I had captured images that where abstract, it interested me that what lay below was hidden”. Listening to Peter, I knew I wanted to know more about his journey as a Survivor, and I was grateful to find someone so willing to share his thoughts for the benefit of others. The artist and now author, told me how his first ever book had been a journey. The concept of this project had set out from the very start to give to others and a charity that has helped his own and so many other lives. It had always been Peter’s generous intention to donate proceeds of sale to We Are Survivors he explained confidently. “I wanted to give something back and during Covid I realised I had all these images… I realised I wanted to write a book… It came to me… A book, I could donate the proceeds. I understood what I could do, and it was like a compass for me, moving me forward.”
I found Peter’s clarity to be an inspiration. As the articulate figure before me continued to talk I learned how his resolve to complete a project had been so heavily influenced by a desire to contribute to an important charity such as We Are Survivors. One thing was certainly clear too, the support the author showed for others looking to follow in his fundraising footsteps. “For me, it was an anchor and a goal that helped me get through a really bad period. It was a focus. Once you start to talk about abuse, there are many ways to deal. My art helped me.. It’s the way you do things, it could be a fun run, a dance competition, football. A way to give back could really help”.
Whoever you are and whichever charity may be close to your heart, fundraising might be an excellent and rewarding activity to become involved in.
…And there I left Peter, after much discussion of experiences both challenging and greatly re-affirming. I was grateful to meet someone so affable and with so much to talk about and share. Long may Peter and others like him continue their journeys! And for other male survivors yet to break the silence around their experiences, healing and growth are not just possible but can be incredible!
Communications & Engagement Co-Ordinator
We Are Survivors
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