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  1. ITV Report

As a rape survivor, I now help the growing number of men who come forward get the support they need

  • Alex Feis-Bryce is the CEO of SurvivorsUK, a London-based charity which helps male survivors of rape come to terms with what has happened to them. His own personal experience led him to support survivors of rape and sexual abuse. Here he writes for ITV News.

Last week’s sentencing of Reynhard Sinaga, the most prolific rapist in British history, has put the issue of male rape in the spotlight - and for many, into their consciousness for the first time.

The handful of organisations supporting male rape survivors in Britain – like SurvivorsUK, the one I’m proud to run - have seen a sharp increase in the already high demand for their services with hundreds of men and boys speaking about their experience after suffering in silence for years, even decades.

For me, it brought back painful memories of when I was raped as an 18-year-old university student in Manchester, in circumstances similar to what those targeted by Sinaga went through.

Canal Street in Manchester is the centre of LGBTQ+ life in the city. Credit: PA

As a young guy from a small northern town, struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, I was on one of my first ever nights out in the Gay Village in Manchester. Every time anyone noticed me I felt validation and that I didn’t need to feel shame for who I was.

I was out with a friend and we were both invited to a house party by some guys we met in a bar. We decided to go and got into their car but my friend changed his mind at the last minute and got out. I’ve spent many years regretting the fact that I chose to go without him. When I arrived I was given a drink, which I believe had been drugged. I soon became very tired and was taken up to a bedroom by the owner of the house.

Not long after he came back into the room and raped me.

In the days and weeks that followed, the hazy memory I had of the night and what happened came back to me. I remember not being able to move my body or fight him off but knowing what was happening and asking him to stop.

I remember feeling at fault and like I’d made so many bad decisions that night. I was too ashamed to tell people.

The London-based charity helps people who have been raped come to terms with what happened. Credit: Alex Feis-Bryce

One thing which never crossed my mind was to seek support or report it to the police. Not even once. To me, rape was something which happened only to women. Ever since that day I’ve felt a profound, and sometimes overwhelming, sense of guilt that I didn’t report it to the police at the time.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve spent much of my adult life working in organisations supporting survivors of sexual violence.

In the days since Sinaga was sentenced I’ve asked myself whether, if it happened to me as an eighteen-year-old today, would I have been more willing to speak out.

Perhaps, if I was lucky enough to live in London or Manchester - or one of the few other places with local services - I would have known about SurvivorsUK or Survivors Manchester and sought help.

Just knowing that I wasn’t alone would have made a huge difference to me at the time.

But, how about those men and boys living in areas where there are no support services they can access?

Alex believes his drink was spiked before he was raped by another man. Credit: PA

There are no statutory rape and sexual abuse services which provide specialist support for men and boys, and although the Government started funding organisations like ours in 2014, there aren’t nearly enough resources to meet the needs of the small proportion of male survivors who seek support and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

It is a real tragedy that so many men regularly travel for several hours each way to access our group work sessions in London – many of whom see it as the only time when they’re not suffering alone.

I sincerely hope that this tragedy is a watershed moment.

We must instigate a much wider conversation about how the strict social norms drilled into us from a young age, alongside the gendered narrative and policy framework which categorises all sexual violence as violence against women and girls, conspire to exacerbate the shame and stigma men face when they experience rape and sexual abuse and condemns so many to suffer alone in silence.

It’s time for us all to play our small part in breaking this silence and creating a climate where men can come forward without shame or fear, and those who do speak out must be provided with the support they need.

Someone’s gender identity or postcode should never exclude them from receiving crucial support when they’ve experienced life-changing trauma.