In a week where the focus is on sexual abuse in the film industry, Truthfal spoke to a student who said we must not forget about the local, every day incidences.

By Phoebe Eckersley

Waking up on Christmas day, these are the last thoughts you want running through your head.

“I had to wake up and tell myself not to talk about it. The one person I need to love me, my mum, I can’t talk to.”

A Falmouth University student was sexually and emotionally abused by a male family friend on Christmas Eve.

He agreed to tell Truthfal his story on the condition of anonymity.

 

“He made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist.”

 

“He made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist.”

The student told us how he convinced himself that he would be put up for adoption and lose his mother’s love if she found out.

He said this was an example of the emotional manipulation which many sexual abuse victims experience.

Only through the mother’s own counselling sessions, did she get him the support he needed.

This has held him back from forming intimate relations, as he questioned why such a trusting figure would behave like this.

“You have a fear that you’re going to lose everything.”

“You have a fear that you’re going to lose everything.”

“It’s taken a long time to trust people, even two years after the incident, I didn’t like male members of my family hugging me.

“My dad couldn’t touch me.”

The interviewee revealed details about his fear of physical and emotional contact.

His disclosure to the Police came at the time of the Jimmy Saville enquiry.

However, he emphasised that we must not be selective in our discussion of sexual abuse cases.

 

“We live in a society which is silenced and crude.

If we normalise sex, we can talk about it a lot more in every-day life.”

 

He said: “We live in a society which is silenced and crude. If we normalise sex, we can talk about it a lot more in every-day life.”

The conversation about power relations has to be non-stop, rather than waiting for high-profile cases, such as Saville, Rotherham and Weinstein.

There needs to be an ongoing conversation regarding change in the way we view sexual assault in society. We need not to second guess that everything we do might cause someone to sexually abuse us, according to the student.

He suggested we start talking to children about sex and consent, to help inform them about what is right and wrong.

The interviewee claimed it has become ‘a word that people shut off at’ and there is a demand for more teaching on this.

However, he emphasised to Truthfal that everyone must tune into the finer details of consent and the set of the circumstances, in addition to defining consent as ‘what you can and can’t do

For this, he used the ‘tea analogy’.

This says if you accept a cup of tea from someone and then decide you don’t want to drink it, you are not going to be forced to drink it.

It was his argument to adopt more creative ways to approach the grey area of consent, which makes it more accessible for young people.

“Creative ways are needed as well as ensuring the message gets across.”

Similarly, Sharon Minty, Manager of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Truro, claimed men have historically felt more insecure about coming forward with their experience of sexual assault and there is a ‘huge’ amount of work to be done.

She feels more male case are yet to unfold.

Minty, said: “There needs to be more work done about the whole idea of healthy relationships.

“If you didn’t consent, you didn’t consent- it’s rape.”

“Perhaps this can be done from a younger age as a lot of young people have distorted views from porn.”

Minty stressed how people can email or call her Centre anonymously to encourage them to make the first initial point of contact.

She told Truthfal how SARC in Truro ‘believes everyone who phones’. This is crucial for Minty because most victims don’t speak out in fear that they won’t be believed.

The self-doubt which consumes victims needs to be addressed for Minty.

This comes at the time when film producer, Harvey Weinstein, faces sexual abuse allegations from actors and actresses within the film industry. Celebrities include actresses Rose McGowan and Lupita Nyong’o.  It sparked a Twitter campaign by activist and social worker Tarana Burke, where she asked victims of sexual abuse to use the #MeToo hashtag to unite against this type of crime.

According to The Telegraph, the #MeToo campaign went viral with over 30% of people using the hashtag.

Celebrities and the broader public who further felt there needs to be a conversation about gender power-relations used the #HowIWillChange hashtag.

Actor Mark Ruffalo took part in the campaign.

This man also used Twitter to join the conversation on power-relations.

Jan Teague, Corporate Communications of the Cornwall and Devon Police, claimed the Force have been pro-active on encouraging people to speak out locally. The team said they have used social media and ‘face-to-face’ engagement at events across the two counties.

If you are looking for professional advice and support, you can find Sharon Minty at (SARC) at The Willow Centre in Truro.