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***WARNING: INCLUDES ACCOUNTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE***
A boxer who was raped when he was 10-years-old has hailed the 'life-saving' support he has received.
With a record of 10-0, super middleweight Callum Hancock has never been defeated in the ring - but outside of it, he has had to battle his own demons.
His 'amazing family life' growing up in Sheffield was marred by bullying outside of the home, with abuse escalating from verbal to physical, and eventually sexual.
"He said, 'This is what happens when you get older. This is what you do at the big school'," Callum told LADbible.
"I believed him. He asked me, 'Do you know what these are for?', and I said 'Yeah, weeing', he said 'No, I'll show you'.
"... That's where he sexually abused and raped me."
Over the years that followed, Callum struggled to fight feelings of confusion, shame and fury.
The 29-year-old said: "I used to look at girls, fancying girls and think, 'I like girls, but I've been with a man, does this mean I'm gay?' I was just so confused.
"A few years later in life, that's where the shame and guilt set in - when I realised that he tricked me and things like this don't happen at the big school.
"It was that shame and guilt that set in, the embarrassing feelings, that was hard stuff to shake off. And shortly after I was just filled with so much rage and anger. I just wanted to destroy him, I just wanted to make his life a misery, after everything he put me through I was just adamant on getting him back."
Callum eventually told a couple of his best friends about the ordeal after a lot of drinks in Tenerife and the tears flowed. But the next day Callum hoped they had forgotten about it, and it was never mentioned again until he broke his silence in 2017. One of his best mates then admitted that he had remembered the conversation all those years ago, but said he didn't want to pressure Callum and didn't know how to deal with it.
Things only started to improve for Callum once he told his parents and started getting support.
He said: "Me and my mum we sat downstairs all night and we just talked. She said, 'That's the bravest thing you've ever done in your life. Life's gonna get easier from here on in'. And slowly but surely it did, it got much easier, much clearer, I got more of an understanding.
"I started accessing support groups, because before I didn't have a clue where to turn or what to even search. I was so paranoid I didn't dare look it up on my internet search, thinking, what if someone sees my history? What if people think I'm a weirdo for typing in 'child little boy getting abuse healing'? I didn't know where to begin.
"My mum helped me, she helped me a lot. She got me introduced to my first support group. So that's when when the ball started rolling."
TW: Whenever it happened to you...
It's not too late to get support.
Access confidential support from specialists who understand how hard it is to talk about sexual abuse & sexual violence.
Visit https://t.co/AlN9pQshk9#ItStillMatters #ItsNotOK pic.twitter.com/WQU9czgD6T
- Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) February 1, 2021
The support Callum has received since then has been 'life-saving'. His Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) has helped him every step of the way, guiding him through the prosecution process and various forms of therapy, including 'safe rooms', where men can talk about their experience of sexual abuse knowing it will stay within those four walls.
Callum said: "We can sit in that room and we can comfortably talk about things, because we feel as though one another get it.
"It's that place where we feel connected, a sense of belonging. I've met friends and brothers for life in that safe room."
Callum is one of countless sexual abuse victims who have benefited enormously from the support of an ISVA - with his abuser sentenced to six years and three months in prison in 2018.
A sexual violence victim, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "I honestly could not have gotten through this whole process without my ISVA, she just got me. She understood what I was going through and she knew how I needed to be told things and handled.
"I remember her telling me to keep breathing and when I was in court, I could hear her breathing too and it reminded me that I was not alone. My ISVA never compromised on their aim to put me first. I would trust her with my life and I think if anyone is going through something similar, then they won't go far wrong in getting the support required."
The disproportionate amount of men who tragically take their own lives speaks to the larger issue of damaging masculinity and the internalisation of problems; Callum hopes that by speaking out, fighters like Ricky Hatton, Tyson Fury and himself will help to knockout the stigma.
He said: "At the end of the day we're only human. We've got lungs, our lungs breathe, our hearts beat blood, our minds think - we don't ever get ashamed or embarrassed for breathing everywhere we go, we don't ever hide our cuts, but when it's our thoughts and our feelings, lads shy away from it.
"I just hope that boxers speaking out shows you that the bravest of men also feel pain, feel upset, feel discomfort."
If you've been sexually abused and haven't told anyone, Callum wants you to know that you are not alone and not at fault, and there are people who love you and places that would love to support you.
He said: "Silence is a perpetrator's best friend. It's not ours."
Where to get help: If you've ever experienced sexual violence or sexual abuse, you can get confidential support from specialists who will listen to you, believe you and understand how hard it is to talk about.
Do you know someone who has experienced sexual abuse or violence? You can help by listening and telling them that you believe them. You can also help them to get support if they wish to.
Visit gov.uk/sexualabusesupport to see the support on offer. #ItStillMatters.
This article is part of LADbible's UOKM8? campaign. For more resources and information on mental health please visit https://www.ladbible.com/uokm8
Featured image by Ryan Marsden - Steel Stream Design
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