'I Felt So Ashamed I Just Wanted To Die' - A Male Victim Of Rape Speaks Out
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Two-and-a-half years ago Sam Thompson was raped by two men during a night out.
A budding DJ, he had moved to Manchester to start a new chapter of his life. He was a happy, bright, confident young man with plenty of friends, a close family and a girlfriend who had moved to the city with him.
But in one night, the 22-year-old had everything taken away from him - and would soon after find himself stood on a bridge ready to end it all.
Speaking to LADbible, Sam said: "A friend of mine had come up to see me from back home. We'd gone on a night out but got separated when we were leaving one of the clubs.
"I got talking to a group of men outside and as you do in that frame of mind, I went to have another drink with them. It was a big group at the time, but it got separated down to just two people and then those two people took it upon themselves to rape me.
"When it's happening, you are kind of with it but you're not. I always describe as a nightmare - you wake up in the morning and you can remember snippets, enough detail so you know that it's happened, but you wouldn't be able to write it down."
CCTV footage showed the two men had taken Sam back to their hotel room and it was there they assaulted him.
His new life had been shattered - he woke up the next day and saw no other option but to kill himself.
"I just wanted to die," he says. "I didn't want to be here anymore. I remember having to walk home and talk to my then girlfriend and friends who were waiting for me, and on the way home, I wanted to commit suicide.
"I stood on a bridge on my way home and contemplated jumping off. I felt so ashamed, so dirty, I felt that it was all my fault. I could still smell them, I was still in pain from what had happened and I didn't think I would ever overcome that, so the only option was to end it.
"I didn't know how I was going to deal with this or how I was going to move on with my life, and that stayed with me for some time afterwards."
The relationship Sam was in ended two months later as he struggled to come to terms with what had happened to him.
It was only the thought of what his death would do to his family that pulled Sam back from the edge that day.
After telling a friend what happened, Sam says he then bottled everything up, refusing to accept it, until one day when he broke down in tears at work and vowed to get help.
"I went into my office, sat at my desk and started crying for no apparent reason. I went out to hide in my car and told my mum that I wanted to die. It was a horrible conversation to have with my mum. I promised her I would explore the option to go and find support."
But even then, he admits he spent the first few weeks of therapy 'fobbing them off'.
"I was adamant from day one that I didn't need (counselling)," he says. "I was going to get over this on my own.
"It wasn't until week four, something had happened. I'd been triggered before coming to therapy and I just broke down - I spent most of the session not really talking about anything but I'd overcome the fact that this had happened.
"So for the first time in therapy I spoke about what had happened and as the weeks went by it got a little bit easier. And then I would start to talk to my family and friends as well and the more I spoke about it the easier it's become.
"It's breaking that silence that's key to start returning to a normal life."
It's this fear of talking which Sam says stops men from coming forward, but he isn't alone - according to the latest government figures 140,000 men aged between 16 and 59 were sexually assaulted in 2017/18.
However, with many victims not speaking out, the actual figure is believed to be much higher.
Before the attack, Sam says he never thought this happened to men - that he would just 'punch them and run away' - a naivety which he says comes from the outdated idea of what we think it means to be a man.
"As men we tend to believe that we are going to face everything on our own - manliness is defined particularly by how well we can deal with these things ourselves and we shouldn't show emotion, these things shouldn't affect us," says Sam, who is now an ambassador for Survivors Manchester, a charity that supports victims of sexual assault.
"I'd never heard of anything like this happening to a man before, particularly straight males, and I knew that I had this mentality that I didn't want to talk about it. I thought that if I put my story out there I'd found my voice.
"We are raising awareness but there are still men out there who think they're untouchable and that this would never happen to them. I hope that they never have to deal with it but the reality is that it does happen, and can happen to anyone."
Sam, now 24, runs a successful DJing company, is planning to go back to university and lives with his girlfriend.
And though the men who raped Sam were never brought to justice, he says he's come to terms with it - a thought which seemed impossible when he was stood on that bridge two years ago.
"I've pushed myself to do things I never thought I would do. It's never going to be a positive thing that's made that happen but what's happened to me has made me realise there is a lot more life to be lived and I want to live it."
Today the Home Office unveils its Male Victims Position Statement, which aims to support male victims of sexual and domestic abuse.
As part of a £24 million funding package for services across the country, it has pledged £146,000 to Survivors Manchester and the development of the Male Survivors Partnership, to help men like Sam get the support they need and to better understand the needs of men and boys who have been through a similarly harrowing experience.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Domestic abuse is a sickening crime that can leave victims with physical and mental scars that last a lifetime.
"It's vital we shine a light on the fact that a large number of men and boys are suffering and give them the full support they need.
"This extra funding will help do that. I will do all I can to help victims and survivors - regardless of their gender or sexual identity."
If you are a victim of sexual or domestic abuse there are organisations out there which can offer support - including Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 and Survivors Manchester on 0808 800 5005