Thursday 21 September 2017

'I thought I was evil and deserved it' - Man who was sexually abused as a child's bid to help others

Nick Groom hopes that speaking about his experiences could help other survivors of child sexual abuse
Nick Groom hopes that speaking about his experiences could help other survivors of child sexual abuse

Kathy Armstrong

A man who was sexually abused as a child has set up a support group to help other survivors.

Nick Groom has spoke candidly about the self-loathing and suicidal thoughts he felt for decades after being sexually assaulted by a family friend and how that spurred him on to help others.

Nick, who is aged in his late 40s, told Independent.ie: "I was sexually abused when I was nine, it was back when I was living in England.

"It was a guy aged in his 60s who had managed to get close to my family and gain my parents' trust.

"I held onto that practically all my life then when I was in my early 40s, five or six years ago, I was working with an outreach programme in Ballina and something triggered me.

"I couldn't hold onto it any longer and I had to find a therapist almost within 24 hours because I was in such a bad way.

"I hadn't actually spoken about it before, I hadn't even told my parents or my wife, nobody knew about it.

"Certainly telling my parents was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, they asked why I hadn't told them but it was very difficult."

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

He spoke candidly about the devastating impact the abuse had on his mental health.

He said: "I felt such shame, it's such an awful thing to happen to any child or any adult even, there's just an immense shame that the victim feels.

"As a child I felt like I was evil and I deserved it and that deepened and became more deep-rooted, it's hard to see beyond that.

"I can remember waking up in the morning and thinking that I wished I had died during the night, it totally overwhelms you."

Read More: Waiting list for rape support

His abuser had passed away before Nick was ready to tell people what had happened to him but he still filed a report with the Metropolitan Police, which he said was "powerful and healing."

Nick, who is originally from Surrey but has lived in Ballina, Co Mayo since 1999, found there were a lack of resources in the west of Ireland, so he helped set up Share, which he runs with Dervilia Culloty.

He said: "You have the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre who do an amazing job but I couldn't find a support group.

"When we  first started about five years ago we had people coming from as far away as Sligo, Galway and Donegal, it just showed that there is a demand for our services and there is nothing on this side of the country.

"You know all the statistics but knowing them is one thing but being in the same room as other people with shared experiences is totally different.

"We've found that anyone who suffers any deep trauma can feel a deep sense of isolation, like you're the only person going through this.

Nick says that coming to terms with child abuse can be a lifelong process for some people
(Stock)
Nick says that coming to terms with child abuse can be a lifelong process for some people (Stock)

"Actually meeting up with other people in the group and talking about how they're feeling without being judged, you can explore your issues in a safe space."

Read More: Donation will go towards counselling services for Rape Crisis

He explained that anyone who wants to contact Share can email Ballinasupportgroup@live.ie or call 0871027604, but he stressed that as it's a voluntary organisation that number is not a crisis helpline.

He explained how Share works, saying: "We don't use a set programme like they would in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, we've a person-centred approach so it's whatever people are feeling and want to talk about, it's quite therapeutic in that sense.
"We meet with people who are interested in joining beforehand to explain what the group's about and to see whether they want to progress with their therapy in a group environment and not everyone is, you have to do what suits each person."

Nick is a trained psychotherapist himself, an ambassador for mental health organisation See Change and runs his blog whenthefogcleared.wordpress.com.

The dad says he is in a "good place" now but says that the recovery from the abuse could be a lifelong process and this isn't a subject that should be taboo.

He said: "I see a great psychotherapist, I've been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which basically means that reactions can be overblown in situations.

"It shows the impact that abuse can have on your mental health, I've worked through things and I think I'm in a good place right now.

"The memories never go away but it's how you learn to distinguish between the past and the present, many people get triggered by things like a voice or a smell and they can be right back to when they were abused, even if it was 20 or 30 years ago.

"It's not a quick fix, some will be in therapy all their lives.

"It's something I think needs to be discussed more, you read about it in the paper or hear it on the news but it's rare people actually speak about the impact child sexual abuse can have on your life."

 

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact the following services:

  • People experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts please call Pieta House  on 1800 247 247 or Samaritans on 116 123
  • Victims of childhood sexual abuse please call The Cari Foundation on 1890 92 45 67
  • Victims of sexual assault please call the Rape Crisis Network on 01 865 6954

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