At least one in 20 children in the UK are sexually abused while being emotionally manipulated, groomed, and silenced by paedophiles, often within the family home.
Typically men take around 25 years to speak out about the abuse they suffered as children whereas women take an average of five years.
This is due to a host of societal pressures and expectations placed on men which cause them to feel ashamed after being sexually abused to such a degree they struggle to reveal their experience to anyone.
Shatter Boys UK is a survivor-led project based in Manchester, which uses the experiences of men who have been through horrific ordeals to empower other victims.
In the UK there are currently over 20,000 services for women who’ve suffered abuse and only seven specifically for males.
Knowing the magnitude of how many silenced male abuse survivors exist, Daniel Wolstencroft set up Shatter Boys in February 2016 and has already helped hundreds of men and boys speak out about their abuse in order to become not only survivors of child sexual abuse, but thrivers.
Danny explained his harrowing story to UNILAD:
He was a well respected member of the community, he was a businessman, he was a magistrate for 30 years. He was a philanthropist. A real pillar of society. What people didn’t know is that when I was going to his house at weekends, he was sexually abusing me.
I can only remember from five years upwards. It started off where I’d be in the bathroom and stuff where he would be saying ‘right this is how you need to clean your willy’ so he’d get the sponge and clean your willy like this.
He did that for a bit and normalised it and was like ‘because your dad isn’t around, I need to show you these things and how to look after yourself’. That’s when the normalisation of sexual abuse started and that’s when the grooming started.
So he would clean me and stuff, then he’d show me on himself ‘this is what you do’. Then he started coming into the bathroom without his pants on and he’d be pulling his willy back and like sort of cleaning himself then it sort of evolved from him masturbating me even though I was little, to where he would have me in the bath and he’d be masturbating over me in the bath,
I thought this was normal. I never said anything to anybody. He never said I’m going to kill you or anything like that.
Because he had a lot of money, what he’d do is he would spoil me with gifts so I always the latest everything, sending me away on holiday and giving me money so in a sense, I didn’t want for nothing materially. But that’s not what I wanted for my life.
We dedicate this Video to the Police officers who we reported the crimes to and failed us, and let Abuser's walk… https://t.co/aUyNe2OfLu
— Shatter Boys UK #CSA (@Shatter_Boys_UK) August 22, 2017
Now with a son of his own, Danny struggles everyday with jobs like changing his son’s nappy and helping him to potty train because of the triggers these tasks give to his trauma.
One of the most surprising things I learned from the brave survivors was the power of silence which is cast over them, forcing them to constantly blame and shame themselves, eventually leaving their self worth in tatters.
Often the greatest fear of a child abuse victim is that people won’t believe them or will blame them, and Augusto from Cape Town, South Africa told me of his father’s disturbing reaction when he found out Augusto had been raped and abused by his own brother-in-law from the age of nine to 17.
— Augusto Gomes (@augusto_gomes1) April 21, 2017
Augusto told UNILAD:
I was sexually abused and raped from the age of nine to 17. It happened in the family home in Cape Town South Africa and my future brother in law started touching me before he married my sister. At 13 we moved to a new area and that’s when he raped me in my bedroom.
I had a lot of issues around that growing up. At the moment I feel okay but when I was younger there was a lot of confusion. I felt dirty, I felt isolated, and I felt very alone. But I felt very silenced is the word to use. I couldn’t speak to my family about it, it was too shameful.
I disclosed to my parents about 16 or 17 years ago about my abuse, but for me the biggest thing was my own father blamed me for the abuse. He said it was my fault and I should have been man enough to fight off my abuser.
It’s not the sexual abuse that’s the worst part. The worst part is the betrayal.
There's so many vulnerable people wanting to speak about childhood sexual abuse, but the shame and fear keeps them scared. Let's encourage ? pic.twitter.com/24rLNly55y
— Augusto Gomes (@augusto_gomes1) August 20, 2017
Augusto then told us about when he found out the devastating news his nephews had also been abused.
When I spoke out about my abuse, I found out that my brother’s four children were also sexually abused by the same person. In 2011 I found out through my sister that my eldest nephew was abused.
I spoke out for group therapy in Manchester and by Aug 2015 I found the strength to speak to my eldest nephew. When I disclosed my sexual abuse to speak to my nephew, he told me his brothers were also abused by the same man.
I felt devastated, but also that I was in a better shape emotionally to deal with that. Since I’ve disclosed my abuse, I know of 12 people in total he has abused.
The worst part for me isn’t the rape or sexual abuse, it’s more the betrayal. My sister is still married to the man and she has defended him in court. She’s taken his side and is protecting him.
According to the NSPCC, 90 per cent of child victims were sexually abused by someone they knew.
For Matt it was his own father who sexually abused him from as young as he can remember.
Matt spoke to us about the dissociative disorder his abuse has left him suffering with:
I was abused as a kid in the family home. But because it happened so young, I don’t remember a start date or an end date, but I remember it being a thing that happened.
As I got older I started to wonder, what the hell was all that about?
It was my dad. My memory is very very fragmented. When something really traumatic happens to you, because your body goes into such a state of fight or flight, you’re not really making good memories of what happens to you.
For me with this fight or flight thing, there was a big of a middle ground. I couldn’t fight because he was a grown man, and I could run away because I was at home. So I had to go for a middle ground which is dissociation. What that means is that I remove myself from reality. My mind will shut off and I’ll disappear into my subconscious so I don’t have to deal with what is going on. Kind of like playing dead.
Now it’s classed as a symptom of PTSD and I’ve got a dissociative disorder. It worked wonders when I was a kid. It would protect me because I wouldn’t have to face what was happening to me. Now as an adult it will just kick off at any time, because I suppose that is how I learned to deal with stress and trauma.
As an adult, trying to work out the things that have gone on, that can trigger a dissociation. So I can have seizures and dissociation based on that.
Michael was silent about his abuse for 27 years, and it was triggers in the news of high profile sexual abuse cases that made him speak out about his experiences.
The father-of-two was groomed by a close family friend before ‘being passed round to other paedophiles, older men’.
Michael told UNILAD about how Shatter Boys has helped him:
With Shatter Boys, it’s being able to speak to other survivors. Before you come forward, or I always refer to it as ‘coming out’, as being a victim of childhood sexual abuse, you always think it’s only ever happened to you. I always felt like that, I felt really isolated, very different, but always pretending that I was alright and everything was cool.
The more that people see they’re not on their own, the more they’ll talk about it and that will positively impact on others as well.
What Shatter Boys has done is giving us the opportunity to talk in confidence to other survivors and share stories. Those things that you might carry yourself and think ‘that’s a bit weird’, and you’ll hear someone mention it and you think ‘wow I’m not on my own’. It gives you that confidence to keep talking about things you thought you could never talk about it.
I’ve had people draw things from what I’ve said in a group situation, so what I get is lots of confidence to speak about childhood sexual abuse.
It works for everybody that’s involved.
Michael also spoke about how the system has let him down:
Without wanting to put anyone else off, I feel abandoned by not just the police, but the system itself. I just think that needs to be looked at because I’m not on my own. I’ve tried to get justice and not got it.
Having made those big steps to go down the road of reporting it to the police, feeling abandoned is really hard.
The amount of cases that people have reported and they don’t get anywhere. I don’t know what the process is that they work on, but I think it clearly doesn’t work. It’s alright getting people to come forward, but you have to actually listen to them.
Having spoke to lots of survivors, the feeling they have is absolute frustration of being let down.
Having dealt with the police time and time again and after hearing the experiences of hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse, Daniel branded the services as ‘useless’ and ‘not fit for purpose’.
In regards to a recent case when Northumbria Police employed a convicted paedophile to catch other paedophiles, Danny made the point that ‘If they had a clue what they were doing, they would be able to do their jobs themselves and not get a paedophile working for them’.
In a bid to improve the police with more checks and accountability, Daniel has started a petition to Establish an independent board that investigates complaints against the police.
Within the first three days of our documentary going out, 22 people came forward to Shatter Boys to speak out about their childhood sexual abuse.
A paedophile’s most valued tool is silence. Let’s take it away and allow victims to not only survive, but thrive.
You can donate to Shatter Boys via their GoFundMe page here to help them to continue supporting survivors.
The Truth Project is also available if you need to discuss experiences of child sexual abuse. More information is available at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s website or you can call the information line on 0800 917 1000.