Breaking My Silence – Part Four


By Freddie Cocker

This is not an article I ever thought I would write, or need to. However, recent events have transpired which provoked a desire in me to write this to start a new journey of recovery.

Before I even wrote this, I went back-and-forth with myself about whether I indeed should write this piece.

In recent years, I have been a big advocate against people oversharing some of their deepest, darkest mental health issues all over the internet.

A previous podcast guest and friend of mine Freya India did an excellent piece on the Triggernometry channel which I would recommend that encapsulates most of my thoughts on this.

However, I felt it was necessary for my recovery to write this piece, and I hope in the process, help other male survivors take that next step in their healing process.

I have previously wrote three separate pieces about my experience of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). This was a repressed memory for around 18 years and it took several years of therapy to process this and heal from.

This included two rounds of a very intense form called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), as well as one round of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Prior to December 2023, I genuinely thought I had left that trauma in the proverbial rear windscreen. Whilst that trauma will never leave me completely, I felt I was in a place where I could progress with life alongside the scars it had left which I could manage. Unfortunately, another incident of sexual assault was unlocked in my mind which I know I need to confront.

The Breakdown

In December 2023, I had a mental breakdown as a result of some of the scars from the sexual abuse I thought I had recovered from.

The same feelings of not feeling worthy or undeserving of love re-emerged and the avoidant attachment style I thought I had moved out of, came back with a vengeance, telling me to run away from anything resembling love and connection.

Obviously, this deeply affected me and I felt a whole range of emotions, including frustration and anger at myself, confusion as to why this breakdown had happened and isolation at the feelings it provoked in me.

I have spoken on previous podcasts and interviews about something I have recognised in myself as ‘reverse stigmatisation’. When my mental health issues exploded to the surface during my university degree after a decade of suppression (which I had to use as a survival tool), I felt huge stigma about disclosing and being helped by others. I thought I would be a burden on others, I thought I was ‘less of a man’ for going through these issues and that I was unworthy of help. Thankfully, these stigmas have gone.

Unfortunately, what has replaced it is, ironically as a result of the work I have done with Vent over the past seven years. In these seven years, I have become a pillar of support for many people in my life, and I’m very happy to take on this role.

However, the scars and feelings from the sexual abuse are incredibly dark, uncomfortable and not ones which I feel is worth putting on people’s shoulders. Most people don’t have the emotional intelligence to know how to handle that type of conversation. The few that I have attempted to broach this with either resort to banal platitudes, which do more harm than good or state that they don’t know how to help.

As such, I have very few people I can turn to in times of crisis. This suppression likely contributed to the breakdown.

Thankfully, even in a crisis, I was able to reach out to a few people in a literal cry for help. The person who responded and helped me, delivered Mental Health First Aid on me and gave me a resource to help me was my friend and previous podcast guest Duncan Craig, who is the CEO of a charity for survivors of sexual abuse, We Are Survivors.

He pointed me to their male-only support group, ‘The Safe Room’, which I joined a week later and have been in ever since. I have taken so much positivity, comfort and courage from the sessions I have had with the other men in this group and it has helped me enormously.

The Conversation

Despite this new lifeline and resource, it was a simple conversation I had recently which unlocked the memory which is the centre point of this article and what caused me a huge amount of distress.

Weirdly, it was a chance conversation with someone at a friend’s birthday which provoked this repressed memory to emerge from the recesses of my mind.

Myself and this person got into a lively but good-natured conversation about a range of ‘hot button’ issues.

There came a point where we both disclosed that we were survivors of abuse, and at one point in the conversation, they asked me a couple of questions I felt were completely inappropriate to ask. I pushed back and politely shut these questions down and they eventually accepted me setting that boundary and we moved on with the conversation.

What those uncomfortable questions then triggered was the unlocking of an incident of sexual assault that occurred not when I was a child, but as an adult.

The Incident

In my research for this article, I checked the date that this incident happened and it took place on 17 September 2018. This was several months before I wrote the first of my three articles on CSA, in January 2019.

The shock of this incident, coupled with the CSA I still had to recognise and heal from likely made my brain think ‘Naa, you’re not ready to process this one yet, we’re going to lock this away until you’ve sorted everything else out’. And there it remained, locked in my brain until May 2024.

The incident in question happened at one of my favourite music venues in London, KOKO. I was seeing one of my favourite artists, Sofi Tukker, on my own and whom I have gone onto see again at Shepherds Bush Empire in recent years. I would thoroughly recommend their music to everyone.

The band have a large gay fanbase and as I was waiting for the headline act to come on, a gay couple stood next to me began chatting to me. They were both very friendly and I prefer to pass the time before the band come on talking to strangers anyway.

As the night went on and they had a lot more drinks (I drank nothing and rarely do at most solo gigs I go to), one of them took more of a shine to me.

The first violation he did was grope me. If this act was done to a woman, it would be deemed sexual assault in and of itself, but I laughed it off and carried on enjoying the show. I’ve had similar attention from gay men in other spaces over the years i.e. Pride and I’ve never had a problem with it (it’s usually a good self-esteem boost!).

However, my light-hearted reaction to this violation likely led to this man feeling like he could do what he did next.

As the band finished their set and the crowd began to disperse, as the couple left, this man sexually assaulted me. It only lasted for at maximum a second and I instinctively batted his hand away as he did it but looking back, my body was clearly in shock at what he had just done. I was perhaps in even more shock that he felt he had the audacity to sexually assault another man in front of his boyfriend.

Again, even an act of violation at this level I tried to laugh off. I do not know why I did this looking back.

Perhaps I felt that if I had reacted in self-defence with violence that I would be the one who would be worse off.

In a crowded venue, with literally hundreds of witnesses watching, in today’s society, I would have looked like I was inflicting an unprovoked, homophobic attack on a helpless man and the abuser could easily have employed DARVO (Deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender) tactics on me. Whom would the police have believed? I’ll leave that hypothetical scenario up to you the reader to decide.

The Consequences

Ever since the memory of that night in September 2018 has come flooding back, it has consumed my daily mental health.

The first overriding emotion I had from that night was anger. What on earth possessed this man (outside of alcohol) to feel like he could do this to me?

The second was frustration. Every time I feel like I have come close to taking the proverbial next step in my life and mental health, something like this comes along to thwart it. The analogy that springs to mind is Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III and the infamous line; “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

The third and final emotion, strangely was gratitude. It was gratitude to the man who asked me those inappropriate, uncomfortable questions as without that, who knows if this memory would have ever been unlocked?

It was also gratitude to myself. I am grateful to my mind for protecting me from that memory whilst I was about to start the process of dealing with the previous CSA. I am also grateful to it for unlocking this now and not several years down the line where it could have derailed something special or a part of my life where I could not afford to have another breakdown.

The Action

Taking responsibility for my mental health is always something I have prided myself in and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Therefore, I have taken the decision to go back into therapy to work through it and temporarily step away from my support group for the time being until I have healed sufficiently. Emotionally, it would be too taxing to manage both at the same time, as much as I would like to.

The Conclusion

As with most of the articles I write, I set out thinking I will write about 500-600 words and it becomes an essay! This one has been no different.

I hope this helps any other male survivor reading this and tells them that recovery and healing are possible.

I hope it gives them the patience to persist with their recovery journey as any survivor will tell you that change and healing does not happen overnight, which for me as a man with very little patience is easier said than done!

Finally, I hope that I can look back on this article in a few years’ time and recognise it as the final piece in the jigsaw that I needed to put in place for me to take that next step in my life.

You can read the previous articles Freddie wrote on this below:


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