Living with the aftermath of sexual abuse can have a huge impact on a persons life but finding help can be daunting.

For women it can feel a little more straight forward however men sometime slip through the net.

This week is Men’s Health Week a week to raise awareness round the poor state of men’s health across the world.

Safety Net based in Cumbria, are raising awareness by showing how sexual abuse - including childhood sexual abuse - can have a hugely negative impact on the mental health of men.

An estimated 3.1 million UK adults aged 18 to 74 years were childhood victims of sexual abuse - and just under a quarter of these were men.

Helen Davies, a children and young people’s therapist at SafetyNet said: “It can be very challenging for men who have experienced sexual abuse to come forward and receive help.”

“Society places an expectation on men to be seen as ‘strong’ and many feel embarrassed or ashamed about being seen as a victim. This adds to the sense of shame they may be feeling from the original abuse, and it also compounds any trauma symptoms they may be experiencing.

David whose name has been changed, is sharing his experience of how the trauma of the abuse he experienced in childhood was impacting on his mental health, and how Safety Net has helped him.

He said: “I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, but I never thought of myself as a victim at all. I didn’t think I had a problem; it was just my normal really.

The abuse I experienced did affect me though. I was always very hard on myself. If my work didn’t go perfectly, then it was my fault for being “stupid”.

"I also found it difficult to relax and be grateful for what I’d achieved in life. This left me feeling that I would only be happy if I achieved my next goal I was always busying myself, with one goal after another.

"It’s like I had an internal bully who wouldn’t let me be happy and content. I didn’t really realise that these behaviours were linked to the abuse I had experienced, aged 8, as a young boy.

"Things started getting on top of me after the first lockdown ended, in summer 2020. As I had been furloughed, I had spent a lot of time on my own during lockdown with just my own thoughts.

"When I eventually went back to work, I found myself getting extremely stressed out by the job. My boss already knew about my childhood experiences, so he took me to one side and told me about the work that Safety Net do. I gave them a call straight away, and a few weeks later I was booked on to a phone therapy course.

"My Trauma Informed Practitioner at Safety Net – who was called Fi - was brilliant. She helped me understand how the trauma I had experienced was manifesting in physical and mental stress responses. She taught me breathing exercises which I used to ground myself in the here and now, so my feelings did not become overwhelming. Each week she would send me workbook exercises, which made me reflect on how my trauma was playing out and helped me to feel like I could put some distance between these symptoms and me as a person.

"I trusted Fi and it has worked.

"It was never going to be easy but I can do these techniques now and they take the edge off those feelings.

"Now I’m much kinder to myself and I make time for myself. I’ve joined an online history club and I’ve started reading again. I finally feel I don’t have to be a slave to these feelings - I’ve got some control back over my life – and it’s great.”