It’s not everyday that you see a man talking about his sufferings of a rape. Two-and-a-half years ago Sam Thompson was raped by two men during a night out.
A growing DJ, he had moved to Manchester to make it big. He had a lot of friends and was a confident you man. He was close to his family and had a girlfriend who moved with him. But a single night had changed his life forever.
He 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 life was never the same after the incident. When he woke up the next morning he was so terrified that he just wanted 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.”
Even the relationship he was in had to end two months later as he struggled to overcome the unfortunate incident. The only thing that was holding him back was the thought of his family.
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.
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.”