Survivor speaks out: 'Support for child abuse victims vanishes in Somerset'

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 October 2016

The exibition will look something like this.

The exibition will look something like this.


A Somerset man who was sexually abused as a child has made an emotional plea for more support in rural areas, and says not speaking out did 'as much damage' as the abuse itself.

Steve Payton, aged 54, has lived in Burnham-on-Sea for close to 30 years and has helped take a thought-provoking exhibition to the Princess Theatre in Burnham to raise awareness of the struggles survivors face.

Mr Payton told the Mercury he was abused at the age of 13 but it has got harder to deal with as an adult.

He said: “Subsequent to the abuse there was a need for that person to control me, to make sure I didn’t talk about what had happened.

“The result was, naturally, that this had a major impact on my emotional development and ability to form and manage relationships.

“Not to minimise the trauma of the abuse itself but I sometimes think the subsequent emotional control and abuse that was used to keep me from speaking out was as bad and did just as much damage.”

Since moving to Somerset Mr Payton, who works as a service delivery manager, has found it difficult to find support and believes it varies geographically.

He added: “I think living in Somerset, and not in one of the larger cities, is a major issue.

“There is little enough provision for adult survivors of abuse as it is but in the more rural areas that provision vanishes.

“The NHS is cash-strapped and where abuse services are funded they, quite naturally, tend to be for children.

“I have only told a few people what happened to me, and on at least one occasion I was advised that it was a long time ago, I should have got over it.”

A Somerset charity has echoed Steve’s concerns.

A spokesman for Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support said: “There is a lack of support for adult male survivors of rape and sexual abuse in Somerset.

“It is difficult to know exactly why. From a Somerset local authority point of view, there is a strong commitment to working with adult survivors of domestic abuse, as there should be; but there is currently little strategic focus on tackling sexual violence including rape, sexual assaults and childhood sexual abuse. Somerset Public Health is now commissioning a service for young people surviving sexual abuse.”

Mr Payton added: “I knew I had to do what I could to bring the exhibition to Somerset, to make it available to those people, and to the people that know them, who work with them and even to those who love them.”

The Wall Of Silence exhibition will be at The Princess Theatre, in Princess Street, from today (Wednesday) until October 23.

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