"I didn't know who to turn to": Chorley sexual assault survivor commended for his work at national charity awards

Alex Feis-Bryce is the CEO of Survivors UK and was the recipient of a commendation at this years' online national charity awards - through his work supporting male victims of sexual assault.
Sexual assault survivor and CEO of Survivors UK, Alex Feis-BryceSexual assault survivor and CEO of Survivors UK, Alex Feis-Bryce
Sexual assault survivor and CEO of Survivors UK, Alex Feis-Bryce

He was sexually assaulted at just 18 years old whilst studying in Manchester and said he 'didn't know who to turn to' after the ordeal.

Now, Alex Feis-Bryce, from Chorley, stands a world away from his younger self as the CEO of SurvivorsUK, a London-based charity which helps male survivors of rape come to terms with what has happened to them.

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On September 3 he was highly commended at the Charity Times' yearly awards ceremony, after being nominated under the 'Rising Leader of the Year' category.

The digital ceremony aimed to highlight excellence across a range separate categories, including the best individual charities and charity leaders, alongside the top examples of specific areas of charity management including fundraising, communications and campaigning.

"It was an honour to be involved and nominated at this prestigious event, even to be shortlisted was amazing. I have only been CEO of the Survivors UK since December so it was great to be involved," said Alex, 37.

"Male sexual abuse isn't talked about enough, especially not at glitzy award ceremonies with other big wealthy charities. There is such a lack of support out there for victims of male rape."

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Ever since the night of his assault, almost 20 years ago, Alex hasn't let his experience mute his voice, quickly becoming involved in campaigns and public speaking on the criminal justice system.

Alex wants there to be more support for men who don't feel comfortable talking about their experience with sexual assaultAlex wants there to be more support for men who don't feel comfortable talking about their experience with sexual assault
Alex wants there to be more support for men who don't feel comfortable talking about their experience with sexual assault

Through his time as a trustee of Survivors Manchester and work with victims of sexual assault, Alex and his experiences soon grabbed him a job of CEO of Survivors UK, a charity that helps more than 150 men through their counselling services and 2,500 men remotely per year.

He said: "I always felt open and comfortable talking about my experiences and was used to public speaking, but I know a lot of people find it really hard. Men, in particular, find speaking out difficult because of the way we are socialised in society to be tough and strong and not show our emotions.

"I felt that by me opening up to talk about it would help others too. When the job role for CEO of Survivors UK came up, I put myself forward because it felt like a match made in heaven."

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It is estimated that one in five women and one in six men in the UK have experienced sexual violence. In recent years, with increased awareness across society and improved resources, there has been an increase in the number of people seeking support.

Reports of rape have tripled in the past ten years, with data collected by the Ministry of Justice showing that there was a 200 per cent increase in the number of men and boys accessing support services between 2014 and 2018.

Sexual Assault Referral Centres, known as SARCs, are run by the NHS and have specially trained professionals who can give medical help and advice while supporting victims through their immediate trauma.

However, Alex believes that although there is more support out there encouraging male victims to speak out, that more work needs to be done to recognise the scale of the problem and claims that some men don't use services, such as SARCs, because they are created with primarily female victims in mind.

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"I experienced rape as a teenager at a time when there were no services directed at men who had dealt with sexual violence. I didn't know who to turn to. There is support out there but unfortunately they are places many men don't feel comfortable going to because they place a lot of focus on female victims. I was assaulted a second time later in life and reported it to the Lancashire police who were fantastic at dealing with it," he said.

"What I went through at such a young age was horrible and I didn't ever think it would happen to me. I didn't want to tell anyone about it because a lot of rape crisis support organisations use pictures of women. I had been programmed by society to not see rape as something that happened to men, which was isolating. Seeking support did not even occur to me.

"When you do tell someone you have been sexually assaulted, as a man, friends and family just don't have the vocabulary to speak to you or help you deal with it, so that is why Survivors UK is so important. However, even we only see the tip of the iceberg to the problem."

According to the latest Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data, 1,439 suspects in alleged rape cases were convicted of rape or another offence in 2019-20 - half as many as three years ago.

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55,130 allegations of rape were recorded by police in a year, with only 2,747 cases referred to the CPS, a reduction of 40 per cent in three years.

Survivors UK is a service supporting men and boys who have experienced sexual violence and anyone who feels their gender identity has been a barrier to them accessing other services.

According to Alex, he has seen a sharp increase in the high demand for their services with hundreds of men and boys now speaking about their experience after some suffered for decades in silence.

Approximately 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted.

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Victim Support Lancashire and Trust House are two services offering safe and confidential advice and support to male and female victims of assault.

Claire Powell, Area Manager for Victim Support said: “Sexual abuse can have a devastating and long lasting impact on people’s lives, and it is vital that victims who come forward are treated with respect and given high quality support.

“Whilst there are many reasons why people may be reluctant to report sexual abuse – for instance, people can experience feelings of guilt, shame and fear of not being believed – it can be even more challenging for men particularly if they experienced sexual arousal, which is not uncommon during non-consensual sex.

“We often find that male victims feel embarrassed and feel that the reporting of the incident itself is ‘un-masculine’. However, as the topic of sexual abuse is becoming less taboo, we are seeing more men starting to open up and reach out for help and support with incidents. Around 18% of our cases are for male victims of sexual abuse, many of which had experienced this abuse during their childhood.”

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Alex added: "If there are men in Lancashire who need support or advice, Survivors UK offer an online helpline throughout the whole country remotely."

Fore more information, visit survivorsuk.org.

Lancashire Victim Support Services can be contacted on 0300 323 0085 with staff who provide confidential advice and support.