For almost two decades, Marc Mexsom told no one about the sexual abuse he was subjected to as an adolescent.
Now, the 36-year-old former soldier wants the world to know what happened to him overnight at a sports camp 22 years ago.
Mr Mexsom hopes that breaking the silence around child sexual abuse will help spur other survivors to come forward.
“Child predators are counting on the fact that wherever this crime’s been committed, whatever room or whatever dark corner it’s been done, that kid won’t leave there and feel like it’s OK to tell the next adult that they see that it happened,” the security adviser told The New Daily.
And then these kids grow up into adults like me.”
It took the breakdown of his marriage for Mr Mexsom to mutter out loud “I was sexually abused”.
Everything from being an overprotective parent to joining the Australian Defence Force was the result of what happened to him that second night of soccer camp in 1998 when he was just 14.
“I was called into this room where there was a coach and a trainer and was essentially told to get onto a massage table for a rub-down type of activity,” Mr Mexsom said.
“I was sexually abused by both of the adult males that were there in positions of authority.
I tried to talk, scream but nothing would come out of my voice.”
Self-forgiveness was a key part of telling other people about that night.
“I forgive myself as a 14-year-old boy for freezing on that table and not yelling and screaming and ranting or fighting.”
He was surprised by the level of support he received after making it known to a select few.
“You feel like no one’s going to understand and people will judge you but you know what, there’s actually a lot of decent people out there that are really in your corner.
“And the scary thing is that everyone seems to be either directly or indirectly impacted by child sexual abuse.”
Starting the conversation
Often all you can do is blurt it out, Mr Mexsom said.
“There’s no real other way apart from just going ‘at this moment in my life, I want people that I care about to understand why I do things’,” he said.
Continue opening up to other close family and friends because you risk closing back up if you don’t keep the conversation going, Mr Mexsom said.
That can be particularly difficult given it is a taboo topic, but that is why it is so important to normalise these conversations, he said.
The psychological effects that seeped into many phases of his life could have been addressed much earlier had he known how to talk about sexual abuse as a young adult, Mr Mexsom said.
He assumed those close to him would be better off not knowing.
I wish that someone had talked to me when I was a kid about it.’’
The consequence of not being able to talk about the abuse meant he was constantly searching for ways to prove to himself that he was “a man”.
Mr Mexsom said he got in trouble at school, joined the army at 17 and was always trying to get bigger job titles and take on more responsibilities to make him feel like a man.
He wished he had dealt with the abuse sooner.
“It took me 18 years to talk about it (the abuse) and, finally, process it properly,” he said.
“It would be really good if you could reduce that timeframe for people.”
Mr Mexsom recently founded the charity Community Courage to foster more discussion about child sexual abuse.
Those in need of confidential help and advice can contact the free national sexual assault and family violence support hotline 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732