Over the last 12 months First Step have secured new funding from the Big Lottery and the Ministry of Justice and we are expanding our services. We are now seeking individuals to strengthen our board as we grow our services and organisational infrastructure.

You need to be passionate about seeing men move on from the negative impact sexual abuse has had on their lives.

For more information please download the information pack:

Application Pack

Male Survivors

A new body has been created to support the development of male survivors of sexual violence charities across the UK.

The Male Survivors Partnership will develop quality standards for the support of men who are victims of sexual violence, and work with 10 organisation across the UK to develop their work.

The partnership is founded by Survivors Manchester, Mankind UK, Safeline, Survivors UK and First Step Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

It has been granted £85,000 from the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales to work alongside Lime Culture Community Interest Company, a leading national sexual violence training and development organisation.

Stephanie Reardon, joint chief executive at Lime Culture, said: “This is a really exciting step forward for support services working with males who have experienced sexual violence”.

“With this funding, we will be doing a comprehensive review of existing service standards from around the world, consulting with experts in the field and listening to the views of males who have accessed support about what works. This will result in an agreed framework for services supporting males that will be rolled out across the UK.

“For males who have experienced sexual violence these new standards and the accreditation process that goes with them, will give a layer of reassurance about the quality of the services they are accessing at a time when they are feeling most vulnerable. They will have the knowledge that they will receive a nationally approved level of care and support – something they haven’t previously had.”

First Step Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are also a part of this partnership.

Source: Third Force News

Rosie, one of our wonderful volunteers, is raising essential funds for our charity by running the Leicester Half Marathon on Sunday 14th October 2018.

She says:

RosieHistorically, male survivors of sexual abuse or rape have rarely disclosed, but First Step has a core principal that everyone has the right to respect, to be believed, and to a safe environment. Whether it’s a cup of tea and a friendly face, counselling, or practical support, First Step is there to remind those who need it that they are not alone, and helps to empower people to make choices in their lives.

I have volunteered with First Step for just over two years and feel passionately about supporting this charity to help it continue to do the vital work that it does. This is a small charity and the only service for male survivors in this area. First Step understand fully how difficult it is to attract or secure funds, but I know first hand of the difference it can make to the men who are brave enough to disclose the trauma of their abuse. This is why I am so passionate about First Step.

I will be running the Leicester Half Marathon on Sunday 14th October. All donations are welcome and will be gratefully received.

So far she has raised over £500, but every extra £1 counts. If you would like to help encourage Rosie and support male survivors of sexual abuse and rape in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland – please donate.

You can find her Just Giving Page here:

Feeling Motivated?

If you would like to raise money for First Step, check out our Just Giving Page or email us with your idea.

Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington’s death sent shock waves across the world, but male sex abuse victims may find strength through his life.

Many fans are shocked and heartbroken over the loss this week of Chester Bennington, the fierce lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park. Police say they are treating his death as a possible suicide, which would make the pain even harder to bear.

There’s a famous saying, “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That may be true. But in this case, as a clinical psychologist and researcher who specializes in trauma, I don’t think I’m overreaching in saying that his troubled past may have been a factor in his death. Chester Bennington had openly said he was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that haunted him and, he said, contributed to his excessive use of drugs and alcohol.

For far too long, boys and men who have been sexually abused or assaulted have been overlooked, neglected, minimized or stigmatized by society and, at times, by the health care community. It’s time for that disregard to stop.

One study in the United States estimated that one in six males are sexually abused at some point during their childhood. Let’s stop and think about that for just a second. Picture all the boys and men you know, and then breathe that statistic in. That may include your father, your husband/lover, your boss, co-workers, coaches and friends.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are at an increased risk of developing a wide range of medical, psychological, behavioral and sexual disorders. Indeed, a meta-analysis of published research on the effects of child sexual abuse verified the extensive and subsequent negative short- and long-term effects.

For example, sexual trauma is related to psychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and dependence, depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior. In addition, many male survivors of sexual abuse also have negative body image, revulsion to being touched or touching others, lack of confidence in their appeal and attractiveness, sexual dysfunction from low sexual desire to difficulties achieving and maintaining an erection and retarded ejaculation.

Sexual trauma is also linked to medical illnesses, increased use of health care services and poor quality of life. Yet the majority of the research on sexual abuse, including the development and testing of psychosocial interventions, focuses on women. This is not OK and must change in order to help the many people like Chester Bennington.

There are numerous barriers to men reporting sexual assault and getting the help they need. Internalization of socially acceptable norms and expectations for being a man, as well as knowledge-related barriers about abuse and assault, exist for these men.

A large part of my clinical practice over the past 20 years has involved male veterans — those who served in the war zone and have combat-related PTSD; those who have been physically or sexually assaulted before, during or after military service and have assault-related PTSD; and sometimes all of the above. Many of the men I’ve worked with in this capacity subscribe to the male ethic of self-reliance.

They are taught to be tough, fearless and to deny their own vulnerability. They are told to never cry or experience sadness, and that they should always welcome sexual activity. They feel tarnished in terms of their maleness — powerless, out of control and low in confidence.

Many of these men fear being judged for provoking or “inviting” the abuse and blame themselves for not being able to prevent it. They fear that their sexual preference will be questioned. And, as a result, some of these men banish the sexual abuse from their psyche, deny it ever occurred, minimize its impact, normalize or justify what happened to them, or engage in dangerous behaviors like drugs or alcohol to drown it out.

I, for one, don’t want to be a part of this exploitation, betrayal and abandonment of boys and men. As such, my Yale colleagues and I partnered with a non-profit trauma survivor organization that provides resources to male abuse survivors and their loved ones worldwide.

MaleSurvivor has been working to create an environment within which male survivors of trauma and abuse feel empowered to come forward seeking help, and to ensure that those who do come forward have access to trained and experienced support services. Their website currently sees hundreds of thousands of visits annually from people all over the world, and their social media platforms reach millions every month with news and messages of hope, healing and support.

If you meet a male survivor or come to learn that someone you love was sexually abused or assaulted in childhood, please communicate to them that the abuse was not their fault, they didn’t ask for it to happen, and psychologically healthy adults or older children do not treat other people in that way. Tell them there is hope for their future.

Joan Cook is an associate professor at Yale University and president of the American Psychological Association’s Division of Trauma Psychology. She is an Op-Ed Public Voices Fellow. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.

Written by Joan Cook for CNN.

Warning Zone

The Leicester Mercury is working with Leicestershire Police and Warning Zone on the Safe Online campaign.

One of the aims of the project is to help Warning Zone raise £250,000 to take its online safety message to more of Leicestershire’s children and young people.

The Frog Island charity is unique to our county and largely run by volunteers – but still sees thousands of young people from Leicestershire and beyond each year.

You can read more about the aims of the Safe Online campaign here.

Meanwhile, we spoke to some of the people in the community that works with WZ:

Gurjit Samra-Rai

Community Safety Team Manager, Children and Family Services, Leicestershire County Council

“Warning Zone is an inspiring resource for young people aged 10 years and over.

“The facility enables children to explore issues around crime, anti-social behaviour, staying safe and peer pressure, raising awareness in an exciting and interactive way.

“The staff are always welcoming and knowledgeable and the cyber safety zone is incredible, demonstrating that Warning Zone understand and are able to respond to the new risks young people are vulnerable to.”

Adrienne Katz

Director of Youthworks Consulting

“Warning Zone has a unique immersive style that makes learning fun and, what’s more, the messages stick!

“Their approach to teaching safety messages is practical and kinetic – children respond enthusiastically.

“A year 9 group were keen to tell us how much they enjoyed coming to Warning Zone in their primary years.

“Now Warning Zone is adapting their approach to support teenagers with vital online safety messages.

“The annual Cybersurvey run by Youthworks since 2008 has shown that the mid-teens is a time when young people are least likely to follow online safety education messages, while simultaneously experiencing the highest rate of cyberbullying, online aggression, risk of harm, high risk content, cyberscams, user-generated and malicious peer-to-peer contact.

“So this combination of giving messages both to primary school aged children and then working innovatively with the teens will provide a much-needed approach.

“Research at the Crimes against Children Research Centre has questioned whether the current style of delivery of online safety education is effective.

“Are we delivering the right messages and in the right way?

“The idea that potential for harm among children can be reduced by teaching media literacy alone is not proven.

“It is time to try new approaches with teenagers that can feel relevant and meaningful to them.

“The natural adolescent enjoyment of adventure, challenge and risk needs to be catered for alongside an understanding of different abilities, vulnerabilities, motivations and emotional health.

“The Internet impacts on young people in many different ways with some being at greater risk than others.

“We welcome this refreshing new development at Warning Zone.”

To donate to the JustGiving page, click here

Original Source – Leicester Mercury


Paedophile hunters

Paedophile hunters should leave the job to the police, Detective Inspector Shaun Orton says.

Detective Inspector Shaun Orton, who leads Leicestershire Police’s Paedophile Online Investigation Unit, (Polit), says he is growing increasingly exasperated by the activities of a growing band of online investigators.

A number of groups are operating across the country. Some have been credited with gathering evidence which has led to men being convicted in court of grooming offences.

The groups argue they are assisting police by bringing dangerous offenders to justice at a time when force budgets are being cut and officer numbers are falling.

However, Det Insp Orton has revealed their activities are potentially hampering police investigations and accuses some groups of being driven by a hunger for online celebrity and cash.

Their methods, which typically involve outing suspects online before they can be arrested, mean offenders often have time to destroy evidence of the grooming and other serious offences against children, he said.

He told the Leicester Mercury he is aware of cases which should have gone to court but have not done so because the paedophile hunters’ shared their video evidence online before their suspects were arrested – rendering it inadmissible in court.

His unit is currently arresting a suspect – including online groomers and paedophiles who possess indecent images of children – every two days. In the past six months, his team has executed more than 100 search warrants.

More than 90 per cent of those warrants, which are granted by the courts, result in charges.

He said: “We can do what these people do, but we do it a lot better.

“These groups are not doing us a favour.

“For some of them it is all about self-promotion, for others it’s about the financial gain from sharing their videos on social media.

“There is no accountability with these groups.”

Typically, paedophile hunters pose as teenage children on social networking sites and their adult decoys converse with men until they believe they have evidence the men are sexually attracted to children.

They agree to meet them in public places, where they reveal their real identities.

Some post footage of their confrontations online before passing their material – including transcripts of online exchanges – to police.

At least one group, in Kent, ‘live streamed’ a confrontation on Facebook. The encounter descended into violence. A suspect was however arrested on suspicion of a grooming offence.

Others blank out suspects’ faces and only reveal their suspects’ identities when they have been convicted of the offence of grooming.

Det Insp Orton said: “Paedophiles are not hard to find but they can be difficult to prosecute, particularly if they are very IT savvy.

“We certainly lose cases because the way the evidence has been gathered by these groups is compromised or we don’t get the cooperation or statements we need from the paedophile hunters when we ask for it.

“We have the same conversation with these people every few weeks.

“We appeal to their better judgement and ask them to take down something they have posted online and explain that the footage will compromise the case.

“Sadly, a lot of the time, we do not get their cooperation because they cling to their set of beliefs that what they are doing is right.

“There is always risk they are disrupting ongoing covert police investigations into more sophisticated paedophile networks.

“They only look at what is in front of them. We look further back into a suspect’s history and may uncover more serious offending.”

Officers in the Paedophile Online Investigation Unit are responsible for investigating suspects while at the same time taking action to deal with the risk of them taking their own lives, Insp Orton said.

“With investigations of this nature there is always going to be a high risk of suicide,” he said.

“The suspects are more often than not outed on social media.

“We have to be mindful of that and protect the suspects and their families from threats which may be on social media.

“There are no such provisions in place with the paedophile hunters.

“Also, we have a care plan in place for our investigators. They do a very difficult job and are exposed to obscene images and chat.

“I don’t imagine any such provision exists for paedophile hunters.”

Det Insp Orton was speaking as part of the Leicester Mercury’s Safe Online campaign, which is highlighting Leicestershire Police’s efforts to protect adults and children from the range of threats which exist online.

The campaign is also highlighting the work of the charity Warning Zone, which has set out to raise £250,000 to buy and equip a vehicle to travel the city and county spelling out to children and young people how they can stay safe online.

Original Source: Leicester Mercury

LGBT training

Hundreds of stewards at King Power Stadium are set to receive training on how to cope with LGBT, homophobia and other hate crimes.

A meeting took place recently between Leicester City bosses and Andrew Bolland of Leicester’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) Centre in Wellington Street.

Andrew, strategic development and partnerships manager at the centre, told the Mercury he expected the training to take place in August or September.

He said: “They contacted us asking if we were able to support them in the training of their stewards. We had a meeting to discuss their needs. It was our first contact with the club so it’s a very positive step.”

He said he hoped the King Power Stadium stewards, who number about 250 in total, would benefit from help deciding when normal banter on the terraces reached a stage where action needed to be taken.

He said: “The training Leicester City are looking for is to increase their stewards’ capacity to understand the nature of possible hostility and respond in the best manner.

“The big issue is when to take action. It’s almost impossible to articulate when banter turns into hostility and from there into a hate crime.

“There are maybe times when offensive language isn’t upsetting for the people it’s directed at but is being heard by children and so stewards should take action.

“It’s not for me to tell the club’s stewards what they should do about it but when it might be appropriate to act.

“The nature of crowds can put sensibilities and equality to one side and people can lose their sense of moral duty.”

He said it could be hard for people who are not from the LGBT community to understand how offensive certain language could be.

He said: “Words can have a disproportionate effect on someone if they have been suffering abuse over a lifetime.

“A lot of our work here is about supporting people who have suffered from that sort of offensive behaviour.”

Before the steward training begins, Andrew will be speaking with members of the LGBT fan group, Foxes Pride. However, he said as a hate crime reporting centre, he was not aware of any anecdotal evidence homophobia was a problem among Leicester City fans at the King Power Stadium. He said: “I hope that will continue.”

A Leicester City spokesman said: “We are committed to creating a passionate, inclusive, welcoming environment at the King Power Stadium, in which everyone is free to enjoy the matchday experience.

“We aim to further educate our staff in best practice and to continue to encourage a culture of football for all.

“Our thanks go to the Leicester LGBT Centre and to the Foxes Pride group.”

Source: Leicester Mercury

Russel Dawson

A sexual abuse survivor, Russel Dawson, is bringing a support group for male victims to North Devon, the group is called moMENtum.

A support group founded by a sexual abuse survivor is joining forces with a successful counselling service to bring care and help to North Devon victims.

Russel Dawson now lives in Braunton but co-founded moMENtum, a peer support group for non-offending adult male survivors of child sexual abuse, when he was based in Exeter.

The 48-year-old was a victim of recently-released North Devon paedophile policeman Danny Bryant, and said working with the group for the past five years had helped him when he was struggling with life and with mental health problems.

Russel said: “There is help out there, it’s difficult to access sometimes, especially for male survivors. Finding the safe way of getting that help is important. If something bad happens when they first disclose what has happened they are likely to just shut down again and not get help.

“There are regional and national organisations designed to help people who have been sexually abused in childhood so it’s worth doing a bit of research and contact someone who can do the appropriate work, rather than someone who might say the wrong thing. It can be difficult for other people to deal with.

“All you need is someone who is prepared to listen, and won’t minimise it or say ‘don’t worry, it happened ages ago’. Someone who understands the effect it is still having now.

“If you get the right help, it is definitely worthwhile. I was struggling with life and with mental health problems. I have been fortunate to have got the help I have had and if you can get help it is definitely worth working on but it is not a walk in the park.”

The groups at moMENtum gather together with shared experiences and meet as equals. The service is self-funded and helps talk through feelings of shame, anxiety, depression and a variety of mental health problems which stem from abuse, including eating disorders, alcohol and drug addiction.

Russel Dawson said being in a room with people who have all had to carry shame for decades without telling people and hearing them say the same things others have thought for so long is really powerful.

He said: “When you realise you’re not the only one, it really resonates that you are going through the exact same things, the aftermath. People who have been abused shouldn’t be ashamed, the shame should belong to the abuser.

“These mental difficulties are perfectly normal human reaction to abnormal circumstances. Anyone who had been through extreme circumstances would respond in the same way to such extreme pressure.

“We know how important it is to get help, I was fortunate to get help, and you can get it in a variety of ways. It is life-changing to get the right sort of help.”

Russel Dawson is keen that moMENtum could link to female survivors and Karen Black’s North Devon counselling service Survivors Alliance North Devon CIC (SAND).

Karen, herself a survivor of sexual abuse who waived her automatic right to anonymity, set up the counselling company in August 2016, and has already had 13 referrals, averaging out at two per month.

Karen said: “I worked with Russel and he was really my inspiration, he gave me the little push I needed to go ahead to start this up. He and his wife are both wonderful people and have helped me so much, including doing a massive amount of networking.”

2017 has seen Karen receive weekly enquiries from community centres, GP surgeries, colleagues, local police and self-referrals for her services, seeing the project outgrow the free space time that Slee Blackwell Solicitors in Barnstaple had offered.

Though the team are fundraising, Karen would be grateful to any group or individual who would consider committing to a monthly payment of perhaps £10 or £20 to help the project go forward.

Anyone looking to join a moMENtum group in North Devon or donate to SAND can call Karen on 07763 617 693.

If you need support now, these numbers may be of help:

The Samaritans (24 hours) 08457 90 90 90
National Association of People Abused in Childhood 10am to 9pm Monday to Thursday; 10am to 6pm Friday: 0808 801 0331
Rape and Sexual Abuse Helpline: Monday to Sunday 7pm to 10pm 08088 000 188
Survivors UK Monday and Tuesday 6pm to 9pm; Wednesday 12pm to 2:30pm and 6pm to 9pm; Thursday 12pm to 2:30pm
DevonAlliance working with Childhood Sexual Abuse

For anyone in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and who would like to speak to somebody about our support service, please contact First Step.

Male Survivor

Childhood Abuse: The Story of a Male Survivor was taken from and has been written by Dennis Randall.

I was sexually abused as a child and I have written a book about my experiences. One day over a cup of coffee, I told a friend. The words slipped out of my mouth before I had a chance to catch them. The secret, which I hid from myself for fifty years, was no longer hidden. As I broke down in tears, my friend became the first person to learn of my past.

The simple sharing of repressed memories unleashed a flood of emotions and images. It became almost overwhelming and to restore order to the chaos of recollection; I started a journal which evolved into a 44,000-word book, “Becoming a Man in the Shadowlands.”

The memory of my suffering remained within me for so long my silence grew into a prison. Childhood trauma casts a long shadow over the lives of the injured.

I am a survivor of the Shadowlands, and today I’m free and I’ve begun the healing process. All the energy consumed keeping secrets locked away is now available to help myself heal.

For me, mending my wounds is nothing more than coming to terms with my past and understanding how my experiences helped to shape the person I am today.

Childhood’s forge of experience shaped my life one event at a time. Each of my abusers took their turn as the blacksmith. They assaulted my body and mind with their will, each strike molded and twisted me into new ways and directions. I resisted, to the best of my ability. I refused to break, and I would not yield. Nevertheless, I did bend and change. I would never be the same again.

Recovery will be a long and sometimes difficult journey. But, I would rather walk this path with friends in the sunshine than to travel alone in the darkness.

My story about being a Male Survivor is available for download from –

Roger Dodds

An ex-council boss, Roger Dodds, who forced teenagers to engage in sex acts to get grant payments has been jailed for 16 years. Roger Dodds, 81, also abused colleagues while working for Sheffield City Council’s education department between 1975 and 1993.

The council has been accused of failing to act and moved Dodds to a position working with schools after complaints. It said it was now “deeply sorry”.

In December Roger Dodds admitted indecently assaulting four men and a young boy. In a statement read out in court, one of Dodds’ victims said the abuse made him feel such “shame and disgust” he was unable to tell anyone for 20 years.

“His left hand started to feel its way into my right jeans pocket. When that started to happen, I just became frozen and unable to move.”

In the 1970s Dodds, of Cotswold Road, Sheffield, was responsible for providing grants to college and university students. The court heard he had used his position to abuse teenagers, forcing students to engage in sexual acts in order to get grant payments.

He also indecently assaulted colleagues. The court heard Dodds had shown no remorse.Roger Dodds had known the athlete Sebastian Coe, the court was told, and had lured a child victim by telling him he could meet him, although the meeting never happened.

His offending went unchallenged despite his victims alerting his employers and two separate internal investigations held into allegations made against him. In the 1980s he was investigated by Sheffield City Council following complaints from colleagues but was moved to a different council post, working with schools.

Further allegations in 1993 led to a second council investigation after which Roger Dodds was allowed to take an early retirement package with an enhanced pension. One employee said hearing about the complaints gave him the courage to tell managers about the abuse he had been subjected to.

The five victims were at Sheffield Crown Court to hear him sentenced. In an impact statement read out in court, one victim said he was just 17 when he was abused by Dodds which had left him feeling such “shame and disgust” he was unable to tell anyone for 20 years.

He said: “I went in complete trust to the council buildings to pick up expenses that I needed. “What happened to me in those council offices shaped my view about myself and other people.”

One victim told the BBC he held the council responsible for the abuse he suffered.

“I was the victim of a really horrible man,” he said. “The council are so responsible. I even think at times the council are more responsible than he was. They allowed it to happen. Everyone knew. Everyone in the council knew but they chose to do nothing about it.”

Another victim, Richard Rowe, who waived his legal right to anonymity, said he was subjected to “terrifying” assaults over an 18-month period. However, he said when he told council colleagues what was happening, he was told to stay quiet.

Another man said he believed more victims might still come forward. “We are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Dodds was initially arrested and interviewed in May 2008 following complaints. However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to take no further action against him.

Those earlier complaints were reviewed by the CPS following a new allegation in 2014 and a decision was made to charge him with all the complaints in 2016.

Sheffield City Council said it welcomed the fact Dodds had been brought to justice. Jayne Ludlam, executive director for Children, Young People and Families, said the authority’s thoughts were with the victims.

She added: “We are deeply sorry that Dodds committed these offences while working at Sheffield City Council decades ago. “We are glad to see that, finally, such cases of historic abuse are coming before the courts, justice is being done, and victims are having their voices heard. “Despite the fact that this happened more than a quarter of a century ago, we have accepted responsibility and would never defend the indefensible.”

South Yorkshire Police said Dodds’ sentencing marked the culmination of a lengthy police investigation into his behaviour over several decades.