A MAN has bravely told of how he overcame suicidal feelings and years of alcohol misuse after being sexually abused by his foster father at the age of 13.

Paul, who is now aged 42, said he owed his life to counsellors at the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) North Wales who provided one-to-one support to help him recover from his horrific childhood experiences and rebuild his life.

He was speaking after it was revealed that the centre - which receives funding from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones - has been awarded the Lime Culture Independent Accreditation Programme Quality Mark for achieving the Quality Standards for Services Supporting Male Victims/Survivors of Sexual Violence.

The centre, which offers therapy and support to anyone of any gender aged over three whose lives have been affected by child sexual abuse, rape, sexual abuse or any form of sexual violence, provides a service across all of the six counties of North Wales.

Last year, the service saw its highest-ever number of referrals at 628 – including 78 men who made up 14% of the total.

The survivor, whose identity we are protecting, said he had been sexually abused after entering foster care when he lost his mother.

“I couldn’t talk to anyone, I felt ashamed and started drinking to try and forget what was happening,” he said.

“I was fighting and stealing alcohol, I got into trouble with the police. I was very depressed, the more depressed I felt the more I drank.

“I was in a dark place and I started to think that suicide was the only way out. I became angry and fell out with friends and everyone around me, I felt alone and desperate and didn’t know how to change things."

Paul finally opened up many years later to his social worker and was handed a leaflet on RASASC.

The charity was formed in 1984 as the Rape Crisis Line and has more than 36 years’ experience of supporting individuals in North Wales.

As well as providing one-to-one counselling and support, the organisation delivers training and advice for other organisations in an effort to raise awareness of sexual violence and its long-term consequences and outreach work in schools and universities to prevent sexual violence.

“I was so scared making that phone call, but it’s the best thing I’ve done,” said the survivor.

Commissioner Jones, a former police inspector, has pledged to tackle sexual violence and increase support for survivors across North Wales, making it one of his five key priorities in the North Wales Police and Crime Plan.

He said: “While many more men are stepping forward for help, we know that these are just the tip of the iceberg and many more continue to suffer their emotional pain in silence. I hope the courageous actions of this survivor encourage many more men to seek help to move on from these horrific experiences.”

Fflur Emlyn, operations manager for RASASC NW, said data suggested it took an average of 26 years for a male survivor to come forward for help.

She said: “Many of our clients say if it wasn’t for us they would not be alive and now they have a life again. The transformation is massive and the impact of therapy can be huge."