- Perry Power was was sexually abused for a year by his step-grandfather.
- He launched a charity called We Rescue Kids to help kids who have experienced sexual abuse.
- This is Power’s story, as told to Kitti Palmai.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Perry Power. It has been edited for length and clarity.
As a young boy, I loved visiting my step-granddad. Little did I know at the time that what he was doing to me was wrong and that it had happened to three other family members.
I was sexually abused for about a year. I was 11 when my stepmom caught it happening while we were watching TV in the living room and put a stop to it. I was sitting on my step-granddad’s lap, and he dropped a cigarette but didn’t lean down to pick it up. My stepmom, who was sitting on the other sofa, looked over and saw his hands moving underneath the blanket.
She took me home and told everything to my dad, who questioned me about what happened. He was very angry, and at that age, I didn’t understand why — I thought my step-granddad was showing me a form of love. I was told to keep quiet.
I kept reinventing myself
A couple of years later in secondary school, we had to write a short story for English class, and I wrote about a kid being abused by a family member. The school called social services and my parents were contacted. I was also assigned to attend school counseling — weekly, then biweekly, and less frequently as the years went by. I can’t recall most of these sessions, just like writing the story — my brain blocked the memory.
When I started studying performing arts at Richmond College in Twickenham, I wasn’t the confident and popular guy that I wanted to be. So when my parents moved to a new place a year and a half later, I switched to a new college and reinvented myself — I faked it until I became the new version of myself.
I tried out entrepreneurship when I was 19 and failed at many businesses because I lost interest just before any success could have come. While it gave me some sort of validation, I always wanted to make my dad proud.
Upon my return from traveling around Australia, Ellen DeGeneres’ interview with Lewis Howes caught my attention. He talked about how his childhood sexual abuse led to him masking masculinity while growing up. I was working as a personal trainer at the time, and I realized that hiding behind confidence and popularity was my way of masking the real me — a reflection of the boy that was abused.
I’d been living a lie and running away from my problems.
I started speaking openly about my abuse
In 2017, I suddenly lost my dad to a heart attack, which made me question a lot of things, including why he became an alcoholic. My inner voice was telling me it was time to take my mask off and tell my then girlfriend about the abuse. I was worried I might lose her when she realized she was dating a fraud.
Her supportive response encouraged me to break my silence in front of seven other entrepreneurs at a business mastermind conference four months later. While driving home, their texts and emails thanking me for opening up gave me the urge to speak up again. Before changing my mind, I parked my car, and seven takes later, I posted a video on Facebook.
This is how my stepmom figured out it happened more than once. I also learned that three other family members were abused by my step-granddad, my dad being one of them. This revelation put everything into a whole new perspective.
My way of healing has been self-development. I was reading books on forgiveness and getting coaches on growth mindset. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, our online coaching business wasn’t making money. Feeling unfulfilled and lacking purpose, I left the business. I was broke and alone in Portsmouth, UK, with only my dog by my side. I had suicidal thoughts.
I wrote a book, but publishers kept rejecting it. In February 2021, I self-published my book, “Breaking the Silence,” which was well-received and became an Amazon bestseller. Six months later, I did a TEDx Talk.
Creating awareness is just part of my mission. I want to encourage others to break their silence and provide support for them to do so. I launched a charity called We Rescue Kids in the US that gives mental-health care to child survivors of sexual abuse and sex trafficking. And in my dad’s honor, I created The Andy Project in the UK, which helps male survivors of intrafamilial abuse break their silence and begin to heal.
Before my dad died, he told me to watch “Spotlight,” a film about the Boston Globe’s investigation of the sexual-abuse scandals within the Catholic church. At the end of the film, the Catholic boarding school my step-granddad attended was listed among the locations where abuse happened. He was also a victim of abuse but didn’t seek help.