Justice

Fashion Photographer Nigel Barker Opens up About Being Sexually Assaulted

Fashion photographer and former America's Next Top Model judge, Nigel Barker just took a huge step in addressing sexual assault stigmas by revealing his past as a victim of sexual assault.

 

A photo posted by Nigel Barker (@nigelbarker) on

During his SiriusXM show, "Gentlemen's Code," the photographer opened up about how he was sexually assaulted as a boy, and discussed the need for victims to come forward, the Independent reports.

Barker revealed that when he was 8 years old, a 40-year-old man attempted to sexually abuse him while he was on his way to school in London. The man pretended to need directions, so Barker helped him find his destination. When they arrived at the building they needed to go to, things took a dark turn.

“He pushed me from behind, jolted me through the doors and I fell inside the doors,” Barker said. “The door closed and I’m now trapped between a stairwell inside and a shut door. I have a man, who was much bigger than me, push me to the ground, grab me and pull my trousers and pants down. I’m now exposed and screaming and thrashing.”

Although Barker managed to get away from his attacker, the assault took a toll on Barker emotionally.

 

A photo posted by Nigel Barker (@nigelbarker) on

For a while, he suffered from humiliation and blamed himself for the attack. It was only three years after the incident that the British native had the courage to tell his family what happened, People reports. And even then, his family was hesitant to believe his testimony.

“Here’s the thing," Barker said. "I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell my parents, I didn’t tell my brothers. I told no one. I was humiliated, I was scared, I was worried. I thought I had done the wrong thing, I thought I had done the bad thing. And it was something that stuck with me for a very, very long time and it was actually only when another member of my family discussed actually being assaulted that all of a sudden that I came out and was like ‘well it happened to me too.’ At which point people were like ‘well, what are you talking about?’ and this was about three years later but it had never left my mind,”

The attack still haunts him today.

 

A photo posted by Nigel Barker (@nigelbarker) on

“To this day, I can see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, you name it," Barker said. It’s right here with me and this is 30 years later."

In light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the fashion photographer hopes that by sharing his story other survivors will be encouraged to report and share their stories.

“We have to be more open, we have to talk to our kids. We have to allow men, women, children, everyone to be much more open about life, relationships, about speaking up and realising (sic) that you’re not guilty if something like this happens to you. That you, of course, have been a victim and it’s important to speak out.”

Sexual assault is a serious topic in the U.S. Approximately 1 in 33 American men has experienced attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

In addition, 1 in 53 boys under age 18 have been sexually abused or assaulted by an adult. Unfortunately, sexual assault is even more common among women. According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women has been the victim of sexual assault in her lifetime.

Some 80 percent of sexual assault cases go underreported, according to a 2013 study reported by USA Today. As was the case with Barker, a great number of victims often face humiliation, guilt, as well as victim-blaming that discourages them from coming forward.

"As long as we as a community continue to make victim-blaming statements, such as, 'She put herself in this situation,' … 'She didn't fight back, she must have wanted it,' we will continue to see rapes go unreported," Amber Stevenson, clinical supervisor and therapist at the Nashville Sexual Assault Center, told USA Today. "We have to stop blaming the victim. The conversation needs to shift to the person who chose to rape."

[h/t The Independent]