The first thing you notice about Callum Hancock is how kind and connected he is as a person. He has an easy-going congenial way about him and peppers his sentences with ‘mate’ in a disarming way that immediately makes you want to be friends with the guy.
This is at least somewhat ironic, given that he beats up other men for a living.
Having read other of our articles on sexual assault and rape, including our coverage of the Sayreville, New Jersey locker room sexual assault and rape in the context of hazing by the high school football team and, more recently, our coverage of Larry Nasser, the trainer from Michigan State who serially sexually assaulted hundreds of young student-athletes in his care, Callum reached out to us to offer to share his story. His motivation was to help heal others, to raise awareness, and to provide hope for others who have been sexually abused.
Hi Lisa –
hope all is well. My name is Callum Hancock. I am a professional boxer from Sheffield and I have spoke out about the Sexual Abuse & Rape I sustained as a child in hope to help heal others. If you guys at The Good Men Project would be interested in helping raise such awareness then I am available. I would love a chat to inspire survivors and to give them the hope needed to reach out.
Sent from my iPhone
At The Good Men Project we hear this type of story over and over again, but, not nearly as often as the assault and abuse occurs. The shame and visceral disgust that it generates makes it nearly impossible for victims to come forward. Some stay silent for decades, or for their entire lives. In addition, it is often the case that the abusers are people in positions of power who have much to gain from keeping these stories quiet.
As a result, the stories of abuse that we all should know – both for our sake and for the victim’s – get hidden away from the public far too often and for far too long.
Callum Hancock’s story is one of those stories. We are grateful to him for sharing it.
“This is nourishing, redemptive. We become less alone inside.” – David Foster Wallace
Callum was 10 years old when it happened. It was 2001. Remembering that small detail – the year – was itself only possible through therapy and anchoring his memory to cultural and world news events of that time, like the TV show ‘Big Brother’ and 9/11.
As he tells it, Callum comes from a big and loving family. Outside of his family, however, in town, in the streets, there was lots of bullying by other kids who were four or five years older than he was. At that age, that’s a big age difference. The difference in size and strength between a 15 year old and a 10 year old is huge. The bullying and verbal and physical abuse turned into sexual abuse.
The ring-leader of the bullies was the boy who sexually abused and raped Callum Hancock. His name was Jason Lyttle. Young Callum recalls that he used to play in his backyards, and crawl through his fence into adjacent yards. One day Callum emerged on the other end of the fence and Lyttle was there. He wouldn’t let the smaller Callum go back under the fence. Callum recalls one time that he was forced to strip naked and get beaten with sticks.
This is “boys being boys” manifesting into the worst kind of abuse.
As we have learned, sexual abuse is usually all based on a toxic power dynamic: the social order and power structure – in this case, of teenage and pre-teen boys – being asserted and maintained through violence, abuse and humiliation.
Another time, on that day in 2001, Callum was working on building a den, a hide-out where he and his friends could play. Lyttle arrived and offered to help. He was being really nice. This was unusual. He was being so helpful that Callum remembers thinking ‘Whats the catch? – I have nothing to give him.’ Unfortunately, his instincts were right:
“When we were done with the den, I turned around and [Lyttle] had his penis out. He said to me, “Do you know what these are for? Do you know what to do with this?” And I responded, “It’s for weeing.” He shook his head slowly and said “[Oral sex] is what you do when you’re in secondary school. It’s like smoking. When you’re old enough you’re allowed.”
Lyttle raped him. “He left me on the ground, crying me eyes off. He put his hand over my mouth. I was so confused. It was wet on my back. I thought it was blood. I didn’t understand until later; he had ejaculated on my back. He was smirking. He said: “Gets easier when you get older, you little faggot,” and he walked off.
Callum crawled back under the fence and ran to his house, locking himself in the bathroom for a long time. Later that same year, he and his family moved to a different town. He did not dare speak of what had happened. It was too big. Too shameful. too hard.
He lived in silence for a long time. Despite being very close to his parents, he didn’t tell them what had happened to him until 2015 when, he felt that he couldn’t keep it inside anymore. A good friend – who he had boxed with – had committed suicide and took a similar secret to the grave. Callum was struggling deeply with his own mental health, and he had a brush with the law, arrested for committing Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH). Things were at a low point. His parents confronted him, basically forcing him to tell them. Three weeks before he went to jail to serve a six month sentence for GBH, he finally told his parents what had happened to him when he was ten, unburdening himself after a fourteen-year silence. According to Hancock, his “family was been brilliant and incredibly supportive.”
Incredibly, however, this story doesn’t end there. Unlike the vast majority of victims of rape or abuse, Callum Hancock got to confront his rapist, and he got to send his rapist to jail.
In 2016, by some twist of random chance, Hancock bumped into Lyttle in a local grocery store. It was the first time that he’d seen him since childhood, and Hancock recognized Lyttle immediately.
Bringing in family reinforcements, including his parents and brother, he went to Lyttle’s family home, sat across the table from him and confronted him about what he did. Lyttle wouldn’t make eye contact and said he couldn’t remember it. Hancock offered to refresh his recollection, glaring at him and repeating the words Lyttle had said to the 10 year version of himself: “Do you know what these are for? Do you know what to do with this?”
A criminal trial followed. Ironically, as is the law, while the case was pending, Hancock had to retreat back into silence.
Today, Jason Lyttle is in jail, having been sentenced to a term of six and a half years. He began serving his sentence in 2018.
Callum Hancock’s life has also changed dramatically.
Since he broke his silence and began what he refers to as his “healing process,” Hancock realized that he had spent “a lifetime blocking out hate and being numb.” While he did this to protect his own self and psyche, it took its toll:
“If you block out bad, you block out love. If you block out hate, you also block out love.”
Therapy has helped him massively: “I have learned so much about myself, I never knew was possible.”
Today, Callum has a new purpose. He works at Survivors Manchester, a volunteer organization for male survivors. He helps other men, women, and kids who have been through sexual abuse. All by using the power of his own vulnerability. Callum has spoken to quite a few kids in situations where the parents have reached out to him to try to help them open up. He explains that with kids,
“You have to get down on their level and build a bond. I can explain that bad things happened to me when I was a kid. I can be encouraging about how brave and strong it is to talk, to talk to your parents, about what happened. Also, I can explain about “no go areas” and privacy and “no means no.”
He enjoys talking to other men the most: “Men on drink or on drugs because of what they’ve been subjected to by life. And you can say to them, ‘Me too brother. You’re not on your own.‘ No criticism. No judgment. When you sit down with someone else, you know you’re not on your own and it’s not your fault.”
Hancock also speaks passionately about the importance of these stories being told, of these conversations happening, both to discourage future abusers and to help victims:
“If me and you are talking about this, perpetrators aren’t going to be comfortable doing it. And once you speak out to someone else, that person is no longer alone. They have family. Spider-webbing and bringing people together – turning a negative into a brand new story – turning it into a positive. Healing is a beautiful journey and one all of us deserve to experience. We’ve all had times when life is hard. When you hit back at life and get tools in your toolbox to deal with the road ahead, its a game-changer, its a life-changer, You can’t put a price on that.”
Now at 28 years-old, Hancock is at a cross-roads in his super middle weight boxing career.
Callum Hancock began to box when he was 16 or 17 years old. He took up boxing as a way to stick up for himself against bullies: “A lot of my childhood trauma and inner demons are wrapped up in boxing.”
“I used to say ‘When I’m older, I’m gonna get you back.’ The bullies used to laugh. They used to tease me and call me “Hit Man Hancock,” a nickname I try to avoid at all costs; but the emcees still call it.”
Because of the bullying, Callum was forced to fight when he was younger; he never wanted to. He started boxing and fighting as a way to learn to stick up for himself.
He’s become quite good at it. But “now I’ve done that – and I’ve sent the biggest bully of my life to jail – now, its my career, but I’m no longer fueled by that fire.
Hancock still fights. “I fought last Friday. Won convincingly.” That was one of three fights this year, when he returned to fighting after a three-year absence..
But boxing is a struggle. It has highs and lows and it gives Hancock feelings of shame and embarrassment. Post-fight, he feels a sort of isolating PTSD:
“I’m very torn about fighting. Back when I was silent about what had happened to me, it was about bravado and being a man and ‘I’ll show you who is a man.’ Now I feel I don’t have that anymore; I don’t have to keep proving that I’m a man.”
Where the boxing part of Callum Hancock’s life will go from here, who knows?
But the part of his life about which he does have clarity is the part where he opens up about his story and helps people: “It needs to be talked about. There is lots out there that people just don’t know.”
Photo Credit: Callum Hancock