My Story Joins Your Story – Let’s Change the Game Forever Together – David Canham

As I begin to write this, I’m exactly 4 weeks away from the anniversary date of a premeditated internet revenge act, an act that was targeted toward me by a group of sick individuals – who felt they had the right to expose personal aspects of what was then a deeply troubled life.

What started off as a ‘chemsex hook up’ turned into a hellish nightmare, that still affects my life today and has taken close to 4 years to recover from.  Both the recovery and rebuilding processes are still ongoing, and as part of that process I’ve decided to write my story for VOIC. This is the first time that I’ve publicly spoken out about that incident, and whilst I understand more about it now, I know that the journey has only just begun and further difficult times and discoveries await.

In retrospect I wish I had listened to that voice inside my head, that was trying to scream “get the hell out of there” but I wanted to lose myself in a world of meaningless sex and escape the hurt and pain that I felt at the time. I had lost my sense of self preservation, respect and survival.

To put my story into context, and for the first time in my life, I need to take ownership of an addiction to Crystal Meth.  An addiction that developed over a number of years on the gay party circuit. There were times when I naively thought that I had it under control, some of those times were during an 8-year relationship. For those times where I failed, life for my partner would have been tough to say the least, and as I look back over those years I take a personal responsibility for the pain that was endured. You must be ready to admit an addiction issue, and whilst I was hugely ashamed of it, I couldn’t bring myself to look at it closely enough in order to change it.

I was unaware that, during our turbulent time together, my partner was betraying my trust and indiscreetly going to pre-arranged sex parties – predominately but not limited to South London, where we spent a number of years living together. We both had interests in the gay fetish scene, which is how our relationship started. Over time, and through his own selfish wants and desires, my private struggles with Meth addiction were becoming widely known to people within that community. He was effectively using my issues, as an excuse for his own behaviour.

Several things are important here, the perpetrators who were involved in my ‘chemsex setup’ knew exactly who I was…. they also knew (through prior sexual interaction) my ex-partner. They had heard his stories, and thought it was time “someone taught me a lesson”.

For the want of a better phrase, they had appointed themselves as both ‘judge and juror’. At no point did they stop to consider the effect their actions would have on my life, career or family. Their minds were and are, too sick and warped, to even have a basic notion or care.

Their aim then was to webcam stream (without my knowledge or consent) an act of drug taking called ‘slamming’. A crude term for IV injection, used within the gay party scene. That aim was achieved in a flat in North London during 2016. Within minutes and seconds, it was streamed across a hardcore gay website, notoriously known for the darker side of fetish sex.

Years later I discovered that it was also a website used by my ex-partner, and many of his fetish community friends. I will let you draw your own conclusions here.

Something that took minutes and seconds to capture, destroyed a life that I had built up over decades.

I cannot begin to explain how I felt at the time. I remember getting back home (somehow) after it happened, I remember sitting on my sofa gazing blankly at a wall, trying desperately to make sense of what had happened. For days afterwards, I felt afraid to set foot outside of my flat through fear of being recognised or jeered at. I can only describe it as a mental violation, that must surely come close to physical rape.

Distribution of a non-consensual image(s) is prosecutable by UK law, however too many perpetrators escape prosecution through gaps that exist within the current framework – and that condition must change. This is one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to speak out on this subject. Acts of this nature must end, and proper recognition given to the online and offline abuse that’s happening right now within the LGBTQ community. There are so many voices and victims, that are too scared to speak, or act against these criminals. In some cases, they won’t know where or who to turn to for help and support. This area of abuse is so thinly covered within the LGBTQ family, across the entire country. As I approach the anniversary of my experience, and as gay men and women across the globe celebrate the colours and diversity of identifying as LGBTQ, the community must look closely at whether it still adheres to its core values of inclusion, or whether its declared war on itself by abusing and disrespecting victims of internet crimes. I consider myself living proof of that, via the acts of intimidation and stalking that still affect my life today.  Some of those acts originate from the LGBTQ community….my community. A community that I trusted. A community where I am supposed to feel safe.

Of my relationship I can only say this, it was utter two-way toxicity. Far too many personal details became widely known, and for this my ex-partner must accept responsibility. His complex web of lies and deceit was/is nothing short of pathological and his on-going manipulation of the truth continues to cause damage to my life and my ability to support those that I provide care for. I hear no mention of the times when I stood over his hospital bed, watching his comatose state, following overdoses caused by his own substance abuse. Or the times I lied to his parents to protect him. The world has seen/heard 50% of a story, and one that bears little resemblance to the truth. In time that will change. I want to shine a positive light on abuse issues, within the LGBTQ community, both online and offline. Abuse is abuse, there are no shades of grey.

Of my past addiction issues, I can say this – I betrayed myself. I betrayed my values, I betrayed my achievements, I betrayed the trust of my friends and colleagues – some quite rightly turned away. But I am truly blessed that some stayed, to see the beginning of a ‘new David’. A David that knows that something both tragic and unique occurred to him, he knows of the extreme pain and hurt it caused. A pain and hurt that no one should have to endure, and if I can help prevent others from experiencing it…. then surely that must be the most positive outcome for all.

We all have a past, it’s how you use it and more importantly learn from it that counts.