Stonewall co-founder Michael Cashman candidly revealed that he had been raped so regularly while growing up that he thought it was just “what normally happened to gays”.
Speaking to The Guardian, Michael opened up on how his childhood in East London and his theatrical career both suffered from the trauma of continuing sexual violence.
Cashman – who is now 69 – described how, at the age of 12, performing in “Oliver!”, He was approached by a cast member who sexually took advantage of the young actor.
“I wanted my mother to rescue me,” Cashman said, but this has only been one of a long series of abuses that the former Eastenders star has endured in his life so far.
The first abuse at 8 years of age.
Sexual abuse marked his youth: at eight years of age Michael was sexually assaulted by a docker. Accident he burried in himself for years.
“I had to face these demons that I had buried. […] I didn’t think I could be loved; I felt that I didn’t belong, so I tried self-sabotage. […] This abuse hurt me very much.”
Cashman was chosen as a member of the Fagin’s Gang and as a replacement for Oliver in the West End.
The director of the musical convinced Cashman’s family to let the young actor go to sleep at director’s house to keep him in the company of his wife and children, but on his arrival, Michael only found the director waiting for him. He had already booked a hotel room for “him and his son”. Unfortunately, the man sexually abused Chasman that night.
“But when you are being abused, it’s first of all [about] trying to find the words to describe how you feel, then the words that describe what’s being done to you, then the confidence that people will believe you.” Michael said during his interview.
“After the second time, I just found a way of switching myself off, so that I remembered the days when he would take me off to Kew Gardens, the river or the cinema.”
However, this was not an isolated incident.
At the age of 14, during the filming of the 1965 film, I’ve Gotta Horse, an old friend of the director took him to a bedroom, where he poured him some whiskey and then sexually assaulted him. The silence that reigned around the episode only clouded his mind and made him passive to the flood of insults he received during the production of the movie.
Cashman then added: “At one point I thought: Do I have an invisible mark on my forehead that says: abuse me, I won’t tell? […] You know that if you tell someone, you have to face something so terrifying, over which you have no control. So the best way to deal with it is to bury it. “
At the umpteenth sexual assault by a man in the 1960s, Cashman was convinced that he had provoked his rapist. Reporting it to the authorities, unfortunately, was not an option for gays at a time when their existence was illegal.
“It was the narrative we lived with,” he said. “This is what happened to gays. Being beaten, raped, they asked for it and they deserved it (according to public opinion). […] Growing in the awareness that having sex with someone transformed you into a criminal had a strong psychological impact. When someone mistreats you, your immediate reaction is: Well, I must have provoked him.”
As much as the spectre of his past has haunted him for years, Cashman said that writing his memoirs, “One of them“, gave him the opportunity to pause and reflect on the incidents he had been trying to ignore for so many years while he was silent: “Once you look back and you own all that happened to you, you’re in control. If you are honest with your past, you grow. If you don’t, then it will own you.”