Nigel Barker came forward about a harrowing childhood experience Tuesday in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The famed fashion photographer bravely shared, for the first time publicly, the story of how a man tried to molest him when he was just 8 years old.
“This is something that’s very, very personal to me, and it has affected my entire life,” he said on Nigel Barker’s Gentleman’s Code, recalling how he used to walk home from school as a young boy.
One day, a man he estimated to be about 40 years old stopped and asked him for directions.
“And naively, I led him along. He walked by my side and chatted with me briefly and asked where I was going. Then, we came to where he needed to go and I said to him, ‘Oh this is it,’ and he then said to me that he couldn’t read,” Barker said. “I fell for it, as a gullible 8-year-old might. I went up to the door and I read the names on the buzzers and he said, ‘Oh, that’s the one,’ and I went to push it and he pushed me from behind, jolted me through the doors, and I fell to my feet inside the door. The door closed, and I’m now trapped between a stairwell inside and a shut door, and I have a man who is much bigger than me push me to the ground and grab me, pull my trousers and my pants down. I’m now exposed, and I’m screaming and thrashing.
“Luckily for me, I had the — I guess the luck, because I wasn’t particularly aiming — but I kicked, and I kicked him in the nuts. He sort of jumped back for a second, enough for me to get up, squeeze out, and as he tried to grab for me in the back of my neck and the back of my head, he scratched the back of my neck, I ran out. I ran all the way home.”
Barker, now 43, didn’t tell anyone until almost three years later, when his sister revealed a neighbor sexually assaulted her while she was playing at his house.
“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,” he said of why he stayed silent. “But it had never left my mind. To this day, I can see it, feel it, smell it, you name it, it’s right there with me, and this is 30 odd years later.”
To make matters worse, their dad decided to “forgive” Barker’s sister’s assailant.
“I remember my sister being devastated and never actually recovering and feeling that my father had washed it under the carpet, which is exactly what he had done, really,” Barker said. “And I myself, as her brother, then came out and said, ‘Well, I’ve been assaulted, too,’ which everyone kind of laughed at me and thought it wasn’t true, it wasn’t real.”
Though his family came around and police discovered multiple young boys had been victimized in their area, Barker said there’s still a stigma surrounding sexual assault — one that must be combated by survivors speaking out and parents educating their children.
“It’s a tough thing for me to talk about,” he said. “My wife even said to me, ‘Are you sure? You sure you want to talk about that?’ And I’m like, you know what, yes. It’s about time, and I’m man enough to actually own up and say listen, this is what happened to me. It’s not something that I am happy about, it’s not something that I would want to happen to anybody else, but it is life, and in order to protect the innocent, here I am.”
Nigel Barker’s Gentleman’s Code airs Tuesdays at 1 pm ET on Radio Andy (Ch. 102).
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