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‘Hopefully it gives young people confidence to speak’: Ryan Houghton on why he shared childhood trauma

Councillor Ryan Houghton.
Councillor Ryan Houghton.

An Aberdeen councillor has expressed his “relief” after his sharing of a traumatic childhood event was met with kindness and empathy.

Ryan Houghton last night revealed that he stabbed his mother’s boyfriend to save her from a violent assault when he was just 12.

After pushing the memories away for years, he decided to share his story on Twitter in the hope that other young people in a similar situation would would realise it wasn’t a normal thing to live through.

Mr Houghton today told us: “Hopefully it gives young people confidence to speak to teachers or close friends or trusted family members and open up about it.

“For older people maybe it gives someone else who has gone through it a chance to look back and think ‘I went through that and it was horrible,’ and realise it was not OK and that they can deal with it and process it.”

‘Worried about the backlash’

Mr Houghton, who is the city council’s finance convener, was initially reluctant to speak about his own adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) because of the negative light it might shine on him.

In the account, he claims his mother’s abusive boyfriend “Martin” had become increasingly abusive. One night he allegedly dragged her through to the living room and started throwing “furious” punches, turning her “face to a pulp”.

Desperate to stop the attack, Mr Houghton grabbed a small knife from the kitchen and stabbed Martin in the side.

He said today: “I think someone writing something like that maybe five years ago or before would be concerned about a negative reaction towards them, especially in my case.

“I think what stopped me writing about it before was using the knife – I was certainly worried about the backlash on me. Then I remembered it was when I was a child, it was my teenage self who didn’t deserve to have those things happen.”

Now however, he feels comfortable following in the footsteps of others who have shared their own experiences of trauma, including north-east MSP Karen Adam.

“I’ve seen more and more people coming forward about the kind of things they had to deal with in their childhoods and their past and I just wrote it all in one go and pressed send,” he said.

‘It feels like a weight off’

Since sharing his story last night, Mr Houghton has been flooded with supportive messages. He has also been contacted by others who hoped they too would one day be brave enough to share their own stories.

Friends had always told him they sensed a certain sadness about him, or that he had something looming over him, but they now understand him more as a person since learning about his past.

He said he also noticed a change in himself since coming to terms with the trauma.

“I usually keep myself to myself but I’m glad I did it, sometimes it’s good to get rid of things from your mind,” he said.

“It feels like a weight off, it’s something that has been festering for quite a while.”

Advice to others suffering

Although he is usually a private person, Mr Houghton doesn’t regret sharing his story.

He explained: “I forgot that wasn’t normal, I think people who grow up in households like that or have experiences like that there’s a large amount of stuff they think was just routine when it really shouldn’t have been.”

His advice to those who are suffering through a similar thing, or who knows anyone who might be, is to speak out, get help and not to blame themselves.

“Don’t blame yourself and don’t demonise yourself over it,” he said.

“I think sometimes you feel worried and you look back with worry at it. Even if it’s just speaking to someone else I think there’s so much more kindness and compassion out there than you think.”

Help is available to any adult or child suffering abuse.

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