NRL referee Gavin Badger has opened up about his experiences as a survivor of child sex abuse, admitting there were times he didn't think he would make it this far in life.
The 47-year-old revealed last year that he had been sexually abused as a child in an Instagram post after taking part in The Paddle Against Child Abuse – an event in Australia raising awareness about the issue.
Speaking to NRL.com, Badger has given more details about his experience with the issue, revealing he was abused by a family friend at the age of 11.
"I was told when I was abused that if I did speak up I'd be killed," Badger told NRL.com.
"After the abuse happened I was directed to a cupboard and told to open the door. There was a gun in there – I don't even know if it was a real gun or a BB gun or what – but it was like 'if you tell anyone, I'll shoot you with that.'"
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It set Badger down a rocky path in his youth, as he fell into heavy drug use at an early age.
"I was 12. It was a lot of drugs over a long time," he said. "I look back at it now and yeah, it was a pretty tough time.
"I couldn't find the courage to actually say out loud that it had happened. The fear for me was are people going to think I'm weak for not talking long ago. You get to a point where you go 'has it gone too far?'"
Finding the courage to open up to someone about it lifted a weight off his shoulders. When he told his wife Kasey that he had been abused as a child, he said it "just felt different".
For Kasey, it was an "Earth-shattering" revelation.
"You just don't know what to say" Kasey told NRL.com. "There's nothing you can possibly say to someone who has been through what he's been through that you feel like could help them in any way."
Badger, who has refereed more than 300 NRL games, made the decision to take his past public on social media last year on somewhat of a whim. Once he had crafted the message, he knew he had to send it quickly before talking himself out of it.
"Once I pressed that, the feeling that I had, it is like a drug high. It's like something just changed inside of me.
"The good thing is when I picked up my phone there was a lot of good stuff on there, a lot of people were supportive, but the biggest thing was I got some private messages from some people who said 'you know what, that's my story too'. That was something I was really proud of.
"You have something so personal that had such an impact on your life and you've kept to yourself for so long, it's just so hard to get out but I'm a prime example of once it gets out, everything changes.
"I'm one of the fortunate ones; I'm still here. There were times when I thought I wouldn't be and I've had those same thoughts where life would be better if I wasn't around and other peoples' lives would be better if I wasn't around. I got through that."
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