Mum whose son took his own life in Harborough after he was sexually assaulted is urging young men not suffer in silence
A mum whose son tragically killed himself in Market Harborough after he was seriously sexually assaulted is urging young men – do not suffer in silence.
Brave Beverley Harper is calling on young men across Harborough who have been raped or sexually abused to seek help before it’s too late.
She has made her heartbreaking plea after her beloved football-mad son Michael Smith, known as Mikey, devastated his family and mates by taking his own life last July.
Beverley, of Great Bowden, told the Harborough Mail: “Michael was just 31 years old – he was no age.
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“He had threatened to end it all a couple of times but we thought he was OK.
“It was devastating when he died and it’s something we will never fully come to terms with.”
She added: “Our lives will never be the same again.
“But if we can stop just one more young man going down the same route as Michael then it will all be worth it.”
Beverley has courageously decided to share Michael’s tragic story because she’s determined to help other trouble-torn young men.
She’s launching the shattered family’s very own mercy mission as suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK.
“We know a couple of Michael’s friends or former schoolmates who have taken their own lives already.
“And this is just in Market Harborough – never mind beyond.
“Suicide is a huge issue among teenage boys and young men,” stressed Beverley, who works for Harborough-based Home Instead Senior Care.
“We want to tell other young men out there who are suffering – please ask for help before it’s too late.”
The mum-of-three said Michael, who was a joiner, was “loving, funny, kind and generous to everyone he cared about and knew”.
“He would do anything for anyone.
“He loved his friends and family and, of course, football and his beloved Leicester City,” said Beverley.
“But one terrible night about 10 years ago his life changed for ever.
“He visited an older ‘friend’ for a chat and a beer.
“His ‘friend’ drugged him and then sexually assaulted him.
“It’s even more despicable and unforgivable because this man was supposed to be a mate of Michael’s.”
She said Michael, who played football for The Royalist pub on the southern estate, bottled up the horrific sex attack.
He didn’t share his hell with anyone for several years.
“Michael kept this nightmare to himself for many years and suffered alone.
“He found it hard to cope with the dark thoughts in his head and turned to drinking more than he should.
“When the drink didn’t block out the raw pain he turned to taking drugs,” said Beverley.
“About 18 months ago Michael reached out in desperation.
“He finally told us what had happened to him.
“We fought with different authorities for help but it was very hard.
“We came up against so many different barriers to get him the help he so badly needed.
“Michael found day to day life very hard.
“He tried to hide away his spiralling thoughts and depression but that just made things worse.
“He was suffering post traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – and he was trapped in a vicious circle.
“On July 15, 2019 our lives changed for ever.
“Michael took the decision to end his suffering and his life – and we have been totally devastated.”
She has now launched a very personal crusade to back two vital local charities – First Step and Bower House.
Leicester-based First Step, who helped Michael, supports male survivors of sexual abuse and rape.
Based in Coventry Road, Harborough, Bower House is a Christian service which helps troubled people with free counselling sessions.
“I’ve lived in Harborough all my life and I didn’t even realise Bower House was there.
“Both First Step and Bower House are fantastic local organisations,” said Beverley.
“We aim to do all we can to raise their profiles and make more people aware that they are there.
“They do a brilliant job – and they could save your life.”
She’s ignited her campaign to get behind them by raising over £5,000 at a special event at The Royalist on Saturday February 1.
“We held a charity quiz night with a raffle.
“Over 180 people bought a ticket for the evening and dozens more bought raffle tickets.
“We were donated 64 raffle prizes from local businesses and families,” said Beverley.
“The response has been incredible.
“We can’t thank people and businesses enough for all their support and best wishes.
“The Market Harborough community has been excellent.”
She handed over the cash to First Step and Bower House at The Royalist on Wednesday February 12.
“This is just the start not the end.
“We’re already planning to stage events in June to mark Michael’s birthday,” said Beverley.
“Michael used to have a saying when he was having a pint with the football lads – ‘one more no more’.
“That’s exactly how we are tackling this – no more tragedies.
“Enough is enough.
“Do not suffer in silence as Michael did.
“Please reach out, talk to your loved ones and get support from brilliant local agencies such as Bower House and First Step.”