A BRAVE young man has spoken out about how he has overcome horrific child sexual abuse thanks to the help of a vital charity.

Between the age of eight and 11, Rhys Dickinson was abused by a man known to the family in his home town of Hadleigh.

The predator was later convicted of sexually abusing three boys and jailed for 14 years in 2008.

Now 22-years-old, Rhys has waived his right to life-long anonymity and shared his experience of being abused in the hope of helping others and to give back to the charity which supported him.

Embrace Child Victims of Crime (CVOC) supports young victims of serious crime by providing counselling and practical support for their families and Rhys credits them with helping him overcome his ordeal.

They are launching their Christmas appeal for people to buy an extra gift for child victims of crime this week.

Rhys, who is now studying a masters in Law, said: “What happened to me turned what should have been a happy childhood into a nightmare.

“It brought challenges for me and my family and Embrace were there to pick us all up and give us the support and hope we needed.

“Their help influenced my recovery and I don’t think I would be where I am now without it.”

He said that the decision to speak publicly was not easy but that it has ultimately helped him.

He added: “I felt it helped me in the healing process because before, I found it very difficult to talk about but since then, I’ve had counselling and talking about it has helped me greatly.

“And if I can share my experience and help even just one person going through something similar know they are not alone then it has been worth it.”

Through Embrace, Rhys was given support including an opportunity for his family to take a trip to Disneyland in Florida with other child victims of crime as peer support therapy.

“At the time, the court case was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and we were still learning to deal with it when we were referred to Embrace.

“The trip to America was great because it made me realise I wasn’t alone. I knew there were other people who had been through similar things and it was a fantastic experience that my family may not have been able to afford otherwise.

“To anyone who has suffered sexual abuse in childhood, like I did, I want to say don’t let it define you or stop you from fulfilling your ambitions.

“There is help and support available to get you through it.

“I feel like it has made me a stronger person - I haven’t dwelled on it and have had a lot of support from friends, family and Embrace.

“It’s about making happy memories to replace the bad memories from childhood and that’s what I’ve done by doing things I’m passionate about.

“I’ve got a law degree and I’m studying for a masters so I can help people.”

The University of Lincoln Athletics and Cross-Country Team, of which Rhys is a member, will be carrying out a number of fundraising events to support Embrace.

Embrace chief executive Anne Campbell said: “Rhys’ story is sadly familiar to us, where children suffer terrible crimes at the hands of adults and must then find a way to pick up the pieces.

“Embrace exists to provide them with the safety net they need, when they most need it, and then to empower them to go on and fulfil their potential.

“Rhys’s strength and courage are an absolute credit to him.”

The charity helped 33 children in Essex last year.

l To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising.athletics-and-cross-country2

l To donate visit www.embracecvoc.org.uk/dear-santa

Last year, 33 children in Essex - affected by crimes including homicide, sexual abuse and domestic violence - received some form of help, ranging from counselling and practical support, to the chance for a much-needed family break.