To those who don’t know, Jon Needham comes across as a tall, striking officer of the law. However, those who are aware of his backstory, know that Jon has been through hell and back in his childhood days, but has now taken the oath to stand beside those who have survived similar suffering.
Jon Needham’s life started harshly- to only become worse
Born in a poor Northern England council state, Jon Needham knew hardship right from a tender age. After his father’s imprisonment, followed by his mother falling mentally ill, Jon and his four other siblings were put in foster care, which became the most traumatic phase of his life.
As a seven year old boy, Jon was put in a room with someone much older than him who raped Jon nearly every week for one year. The adult, who had a military background, used to come to his room, wielding a knife. In a recent interview with LADbible, Jon detailed this horrifying phase of his childhood.
“I would fixate on a light in the distance, like an orange light, or something coming through the curtain, because it wasn’t always at night, it was in the daytime as well,” said Jon, “People say I’m a good poker player because I can get to this place in my mind where I show no emotion, show no feeling.”
The abuses hardened Jon emotionally and now as a copper, he can stay stout in the face of hardships.
“I’ve even used it at the scene of a couple of terrorist attacks in recent years, or sudden death or something like that, and I actually use it on purpose. I think I just go to that place where it sort of protects me, mentally and emotionally.”
The abuse had stopped, but Jon was far from being whole again
The hell Jon was going through every day at the foster care lasted for a year until his father was released from prison and he went to live with him, but the nightmare was far from over. As he narrated, Jon ended up being diagnised with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and would continue to see nightmares about his abuser for around two more decades.
I had nightmares about a guy with a gas mask and knives coming up to my throat for 20 odd years,” the 46-year-old added.
After joining the police force, Jon felt it was time to open up about his past
Now in his twenties with a haunting memory from his childhood, Jon shuttled from one job to another, he finally made it to the police force in 2009 after many repeated attempts. Even until then, Jon didn’t reveal his past as a rape survivor but now as a part of the police force, he felt responsible to let everyone know about his abuser.
“When I got to court, the judge said to me, ‘Why didn’t you speak sooner?’, because it took me 26 years or something to talk about it,” Jon went on, “I said to the judge, ‘If someone put a blowtorch to my face, the shame and the stigma was that powerful and that strong that I would never, ever mention it.”
“That’s why it takes so long for many people who have been through similar experiences to me to talk about these extremely difficult circumstances.”
Unfortunately, even after a lengthy court session, the result was hung and Jon’s perpetrator had walked free, sending him into panic disorder and depression, However, getting proper counselling helped Jon to get back on the path again.
“It turns out to be the most amazing release. She was just brilliant, and she just absorbed it,” Jon detailed his experience with the counselor, “She didn’t judge anything I said, and I felt believed, and I felt like I had my say, almost. It’s a bit like if you have an operation – initially it’s painful, for a few sessions, and then once you get a few weeks down the line, I started really feeling a lot better.”
Jon now wants to help those who have been through similar fate
While getting his life back on track for the second time, Jon met his German wife in 2014, whom he reveals has been “incredibly supportive of the work” he does and also appreciates Jon for being open about his traumatic past.
Jon now working in a lifetime offender management unit where he is concerned with big, organized crimes. Along with it, Jon has also taken the stance to help those who have been through the same hell as he did and wants to set up a “victim survivor ambassador” in every force in the UK, as he is making his colleagues aware of abuse survivors.
“They would give victims and survivors a true voice within the service, rather than any sort of token box-ticking exercise. What they would do is get involved in training – maybe specialist units or new officers – where they would sort of help them to improve their empathy and understanding and put themselves in the shoes of the victim,” added Jon.