Abused as a child – “Until I was 40, nobody believed me”

Fashion photographer and author Michael Reh (59) was a juror for “Germany’s Next Top Model”, lives in Miami and has accompanied the stars of the scene for years. His life theme is not glamorous: he made the abuse public as a little boy and promoted more openness.

For Reh, the disclosure of his torment was a relief – for many people the subject of abuse in childhood is still a taboo with shame.

“I come from such a swamp. Six men were abused in our family, including by priests, ”said the Dortmund-born fashion photographer on a flying visit to Hamburg.



The 59-year-old has lived in Miami in the south of the United States for decades. His retreat is an old apple farm with 40,000 trees in the Altes Land behind StadePhoto: Georg Wendt / dpa

After his first book “Katharsis”, in which he worked up his terrible experiences as a family drama in the form of a novel, Reh wrote the crime thriller “Asta” during the Corona period.

His aunt became abusive

“After I made my story public, I received three and a half thousand emails,” says Reh. 90 percent were sent by women. He was overwhelmed by the response to his coming out. Not as a gay man, he’s been by that for a long time. He says that he completely suppressed his aunt’s years of childhood abuse because of her violent threats.

When he remembered much later, they had already expired. “For me it took over 25 years, but I survived it and can deal with the consequences.” If you have experienced love under threat of violence, it is difficult to build trust in relationships. At that time he stopped eating and could no longer be touched.

His overwhelmed parents sent him to a children’s home to look after. It was a time of silence: “Until I was 40, nobody believed me.” Then, however, he brought together the members of his family who wanted to face this and talked about the past. It shouldn’t be an accusation, but such incidents simply affect everyone in a family, said the 59-year-old.

The number of unreported cases is higher for men than for women

“This is a taboo subject for women, and even more so for men,” confirms Karin Steinherr, chairwoman of the Association against Abuse at Ingolstadt in Bavaria. “The man is the stronger sex, it takes a long time for them to say something.” According to her, the number of unreported cases is higher for male victims than for women: “Men have a high inhibition threshold.”

As an example, she cites the attacks on the Regensburger Domspatzen: “Few dared to say something.” Even later, when help is sought, it is not easy consist only of women, ”explains Steinherr. The mother of four has become a victim of abuse herself and is now passing on her experience, also to schools. “I keep dealing with students who have had something happened to them, who have been harassed.”

Your most important tip: “Talk openly about the topic, talking is the best therapy”.

“It’s my life theme”

Reh has finished the therapies and is committed to removing the taboo from the subject. His motto: “Open your mouth and through the pain.” Abuse happens to many men, little is said about it. “It’s my life theme, but I can still think positively,” says Reh, who after his community service just wanted to leave home and study literature in Hamburg. One takes that from the traveler, as he likes to call himself, immediately.

The photographer spends the winter in mild Miami, often moves to New York to work, and every year he is at home in Stade.

In the previous year he was stuck in lockdown with his old childhood friend for months and even had to take care of a residence permit because of his American citizenship. Then he bought a bicycle and wrote the first volume of the crime series, which is based in the Altes Land. It is again about family structures.

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