On Sunday, February 20th, Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown was interviewed by Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” where he discussed his abusive childhood, revealing the sexual abuse he faced as a child several times by a camp counselor.
Brown’s recalls threats by his perpetrator saying, ‘If you tell anybody…I’ll kill you. I will make sure that nobody believes you.'”
These kinds of threats by pedophiles are common, silencing innocent victims, sometimes for life. As Dr. Richard Gartner, a leading authority on male child sexual abuse, says, “Being silent about sexual abuse can be even more devastating than the physical acts themselves.”
But today, no threat will stop Senator Brown, and thousands of other men from speaking the truth, speaking out, and breaking silence. In the wake of Oprah’s interview with Tyler Perry about his childhood sexual abuse, Oprah’s recent shows in November that focused on male child sexual abuse, (where she invited 200 male survivors as part of the audience), and CBS anchor Don Lemon speaking out on national television about his abuse, we’re confident these revelations are just the beginning of uncovering this wide spread issue that effects millions of boys and male survivors worldwide.
However, the reality is that thousands of men who may be inspired by these leaders who are exemplary models for helping them break their silence, will most often need places to go for counseling. Yet, in many communities across the nation, services focusing on the specific needs of men are lacking. Moreover, most sexual assault and child abuse prevention programs developed since the 1970s are designed to respond to the needs of women and children.
One in six men have childhood experiences of sexual abuse. Effective treatment is critical to prevent and reduce detrimental outcomes including mental health issues, substance abuse, suicide, and for some, the potential for the cycle of violence. Staggering statistics link untreated wounds of child sexual abuse with later substance abuse which can escalate to violence and crime for many men. If we consider the high percentage of men in prison, homeless, or who commit suicide, also have histories of child sexual abuse and neglect, we’ll find prevention programs are putting band aids over wounds if the core issue of untreated boyhood rape, molestation and sexual abuse aren’t being addressed.
As producers of the new documentary, Boys and Men Healing about male survivors healing and speaking out for the well-being of individuals and communities, we are utilizing the film as an outreach tool. Broadcast and film screenings nationwide, in collaboration with state coalitions against sexual assault and other organizations, are designed to educate and motivate dialogue. We are partnering with 1in6, a leading organization and online resource addressing the needs of men sexually abused as boys, in utilizing Boys and Men Healing to train leaders and service providers.
Making resources available, raising awareness, and ongoing education about the issue are essential. 1in6 recently produced a PSA, narrated by Harrison Ford, which directs viewers to their website filled with comprehensive resources and support including a 24 Hour Online Support Line (www.1in6.org/SupportLine). MaleSurvivor (www.malesurvivor.org), also an exemplary organization and online resource, is launching Dare to Dream, Lifting the Veil of Secrecy for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse events in communities around the country to introduce such valuable online resources as their Weekends of Recovery workshops for men to begin and advance their healing. Howard Frankin, one of the founding members of MaleSurvivor, was the leading spokesperson on Oprah’s recent programs. As Co-Chairperson of the MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery, Howard has directe Weekends of Recovery since 2001 for over 600 men. He will be part of a panel at the Dare to Dream events to educate the community about the issue and possibilities for healing and hope.
As Mark Crawford, one of the men profiled in our film says, “Nothing was more powerful then when I spoke out and told my story.” However, he also says, we need to have hope, and “when men have hope they can heal, without a doubt.” When one man speaks out, he can give another man hope. When we create safe spaces for men to speak out and heal, we can create ripple effects that lead toward healthier men and communities.
The powerful testimonies of men like Senator Brown, Tyler Perry, and Don Lemon, and the hundreds of courageous men I have met in communities across the country who are speaking out and healing, including Clinical Psychologist, Dr. David Lisak, who is also featured in Boys and Men Healing, and recently interviewed by Don Lemon on CNN, have paved the way for a long road ahead to address this serious societal problem in comprehensive ways. However, we have a long way to go, and every community needs to get in with shovel and dig in deep to make lasting change.
If we all support men healing and speaking out, educate ourselves to the impact of boyhood child sexual abuse, change laws that continue to oppress survivors and allow pedophiles to freely roam in our communities, and work together to create services addressing the needs of these men and boys, we are one step closer to protecting other boys. All boys need to be safe and protected, and all men have a right to be abundant and happy in their lives.