For over 35 years, MOCSA has been providing therapy, support and advocacy for victims of rape and sexual assault, whether children or adult, regardless of their gender. So why does it still feel like this is a “women’s only” issue? Take a look at the public persona of this vibrant, wonderful organization, as it relates to male sexual abuse:
• Rare (but growing) instances of male sexual abuse are reported through the MOCSA hotline at (816) 531-0233 or (913) 642-0233, and fewer still through the robust hospital advocacy program offered by trained MOCSA staff and volunteers;
• There was one male participant in a group of 30 women during a recent volunteer training session;
• One adult group therapy session currently exists for male victims of abuse; and,
• Only a smattering of men participate in the organization’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) events annually.
Now granted, there are more girls than boys who are sexually abused in childhood (estimates are 1 in 4 for girls vs. 1 in 6 for boys), and clearly, not everyone who volunteers or supports MOCSA is themselves a victim of abuse. However, applying this statistic of male sexual abuse, I would expect the face of MOCSA to look something like this:
• 37% of all MOCSA hotline and hospital advocacy requests would be for males;
• In a volunteer training class of 30, I would expect about 11 of the attendees to be men;
• There would be multiple male victim support groups happening on different days of the week, at a variety of times; and,
• Nearly half of SAAM attendees would be men.
So, what keeps men so quiet? Maybe what keeps men away from MOCSA (and other sexual abuse support services) is the increased stigma and shame that we place on boys and young men not to ask for help, not to admit victimization, and not to feel their feelings. Maybe it’s fear that they are the only one who has had this happen, and that no one else can possibly understand what they have experienced or what they continue to face every day of life since the abuse happened. In short, I suspect what silences our boys and men is the fear of being alone!
Over the past several years, many celebrities have stepped out and bravely shared their painful secrets of childhood sexual abuse – from NFL player Laveranues Coles in 2005; to actor, director, producer and writer Tyler Perry in 2010 (incidentally it was his sharing that led to a subsequent and historic Oprah Winfrey 2-part show dedicated to this subject, featuring 200 adult male survivors in the audience); to the recent book and interview on “60 Minutes” by Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown this past February. Interestingly, regarding the recent 2-part Oprah show that aired in November of 2010, there were initial concerns that they wouldn’t be able to find 200 men who would be willing to come on national television and be identified as victims of sexual abuse – they were surprised to receive thousands of applications!
Closer to home, beyond the rich and famous who have courageously come forward to tell their stories, there are unfortunately thousands of men right here in our own community who share membership in this ugly brotherhood – and they may be your husband, your boyfriend, your father, your brother, your boss, your co-worker, your friend, your teacher, your teammate, or YOU! Sadly, chances are excellent that you know at least one man who has suffered sexual abuse and who may right now be suffering alone; desperately needing to know that they are not the only one, while being equipped with the tools and resources to help them heal and get well.
For whatever reason, it seems to me that far fewer men than women seek the help that MOCSA is ready and qualified to provide. If you (or someone you know) were sexually abused as a child, regardless of your gender, check out MOCSA and the individual and group therapy services that are available – at no charge to the client. Beyond MOCSA, other places for men who have been sexually abused to go for help include:
At a future MOCSA Community Luncheon, the big annual party celebrating all the good that an organization such as this one does in the lives of so many people in our community, I’d love to see groups of men sitting at tables with signs that say, “MOCSA is for men, too”!
By Mike Eggleston, MOCSA Volunteer