From 1in6: What does ‘supportive’ look like?

When 1in6’s founding Board member, Dr. David Lisak, and I were talking with a group of students and staff at Brown University recently, someone asked for ideas about how to best  support a friend or family member who is coming to terms with unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood.

We had just watched a powerful film, Boys and Men Healing,” a portrayal of the lives of three courageous men (David being one of them) who were sexually abused as children and then, as adults, found healing for themselves and have since helped many others. The film also shows scenes from a support group of men who experienced abuse, beautifully highlighting the value of men finding a safe place to share their stories.

Each man in the film described, in his own way, how after years of silence, it was speaking up about the traumatic experience that really started his own process of healing. They all emphasized how crucial the supportive response they received from others was when they did speak up.

But each also noted the challenge of overcoming socialized messages about manhood that made it difficult to reach out—messages that allow men to express anger, but discourage the expression of the deeper, underlying emotions like sadness, vulnerability and fear, and messages that make asking for help seem like a weakness, instead of a strength.  In my experience, men in particular need space and time to explore the full range of those options at their own pace.

So my short answer to the question about how to best offer support always is, “Ask what they need to feel safe. Believe. Be present. Don’t offer advice about what they should do or feel.”

Hearing that someone you care about was sexually abused or mistreated as a child can stir up intense feelings, especially if you have your own history of trauma. Those emotions may include rage, sadness, a sense of betrayal, vulnerability or a wish to punish the person who hurt your loved one.

It’s very important to remember that those feelings are yours, not theirs.

It can be useful to get some outside help to continue to keep that difference straight. To learn more see the Family, Friends and Partners section of 1in6.org.

A friend once shared a story with me about how he’d learned a profound lesson:

More than forty years after he was sexually abused by a much-hated coach, he said he still felt nothing but disdain toward the man who abused him. He recalled being baffled by a friend’s more compassionate approach to holding the man who had sexually abused her accountable for the harm he caused. When my friend confronted her with his confusion, she told him, “of course you don’t understand my way of handling this. You never loved the person who abused you.”

Every individual has a different way of recovering from a confusing childhood experience. How they describe what happened may even seem inadequate—or plain wrong—to you. But remember, it’s a process. What someone feels today may be very different from their feelings tomorrow or next week. What they need to feel safe in the present may not be what you think they need, or what you would need. Over time, they may eventually feel—or at least try out—all those emotions that were stirred around by you….or they may not. A big part of healing is reclaiming control over those emotions, being confident in resisting outside pressure to think, feel or behave in a way that is externally imposed.

Providing safety for someone you care about so they can explore all their options is what being supportive is about. But it’s no easy task.

My father was one of the most gentle, respectful men I have ever known.

In 1987, I finally told my parents that when I was a teenager, 20 years earlier, our parish priest had sexually abused me. My father immediately asked if I wanted him to go beat up the priest. Suddenly, whatever anger I was feeling toward the priest was replaced by the impulse to defend him from someone who genuinely loved me and was trying desperately to be supportive. I can’t help but wonder if some latent sense of male duty to respond to injury with violence drove my father to make an offer so outside his character.

But the silent, supportive hug I got from him later in the day was much more helpful. That actually made me feel safe.

Peter Pollard is the Training and Outreach Director for 1in6, Inc. Peter previously worked for 15 years as a state, child-protection social worker and was the Public Education director at Stop It Now! Since 2003, he has served as the Western Massachusetts coordinator for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and also does work for a Certified Batterers Intervention Program.

From 1in6: Gratitude

The 1in6 board meets four times annually, twice telephonically and twice in person in Los Angeles. The last meeting of the year is historically a two-day meeting in December where among other decisions the annual budget for the upcoming year is approved. The budget covers all of our program areas and our administrative and overhead costs. Each year we strive to stay within accepted guidelines where our administrative and overhead costs don’t exceed industry standards for good stewardship of the support that we’ve been entrusted with.

One way we accomplish our goal of good stewardship is through the generous support of pro-bono and low-bono providers. A key example of the positive impact of pro-bono services is our long-standing partnership with our attorneys at Paul Hastings (San Diego office).

Since our founding in 2007 our attorneys have negotiated everything from the protection of our intellectual property to contractual negotiations with outside providers and so much more. In fact, last year alone, the value of pro-bono services from our attorneys exceed $60,000. Quite a gift!

This past week, I met with our attorneys for two and a half hours as we are again depending on their expertise and guidance as we embark on another exciting project. I was reminded as I sat across the table from Todd Schneider and Laura McGurty that their deep care and commitment to 1in6 and the men we serve makes our work possible. In fact, makes the rich quality of our work possible.

I’ll have more to share about this new and exciting project over the next many months but wanted to extend an offer to everyone reading this blog post that the opportunity to support the work of 1in6 extends far beyond the writing of a check. While we rely on the generous support of our financial backers we could not do our work without the generous support of all of our pro-bono donors.

That said, if you have a skill or talent that you think might be of benefit to 1in6, I’d love to hear from you. Not every skill set and talent or gift matches our needs but those that do are welcomed…those that do make our work possible.

In gratitude to our host of pro-bono donors.

Warm regards,

- Steve LePore

The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.

1in6s mission also includes serving family members, friends and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.

Living Well, Joyful Heart and 1in6 invite you to visit livingwell.org.au in Australia and our partner 1in6.org in the US for info, options and hope, and to learn more about our partnership and Engaging Men initiative here.

So Much Light for 1BlueString

So Much Light, whose track “Artificial Sweetener” was featured on The Big Comp II, is the brainchild of Damien Verrett, a multi-talented singer-songwriter from Sacramento, CA. So Much Light fuses indie, R&B, and folk influences into emotionally driven and skillfully produced pop songs. In addition to his solo endeavor, Verrett fronts the rock band, The Speed of Sound in Seawater, which highlights his virtuosic guitar playing. Damien kindly took the time to share with us his thoughts on music, the role of the artist in affecting social change, and more.

SoMuchLight_1BlueString

What has inspired you to get involved with charitable causes, and what role do you see bands having in spreading awareness for issues of social justice?

I think artists have a responsibility to be impeccable with their influence. Having a voice that people are tuned into, whether you’re an artist, athlete, politician, whatever, comes with the responsibility of utilizing that voice in a positive manner. The idea of being able to use whatever small voice I have to inspire change is exciting to me and is part of the reason I enjoy spreading my art.

Music has a power to captivate on a level that goes deeper than most methods of communication. It’s like a Trojan Horse that you can use to disguise an otherwise taboo subject. Sometimes the topics we want to discuss as artists are hard pills to swallow, wrapping them up in catchy choruses and heartfelt lyricism is an effective way of disseminating them.

Can you share an experience of music — perhaps a song, album, show, or otherwise — that helped you through a trying time, or moved you beyond just entertainment?

I had the pleasure of watching toe play their first show in London in 2012. I’d always had a strong emotional attachment to their music, but seeing them perform live was an otherworldly experience.

Their performance of “Goodbye” was particularly moving. I was in a foreign country, surrounded by strangers, watching a Japanese band perform in Europe for the first time, but I had never felt so close to a crowd or a band in my life. It was a beautiful demonstration of the way music speaks to human consciousness on a deep and mysterious level.

What opportunities are you most excited about in the coming months, musically and personally?

I’m excited to be writing new material again. Writing songs is a hugely cathartic experience. Right now it’s helping me to deal with ideas and obstacles which have been toppling around in my head and craving a means of getting out. I’m eager to battle some of my personal demons, answer some lingering questions, and ask new ones.

Any words of inspiration for fans or friends who are just learning about 1BlueString and the ‘1 in 6’ statistic?

I think it’s important to be vocal about the adversities going on in our world. Abuse has many faces and I think it’s wonderful that an organization like 1BlueString exists to draw attention to the topic of sexual abuse against males, a subject which is underrepresented in the public eye.

- See more and listen to the music at: https://1bluestring.org/2014/08/21/so-much-light/

When sorting through the impact of child sexual abuse and looking to get on in life, I’ve learnt that it can be good to have a number of options.  Sometimes challenges can benefit from a light, flexible approach and sometimes you might want to make use of seriously heavy duty engineering. 
B.

When sorting through the impact of child sexual abuse and looking to get on in life, I’ve learnt that it can be good to have a number of options.  Sometimes challenges can benefit from a light, flexible approach and sometimes you might want to make use of seriously heavy duty engineering.

B.

The keynote presentation from the recent International Men’s Health Week Symposium held by Living Well & Griffith Uni.

Improving Responses to Men Sexually Abused in Childhood: Confronting the Complexity

Watch the rest of the videos at Living Well.