1 in 6 men have experienced abusive sexual experiences before the age of 18.
(U.S. Centers for Disease Control)
However alarming that statistic may be, male survivors often do not seek help for fear of how society will view their victimization. Male survivors struggle to disclose their experiences in a world that reveres the strong, heterosexual, athletic, uber-masculine man’s man. Unfortunately, all of these things are questioned when a man has been a victim of sexual abuse. While attention has been paid to female sexual assault, male survivors still face unique barriers in finding an agency that feels comfortable and inclusive for men. This is why First Step strives to create an environment that is accepting in all areas beginning with our 24-hour Helpline, our office spaces, and the range of services we offer survivors.
First Step has always had individual counseling services for male survivors of abuse, but this summer First Step Sexual Assault Advocates, Julie F. and Hillary B. were able to create a survivor support group to bring men together in a safe space to share their experiences with one another. Topics covered in the 7-week session were the socialization of men and masculinity, disclosure, self-worth, guilt and shame, anger, grief and loss, sex and intimacy. The group concluded with a session on healing and a party to celebrate the clients’ success and potential to move on from the trauma of sexual abuse.
Based on the client feedback surveys and comments that advocates received throughout the group, the men thoroughly enjoyed the experience and expressed relief in knowing that they were not alone in their feelings and reactions.
First Step plans to offer support groups to male survivors several times during the calendar year. Male survivors are affected greatly by the trauma of sexual violence and it is important that agencies like First Step work to incorporate gender inclusive services so we can reduce the stigma that men feel in reaching out to get help and create more opportunities for them to feel supported and understood. For more information or to join the First Step Men’s Group, please call the First Step 24-hour helpline at 734-722-6800.