The Best Solutions Include Connection: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
Anyone with a stake in the success of a cause-related non-profit (and BTW, that’s all of us) should always keep in mind the inevitability of the dilemma about how best to divide scarce resources.
Weighing the relative value of choices like raising awareness about an issue; or offering meaningful training to service providers; or providing effective, community-based resources to those directly affected by the issue at hand, is an ongoing balancing act for all who are committed to social change.
What’s sometimes lost when passionate advocates for the different options compete for limited funding is the reality that each is a critical component of effective engagement and intervention.
My 27 years serving marginalized populations as a non-profit executive director has taught me the importance of balancing those competing interests. Working first with homeless youth; then at-risk youth; and most recently as the founder and executive director of 1in6, which supports healing for the 1 in every 6 men who experienced childhood sexual abuse, and their loved ones – I’ve learned a couple of important lessons:
- If no one is aware of your valuable resources or how to support or access them, your best intentions will be wasted.
- Strong partnerships are key to success. Whatever the problem, the best solutions include connection; respectful relationships; thoughtful dialogue: individual to individual; among organizations and across communities.
Engaging men and boys who have experienced sexual assault and abuse presents a particularly difficult challenge – the need to overcome restrictive, masculine social norms. These ingrained expectations often impose a paralyzing stigma for men and boys who have been sexually harmed. Men’s experiences as victims of violence are rarely included in campaigns to end violence.
What I’ve repeatedly found as we work to spread a trauma-informed understanding of men’s complicated relationship with violence, is that we’re all deeply influenced by long-held assumptions. Those same destructive social norms that make men feel shamed after an experience of victimization, also challenge those inclined to see men’s role limited to either protector or perpetrator of violence. Slowly, awareness about the value of a more expanded view of men is finding acceptance.
Over the last 8 years, 1in6 has been able to exponentially increase our impact by engaging in important alliances to address each of what we consider the most crucial options for action: direct service; training and education; and awareness.
In collaboration with RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network), we operate a free, 24/7 Online SupportLine for male survivors and those who care about them and soon our new Online SupportGroup.
Through our relationships with national, state and territorial Coalitions Against Sexual Assault (CASAs), community-based organizations and organizations such as Big Voice Pictures we’ve provided numerous professional trainings and resources for engaging and working effectively with male survivors.
And our important partnerships to raise awareness with organizations like the Joyful Heart Foundation and the NO MORE campaign and others have enabled 1in6 to vastly expand our ability to engage men who’ve experienced abuse and to connect them with information and resources to begin the healing process
NO MORE, a national collaboration of organizations (including 1in6) that is committed to ending sexual abuse and assault and domestic violence, previously sponsored a powerful PSA raising awareness about the issues, which the NFL ran during the Super Bowl, reaching millions of viewers.
Beginning on March 8, NO MORE, will promote a week-long awareness campaign to once again draw attention to the prevalence of sexual abuse, assault and domestic violence, and the multiple resources available to begin healing.
1in6 became a steering-committee member of the NO MORE campaign in 2013, because we saw enormous potential in joining forces to bring the hidden experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence – including men and boys who have experienced abuse and assault – into the public eye.
Normalizing conversations about those realities will help individuals, families and communities begin to heal and to learn how to create safer environments. That’s the value of awareness campaigns.
With support from the Joyful Heart Foundation, we’ve been able to distribute tens of thousands of pieces of awareness and engagement material for free, enabling local organizations to educate communities about the possibility of men healing from childhood sexual abuse. The inclusion of men as victims of violence in the NO MORE posters and campaign material has given that reality unprecedented, life-changing exposure to millions of people.
Our affiliation with all of our partner organizations in raising awareness has increased traffic to our Online SupportLine and website. It has allowed us to more quickly and more widely provide access to services than we’d ever have been able to achieve as a lone voice.
Like I said, whether the goal is raising awareness, training professionals or providing direct service, “the best solutions include connection.”