Educating Our Inner Circle : 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a training for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence Biennial Summit on “Awareness and Engagement” practices. I was very excited to come back to my home state and share the work we’ve been engaging in to help the 1 in 6 male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It was the time I spent teaching violence-prevention education in a correctional facility in Florida that encouraged my focus on men. My personal excitement for coming home to Florida was in seeing my parents. I had not seen them since I moved to California over two years ago. Although our separation was due to work and life changes, it was and continues to be a most difficult adjustment. I thank video calls (and my parent’s willingness to use technology) for the gift of seeing their faces from 3000 miles away. Mother’s day, their recent 48th year anniversary and their presence at our training made the trip extra special (and emotional).
I didn’t realize how much my family didn’t know about me, our work or the movement to be inclusive of men. It is true for many of us in the service-provider fields, that our families are clueless about our work. We can blame ourselves for not explaining it enough times in detail, or the fact that they cut us off when they don’t want to “hear” more about the realities of sexual abuse and the subsequent need for research, awareness, prevention, policy and response. I THOUGHT they knew, but I realized even my friends can’t really explain our work. Sometimes I feel like Chandler Bing from FRIENDS or Barney Stinson from HIMYM, “what do you actually do?” was an ongoing mystery in both sitcoms and the prevailing punchline.
Do we really apply our awareness to our inner circle of friends and family?
I recall a keynote address by Dr. Dorothy J. Edwards author of the Green Dot Violence Prevention Strategy. She stated the same dismay about her own inner circle and their lack of awareness (and intervention). Dr. Edwards said that awareness and prevention should start with our own group of friends, family and neighbors. Ok, so you may not be able to get your 76-year-old parents to attend your workshop, but her point still makes sense. The more involved we are with the people closest to us, the more effective we can be in preventing sexual abuse and violence as a whole.
After the training (and the exuding pride of my Colombian parents) I overheard my mother and father discussing what they thought needed to happen to encourage the public to acknowledge men as survivors of sexual abuse. Mom thought we needed to change the public “mentality” (to dispel myths and misconceptions that perpetuated barriers to disclosure and healing). My father said (in Spanish), “No se puede cambiar la mente de la gente” or “You can’t change a person’s mind, but it’s true, men need help too”. I realized what was happening: my parents were talking about strategic ways to address sexual violence. Holy smokes! We are starting a journey towards awareness! It was my turn to beam with pride. Two elder, Roman Catholic, working-class immigrants, from the mountains of Colombia were openly engaging in a rich conversation about abuse, and offering views on how to prevent, intervene and heal.
To all the service providers and volunteers in the movement to end childhood sexual abuse and improve resources for the 19 million (and more) men dealing with it’s effects: keep teaching, keep talking, those closest to you are listening.
-By Martha Lucia Marin, Managing Director for 1in6, Inc.
Martha is a Colombian native raised in L.A. and South Florida where she received a B.A. in Business Management from the University of North FL. She brings a unique set of skills acquired from many years of for-profit management and a deep dedication to human rights. As a Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center of Jacksonville and FL Dept. of Health, she taught thousands of students on topics related to the prevention of sexual assault including cyber bullying, LGBTQ/sexual harassment and teen dating violence, as well as human trafficking. Martha is a public speaker, consultant and professional trainer.
Most recently she served as the Chair of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition. Her international projects include a large-scale bi-lingual internship for the USAID Scholarships for Education and Economic Development at FL State College at Jacksonville.