Colleges Are Addressing Childhood Sexual Abuse: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
As more and more young men disclose having had unwanted sexual experiences before the age of 18, campus victim-response programs are seeking new and innovative ways to help men know they are not alone (and not an afterthought). Still, it’s no wonder that some schools do not see the need to provide resources for men.
Disclosure rates of abuse are much lower for men in relation to women’s. Yet, by simply doing the math, with 1 in every 6 men (and probably higher) having had an unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood, we know that there are many men (students, faculty and staff) on campus, dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse.
This week’s 1 in 6 Men On Campus (M.O.C.) National Task Force meeting provided a space for survivor advocates and other campus representatives from across the nation (and Canada!), to report their male-inclusive efforts for the year 2014. The M.O.C thought-partnership also provides program-development support, where directors already providing services for men on campus can help guide those drafting their strategic plans. Some common questions concern support groups, awareness events, and even the simplest of inquiries, (but maybe the most important), where to start?
We believe strongly in preparation. It helps to think of it in terms of supply and demand. If you begin by raising awareness, you create demand for services. Does your school or program have the infrastructure to supply culturally-competent services for males?
You may want to start by assessing your capacity to respond. Are your advocates well trained on the issue? Does your center feel welcoming to men? There are many ways you can send an inclusive message.
A great example would be an event at California State University Northridge (CSUN) for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. CSUN hosted a march titled “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes”. One single word may have made all the difference in the world to many male survivors.
A common dilemma – how to encourage men to come to events? Penn State and University of Massachusetts-Lowell created an incentive and a cover. Attending an awareness event with a focus on childhood sexual abuse can feel like a public disclosure, so many men avoid the event. But if you offer class credit like at UMass-Lowell, or as in the case of Penn State’s Greek Life director, you mandate attendance, the men have an externally-supplied reason for being there. This is especially important for men who are socialized to be strong, not weak; protectors, not victims. Here these schools provided a reason to learn about resources without having to admit to having been abused to others, and maybe even to themselves (remember, at their own pace…).
Pennsylvania State University, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (S.A.A.M) 2014, Film Screening of Boys and Men Healing by Big Voice Pictures
Another great way to raise awareness is through music. University of New Hampshire-SHARPP is sponsoring open mic night called, “1 Blue Night” at The Grind, where performers can play with 1BlueString to represent the 1 out 6 male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. One simple guitar string can lead students to UNH’s new resources for men. UNH even boasts an advocacy and education position specifically funded to address the issues facing men that have experienced sexual abuse. A historical step in the right direction!
Support groups and other direct services seem to be more challenging for campus cultures. The University of Michigan has had growing success in their services for men under the leadership of Holly Rider-Milcovich. Ms. Rider-Milcovich suggests keeping these groups closed and asking for feedback as to whether or not the group should be held on or off campus. They also ensure that a clinician facilitates the support-group meetings.
Whether just beginning inclusive practices or sharing developed assessment tools, institutions are taking steps to help ALL students. So as the year winds down to a close, we would like to take this moment to celebrate their hard work in reminding their colleagues and students that we are all worthy of compassion and validation. We are all worthy of healing.
Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
By Martha Marin
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 us 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 USAIDScholarships for Education and Economic Development at FL State College at Jacksonville.