A Humbling Journey – Supporting Men Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
Each January I have the good fortune and great honor to celebrate the anniversary of two organizations that I had a hand in founding (coincidentally, both on the exact same day, January 8, nineteen years apart).
In 1988, I co-founded and became the first Executive Director of My Friend’s Place, in Hollywood, California, an organization devoted to serving some of the most vulnerable of our society, homeless youth on the streets in Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, I joined with all 27 of My Friend’s Place staff at their center on Hollywood Boulevard to celebrate the 28th anniversary at what has become the annual founders breakfast. In a tradition that I have enjoyed every January 8th since leaving that organization, sixteen years ago, I was reminded of the importance of their work that carries on to this day. It was a great day indeed.
My passion for the last nine years has been my involvement with 1in6.
In 2007, drawing on the lessons I’d learned, the wisdom of so many who had shared their life stories with me, and the support of generous donors with whom I’d worked over the years, I was inspired to start 1in6, a national organization that supports men who had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood to live healthier, happier lives.
In those very early days, one of the greatest challenges was simply persuading people that men and boys as well as women and girls often had childhood experiences of sexual abuse. Dreaming then about what services we might be able to offer men and their loved ones, it would have seemed inconceivable that one day we’d be sitting across the desk discussing services for male survivors with executives of the NFL, as we did this past year.
It has been a remarkable and humbling journey: remarkable, to play a part in the rapidly expanded understanding in families, in faith communities, within the military, and on college campuses, of the importance of responding to the needs of men and boys who’ve experienced abuse and assault. And it’s been humbling realizing that the distance we’ve traveled has been in many ways in the shadow and on the shoulders of others who have gone before us. For that we are grateful.
I remember the very first conversations with David Lisak and Jim Hopper about our plans for our start-up website and Online SupportLine. We were so hopeful and so aware of the potential. Thanks to the exceptional contribution of Jim Hopper and others, our website is now the most visited online source of information, in English and Spanish, on the issue today.
Our Online SupportLine, which initially operated only a total of three hours a night, two nights a week, has for several years now been available 24/7, and exceeds budget every month. That’s one expense I’m always happy to approve.
And this past October, we launched what we believe is a first-ever, therapist-moderated Online Peer SupportGroup for men, to great success.
Our 2015 annual report has more about our recent progress and challenges.
But the most wonderful reminder of our accomplishments over the last nine years came this past weekend at a video shoot in New York City. We were filming a group of men, all survivors and friends of 1in6, but until then strangers to one another. Each had previously participated in 1in6’s Bristlecone Community project, a compilation of portraits and narratives of men, who had experienced sexual abuse and shared their stories about finding a path to healing.
left to right, Bristlecone Community members, Brigham Sapp, Andy Lausten, Mark Godoy, and Keith Rennar discuss their experiences healing from sexual abuse at a restaurant in New York City.
In a restaurant in Harlem, we recorded their insights for a series to be included on the Facts & Myths section on the 1in6 website. We were about 2½ hours into the shoot when we took a break. The guys began discussing 1in6 and our recently-funded Kickstarter campaign for Bristlecone. Their comments among themselves literally brought me to tears.
They recounted how each of them, in his own way, spent the last hours of the Kickstarter campaign anxiously watching the tally, hoping that the campaign – ‘their’ campaign – would achieve the target amount and be funded. Hearing their descriptions of their excitement when it reached the goal, each a little different, and uniquely personal, was just wonderful.
It reminded me that our anniversary is their anniversary as well.
In fact, our anniversary is your anniversary too.
So, may I say to each of you, Happy Anniversary!