You’re going to build the plane as you fly it.
For ten years, 1in6 has worked towards helping men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier and happier lives. But 1in6 was not always the thriving nonprofit that we are today. With few organizations working to support the population we serve, we didn’t just have to build the plane; we needed to draw the blueprint.
At 1in6, we know the first step to helping those in need is listening. For close friends Steve LePore and Heidi Sommer, who were taking a hike in the Bay Area of California ten years ago, three decades of helping others had trained them listen to one another. Working together at My Friend’s Place and the SCV Youth Project, they shared a passion for reaching out to those in need. Steve shared with Heidi his idea for founding an organization aimed at individuals feeling alone and living in silence: men who had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. At that time, founding board member Patti Giggans recalled, “No one was talking about these men. The movement had started for women, but 1in6 put the problem for men on the map…we needed to start telling these stories.”
For hours that day, Heidi and Steve spoke of the stigma, the shame, and the silence that surrounded the issue. Heidi sketched notes, and in that moment, 1in6 became more than an idea. Those very notes would be the foundation for 1in6’s first white paper, strategic plan, and grant proposal. With a blueprint in hand, the flight of 1in6 was one step closer.
In January of 2007, 1in6 Inc. was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit, committed to helping men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live happier and healthier lives. However, getting off the ground was difficult. “Some of the biggest challenges we faced were how to go up against all of the stigma and silence,” Patti Giggans recalled. “All too many people don’t want to acknowledge that this problem even exists. And sustainability; the chances of a nonprofit surviving for ten years were quite low.”
The initial years required a lot of lift as we strove to bring our cause out of the shroud of silence, and get the world talking. Along with Steve and Heidi, founding board members Jim Hopper, Kathy and Greg Lemond, Patti Giggans, Greg Light, and myself collaborated to craft our vision and enable the lift off of 1in6. We also received pro-bono legal support from Paul Hastings, program support through partnerships with Rick Goodwin of The Men’s Project in Canada and Gary Foster of Living Well in Australia, and we were ultimately able to secure funding from The Bettingen Corporation, The Elizabeth Winters Family Trust, The Light Family Foundation, and The Weingart Foundation to get 1in6 off the ground. These collaborative efforts set the tone for how we at 1in6 continue to work today: facing our mission through partnerships with some of the most passionate and hardworking people and organizations in the world.
Another early partnership was with Kathy Barbini and Simon Weinberg of Big Voice Pictures. The Big Voice Pictures team was producing a number of films at the time, including Boys and Men Healing, which would become the first film that 1in6 would help distribute. Their creativity opened the door for us to share men’s stories. Kathy Barbini remembers:
“When Boys and Men Healing was completed, we didn’t anticipate how the need for screenings world-wide would spread like wildfire. We literally hit the ground running with requests for screenings and panel discussions nationwide, which went on non-stop for three or more years. We didn’t anticipate how needed the film really was. When working on a project like the producing of Boys and Men Healing, which required tremendous sacrifice, and lots and sweat and tears, having a partnership with others who appreciate what it takes means the world. We worked together with 1in6 to mushroom a movement, really—this is what I’m most proud of.”
By 2011, our partnerships had born fruit and we found ourselves on the cusp of exponential growth, allowing us to help more men than we could have initially imagined. That year, we reached 7,300 conference attendees and trained 1,140 professionals, and with a re-design of our website, we began translating our resources into Spanish to increase our accessibility. We also created even more initiatives to help men everywhere. For instance, we began our Campus Outreach Program, distributing thousands of copies of our materials to five pilot college campuses in the greater Los Angeles area, contacting over 600 college counselors nationwide, and providing some of the first crisis responses to the breaking stories of childhood sexual abuse emerging from Penn State and Syracuse University.
It was also during this year that we were fortunate enough to assist NBC and the Joyful Heart Foundationin collaborating on episodes of Law and Order: SVU for the first time. This gave us the opportunity to broadcast a message of hope to a large audience of people who we had previously not been able to reach.
The next year, in 2012, almost half of our resources had been translated into Spanish, and we had received an AOL Impact Grant to help us distribute our message to countless Internet users globally, via AOL Holdings like The Huffington Post.
The 1BlueString awareness campaign was the creative brainchild of former 1in6 Marketing Director Chris Carlton, and opened the door for younger men to begin sharing their stories, which we believe to be crucial in advancing our mission. The 1BlueString campaign asks guitar players to replace their E string with a blue string to symbolize the 1 in 6 men who have had an abusive or unwanted sexual experience. This initiative is a subtle but effective way for us to reach younger audiences, spread the word in ways we had never thought before, and ultimately, send the message that men are not alone.
“We spent a lot of time and energy launching the 1BlueString campaign because we believed there was something very special about it,” Chris Carlton says. “This subject is complex. Men aren’t great at talking about it. Nobody is great at talking about it. But, a lot of people want to support it; they just aren’t sure how comfortable they are at showing their support. We were pretty sure that if we found a way to give people a passive way to support these men, in a way that is disarming and easy and even cool, it would be successful.”
Within just one year since its inception, 1BlueString was met with a groundswell of support, becoming the official charity of the Vans Warped Tour in 2013 and visiting over 41 cities in the U.S. The campaign was also featured on stage at concerts with Weatherbox, The Front Bottoms, and Sledding with Tigers, as well as being featured on the cover of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s magazine The Resource. We were able to distribute almost 5,000 strings in less than a year, and expand to Australia through our partnership with Living Well in Queensland, Australia.
Another giant leap forward for 1in6 during this time was our partnership with the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN). This partnership allowed us to begin providing a 24/7 free and confidential online support line, one of the first of its kind dedicated to helping men in particular. “We are very proud to partner with 1in6 to provide help to men, and their loved ones, through the online support line,” says Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN. “1in6 has accomplished so much in its first decade, and we look forward to many more years of working together to end sexual abuse and assault, and finding new ways to support men and help them lead healthier and happier lives,”
In addition, we took the time in 2012 to develop a one-day version of our Men & Healing training with a strong clinical focus to compliment our already existing 90-minute and half-day trainings. We also began to offer a free monthly webinar and a one-day training option titled “It Happens, It Matters.”
By 2013, we’d made even greater strides. 1in6 was invited to facilitate the plenary panel at the End Violence Against Women International Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Steve LePore of 1in6, Rick Goodwin of 1in6 Canada (formerly The Men’s Project), Gary Foster of Living Well, and myself were asked to contribute, marking a leap in the public’s perception of gender-based violence, which has previously heavily focused on women and girls. We were extremely grateful to be able to share our message with over 1200 conference attendees, including advocates, investigators, prosecutors, and clinicians.
This was also the year that I launched The Bristlecone Project awareness campaign in partnership with 1in6. The Bristlecone Project is a collection of photographs, written narratives, and videos of men who have reclaimed their lives after sexual abuse or assault. The focus of this campaign is the present, not the past. Our hope is that this campaign inspires solidarity with the many men who feel isolated and stigmatized by what happened to them. The project also reaches whole communities through public exhibitions and film screenings.
As we continued to reach out to more men in 2013, we recognized yet another opportunity to expand our awareness and engagement initiative, and established our Men On Campus National Task Force. The Task Force, spearheaded by 1in6’s Managing Director Martha Marin, is a committed group of professionals representing organizations, colleges, and universities across the country. By reaching out to college-aged men, we hope to end the long period of silence many men face before disclosing their unwanted or abusive experience, and help the healing begin.
All of the progress we had made by this point on behalf of the men searching for healing would not have been possible without the generous time and financial support of our partners and donors. In October 2013, the Southern California Grantmakers (SCG), along with the The Bettingen Corporation, The Durfee Foundation, and The Weingart Foundation (who have been helping 1in6 from the very beginning!) hosted a funder briefing in Los Angeles on the issue of male childhood sexual abuse, featuring 1in6 as a key presenter. This was the first time in the history of our field that such a briefing took place, and it was attended by many foundations and major donors in the Los Angeles area. SCG President, Christine Essel, wrote that she “was truly inspired by the creative thinking that the panelists and participants brought to this complex and often misunderstood issue,” and noted how she, “looked forward to seeing more work done in coordination among funders to support male survivors of abuse.”
Thanks to the generous help of the SCG, these partners, and countless others, we hoped to continue to educate the public on our cause. By the end of 2013, 500 daily visitors to our website was the norm, helping fulfill our goal of helping more and more men heal in a world that rarely talks about what may be causing their pain. After over five years, we had achieved flight, sustained our path, and were finding the best ways to reach new individuals every day.
2014 was a year that marked immense growth for 1in6, but we also lost one very close ally. We were saddened to lose Heidi Sommer, a long time supporter, who aided in getting 1in6 off the ground from the very beginning. In her memory, we continue to work to ensure men who need help in healing from unwanted or abusive sexual experiences receive the care, support, and resources they need.
One way we were able to reach out to more men than ever before was through our partnerships with USA Networks, the Joyful Heart Foundation, and the NO MORE campaign. During a day-long marathon of Law and Order: SVU in 2014, special PSA’s by NO MORE focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault, with special spots focused on men, which 1in6 helped to promote. The results were incredible. All of our previous records for website hits were shattered, and Virginia Witt of NO MORE notes that through our partnership, the spots helped to, “lift the veil that has shrouded this issue for men…bringing an important additional perspective to the table.”
Through the television PSA’s, ever-growing outreach campaigns, and the work of our partners, we had almost 300,000 visitors to our 1in6 and 1BlueString websites in 2014, with around 75% of those being first time visitors.
And our social-media presence continued to expand in 2014, with 5600 Twitter followers (a 60% increase) and 1087 Facebook “likes.” What’s so important to remember about these numbers is that behind each one could be a person searching for help. Each click, website visit, PSA view, Facebook like, Twitter follow, retweet, and comment represents one person we were able to reach.
The evidence was seen even more concretely through The Bristlecone Project campaign. Participation numbers doubled in 2014, bringing the total to 45 participants. In addition, the online support line served 795 visitors in 2014 at an average of 66 per month, with call times averaging 40 minutes, representing a 6% increase in total hours of service over 2013.
All of the engagement we have achieved would not be possible, as we have emphasized, without the dedication and assistance of our partners. The Men’s Project and Living Well were both able to adapt existing 1in6 and 1BlueString material for their own respective communities, and we in turn were able to recommend Living Well’s self-care smartphone app for our users. By collaborating, we are not able to not only reach more men who need help and compassion, but to do it at a much lower cost than we would be able to on our own.
Throughout this period of growth in 2014, trainings—professional, clinical, and on-campus—were held in in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, helping to educate nearly 1,700 individuals in person. Also, our 10 webinars averaged 37 participants each month. An additional 1,200 professionals directly received information and materials about 1in6 and another 2,600 conference attendees were exposed to 1in6 messages, outreach materials, and information.
When we reached 2015, a generous grant from The Ahmanson Foundation afforded us the opportunity to launch an initiative further leveraging our partnership with RAINN. Our therapist-moderated online peer support groups allow individuals searching for help to chat in real time, anonymously, in small groups twice a week. We aim to create a safe online place to discuss experiences, receive answers, and find support.
We also experienced some exceptional growth in 2015 through The Bristlecone Project. The awareness campaign grew to 54 participants, and support from a successful Kickstarter campaign allowed us to begin creating video versions of each man’s story (coming soon). These videos represent a big step forward in our engagement with digital media, and are powerful awareness, educational, and healing tools.
Further leaps in digital media took place in March 2016. With the help of the Joyful Heart Foundation, NO MORE, and Viacom, PSA’s for 1in6 ran on television for two weeks, and were featured on an electronic billboard in Times Square for one week. This period of exposure amounted to 21 million billboard views and almost 3,000 airings across 52 networks, reaching an audience of over 34 million, a number we never could have imagined ten years ago.
As we close out 2016, our partnerships, campaigns, and services continue to expand. The 1BlueString campaign is now in the UK, thanks to our partnership with Survivors Manchester, and The Bristlecone Project has grown to over 70 portraits. We also premiered a new 1in6.org homepage (in order to better serve the more than 400,000 visitors who accessed our website in 2016), and we are in the process of adding another online peer support group to our weekly schedule. In addition, we identified a new and important need for our trainings this year—the US military. We’ve had the honor of presenting trainings and presentations on bases around the country and around the world, and we continue to see a demand for this type of education and training.
Looking forward to the next decade, we know that change is inevitable. We must adapt to assist the men who truly need our help. As such, our board agreed this year to drop “in childhood” from our mission statement, and broadened our focus to include men who have had unwanted sexual experiences in adulthood. We believe this is a crucial step, and while many of our existing resources already help assist these men, we are also working to update our materials to be more inclusive. As we expand, we will also work on a redesign of the entire website to match the new homepage, as well as revealing our new logo as we celebrate our 10th anniversary!
After ten years, we can see that we’ve not only built the plane, we are flying. Though we might be reaching places we didn’t originally imagine, there’s still more to accomplish; our work is just beginning. We want to create even more awareness and engagement in order to encourage further dialogue and continue to reduce the stigma of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. We’ve learned the moves to make, crafted the message, and now we want to share it with as many people as possible through rich media. We believe that our straightforward, hopeful messaging can help countless numbers of men hurting in silence. For the next ten years, we’re hoping to reach greater heights, and carry as many as possible to a safe place where they can begin the healing process.
Thank you once again to all of those who have supported us along the way. So many people – including you, the reader of this letter – have helped us reach our 10th anniversary, and we’re so grateful. Onward!
David Lisak, Ph.D.
1in6 Board President