Happy New Year! This letter comes from incoming 1in6 Board President, Claire Harwell.
Thirty-six years ago, I signed up to be a volunteer with a small rape crisis center. In those days, we primarily went to emergency rooms late at night and took crisis phone calls in the wee hours of the morning. Small numbers of volunteers served large rural areas, and we drove for hours to meet someone in crisis in a coffee shop or a library meeting room. We did not have cell phones or websites. We did not have in-house therapists or lawyers. We did our best and believed that being our best selves was a useful healing service. Mostly, we were right—it was helpful to be able to talk to someone who was listening with an open heart and a little information about how the justice system works. But often we were not enough, and what we “knew” wasn’t tested or accurate.
I’ve done this work now in four states and have seen the field grow and mature into a much more nuanced understanding of healing that is backed up by decades of research. Along the way we’ve learned that we were completely missing the needs of a whole group of people: men who’ve experienced sexual abuse and sexual assault. In those days of sitting in the ER, we could not have imagined a world where famous women and men would be featured in national media with their powerful personal stories of emerging from the shadows to confront abusers.
As 1in6 enters its 11th year of service, we remain committed to helping men who have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault find pathways to healing that recognize their unique needs, particularly as they struggle with what victimization means in the context of masculinity in our world. We continue to expand our reach through updates to our innovative website; a 2017 redesign streamlined for improved mobile phone access will go live in early 2018. Almost 400,000 users visited the website in 2017, with users from around the world finding current information as well as stories of healing from other men who’ve shared their journeys for the benefit of others. Currently, we are working to build a video library featuring these stories; it will be an online resource for men, their loved ones, and professionals to use to learn more about healing based on lived experiences from men who have volunteered to speak about how to have a fuller life after sexual abuse or sexual assault.
Over the past 11 years, our outreach to men and those who love them has evolved into a continuum of engagement. We have found that the path to healing for men often involves a growing desire to have more personal contact, and we have designed our resources to accommodate men wherever they are in their journeys. For example, men who are just beginning to explore may wish to start with our online readings and men’s stories, which can be viewed completely anonymously with the user’s IP address blocked. For men who wish to speak with someone about their experience or its effects, we offer a free and anonymous online helpline where men can chat one-on-one with a trained advocate. And for men who want to engage with other men who’ve had similar experiences of sexual abuse or assault, we offer free and anonymous online support groups led by licensed counselors. In short, 1in6 aims to provide the full menu of what individual men need to move through their healing journeys.
In addition, 1in6 offers presentations and clinical trainings to aid therapists and other service providers to meet the needs of their male clients. Our training programs have been offered in the U.S. and to U.S. military audiences all over the world.
As a friend and supporter of 1in6, you have made this critical work possible in a climate where the needs are increasingly visible and services tailored to men are extremely rare. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that addressing these issues early is a life-saving effort. Long term illness, mental health concerns, and suicide risk are strongly associated with the lack of services for men after these kinds of abusive experiences. Your involvement in this work literally changes the world for individuals who experienced these crimes at a time when they were vulnerable. As the incoming Board President of 1in6, I invite you to join with us in this work in 2018. As the wife of a man who experienced childhood sexual abuse, I invite you to be a partner in healing.
1in6 Board President
If you would like to support our work, you can do so at 1in6.org/donate