News: General

Males victims of sexual violence can share their story through the ‘Bristlecone Project’

The Daily Collegian
January 29, 2018

Approximately one in six men in the United States have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18, according to statistics from Centre County is considered to be no exception.

As sexual assault continues to be in the spotlight with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center will use the beginning of February to bring “The Bristlecone Project” to the community. Four information sessions will be held starting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Schlow Centre Region Library.

“The Bristlecone Project” collects stories of men’s road to recovery from sexual abuse. The information sessions will include a screening of the 30-minute documentary about the project, artwork displaying 10 survivors’ stories and a panel discussion with those affected.

Organizing the event is Jordan Gibby, the prevention educator at the CCWRC. He said events like these are needed because men are socialized to “not be victims,” as they don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable.

“Men that have experienced any type of these unwanted sexual experiences can feel very isolated, very alone, very ashamed, and they can face all kinds of emotional symptoms. But, oftentimes the only one that they are allowed to feel in society is anger,” Gibby said. “These events help overcome some of that isolation and some of that shame [to] provide more awareness for our community.”

These sentiments were echoed by Anne Ard, who said part of her role as the executive director of the CCWRC is to clarify services are available for — and inclusive of — male survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence.

She will be moderating the panel discussion during the evening’s event, and she said wants people to ask questions in a respectful way.

Ard said she finds this community participation vital to expand understanding. She encourages parents of any children or partners of men who have been sexually abused to attend.

“Most of us know somebody who was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse — a male or female,” Ard said. “We might not know if we know them, but we do. The more that we can be aware of the dynamic of childhood sexual abuse, how it happens in our community [and] how it impacts victims, the more we can pay attention to it and work to prevent it.”

Other information sessions will be in Millheim at 1 p.m. on Saturday, at the Green Drake Gallery and Arts Center; in Bellefonte at 6 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Centre County Library; and in Philipsburg at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 17 at the Holt Memorial Library.

“Visibility is a huge part of trying to move forward the healing movements in terms of sexual violence in general,” sexual assault counselor Geoff Landers-Nolan said. “So, what we hope is that this event gives people a platform to feel like they can be heard. Even if it’s not their story being told, they can hear things that are very familiar to them and can connect to.”

These events are open to all members of community.