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1in6 Thursday: It Happens to Boys
Creating Safe Places to Talk about Childhood Sexual Abuse
Speaking about sexual abuse is not a popular subject matter: some people cringe when I ask if we can speak to their organization.
A group of men and I, representing our "It Happens to Boys" program, are regularly out speaking at recovery centers, schools, conferences, organizations. It is my privilege to work with men who are beginning their healing journey. What we have found is that when the men in our group share their own personal stories, it makes it safe for other men to share theirs.
The first night at our group meeting usually goes like this: one of our veteran men share their personal childhood story, adding to it how life has changed since they began their healing journey. The men in our group call themselves "courageous healers" not victims, survivors or anything else. It takes so much courage to share feelings, emotions and ideas when you have been told your whole life to be a "real" man is to keep those things to yourself. Being a “real man” is just the opposite, being strong but attached to feelings.
It takes so much courage to share feelings, emotions and ideas when you have been told your whole life to be a "real" man is to keep those things to yourself.
New men are coming to our free group counseling sessions every week. What we are finding is that "If you build it they will come" is true.
Last month, we offered a free community event where we had open mic night and asked community members to come and tell their own story. The room was full. We are seeing that people do want a safe place to tell their stories where they will not be shamed. We all have a story and the stories are healing.
Men new to our group, eyes wide, look around in disbelief. The comment we most often get is, "I thought I was the only one who was going through this."
It is so comforting to know you are not alone, you are not crazy, yes, you will be believed and no, you will not be shamed here.
What we are finding as we cross the areas of Southern California is that there is a lot more education that is needed. When realistically looked at, the actual required hours of training in the subjects of sexual abuse and substance abuse for a Marriage and Family Therapist in California is only six hours. The questions we are asked by professionals about sexual abuse, about sexual addiction and the misconceptions that are out there help us understand how much work there is to do.
We have been at this for many years and we know we still have a lot to learn.
Our 8th annual It Happens to Boys Conference will be in Long Beach. California on March 5, 2016.
- By Carol Teitelbaum, MFT: www.creativechangeconferences.com.
Carol Teitelbaum is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Education, Educational Psychology, Counseling and Guidance, both from Cal State Northridge. Carol has been a licensed therapist since 1985. Since 1999, she has been in private practice in Rancho Mirage, CA, where she offers individual and group couseling for trauma, mood disorders, anxiety reduction, stress reduction, grief and marriage issues.
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.
1in6's mission also includes serving family members, friends and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Joyful Heart Foundation or 1in6.