When I first started male survivor coaching workshops and weekends in Seattle almost 20 years ago, I was intrigued by the possibility of supporting men on their journey toward reclaiming pieces of their life from the childhood trauma. Via research, we had learned a bit more about the lasting impact of childhood sexual abuse. This mission was personal for me.
Interestingly, in the formative years I listed the program as camp-soul search. A weekend outing where men built friendships, camaraderie, rapport as they bonded and discussed guy issues. In hindsight, we were afraid to name the elephant in the room. To speak the words ‘sexual abuse’ carried a stigma and created a bridge that many men were not ready to cross.
However, after the first year, I decided to add one more question to the application. “Have you ever experienced any early traumas or abuses--physically, emotionally, verbally or sexually?” That question opened new horizons and our first official coaching workshop and course began. Eight abused men from diverse multi-ethnic socio-economic backgrounds attended. We had married, single, fathers, a lawyer, a carpenter, from Starbucks barista to corporate exec. Even with diverse backgrounds, the issues of trust, intimacy problems, sexual relationships and feeling like impostors and underachievers were issues we had in common.
We started the 12-week coaching and course I had developed. Each series started with a two-days active group outing in the wild, then 1-on-1 coaching during the month. We initially established rules to create a safe environment where no one felt judged, condemned, but accepted. When we approached the end of the first series, several suggested an additional 12-weeks. I agreed and created more coaching material and subject matter for us to cover. We eventually finished with a four-seasons male survivor coaching program, that continually morphed over the years until present day. The seasons represented the various stages of our healing journey.
I simply share this trip down memory lane to emphasize this point. When I asked the participants, who are now close friends, the turning points that majorly helped to accelerate their survivor journey the overwhelming answer was “when you placed that question on the application about being sexually abused and traumatized.” Answering that question opened doors and gave us permission as men to discuss taboos and social stigmas related to our abuse narratives.
I simply want to encourage you to accelerate your journey by saying “yes” if you know that abuse happened or took place. Then move toward the next step.