What's New? Update – September 1, 2004

It’s been a busy summer. So much has been going on that I guess it’s best just to launch into an update.

In early June I participated in a six day symposium on online child sexual victimization and exploitation. It was a powerful and disturbing experience. Presenters and participants came from the USA, Canada, and many European countries. They included researchers, law enforcement, prison and parole, educators, offender treatment professionals, prosecutors, government officials, profilers, FBI agents, member of Interpol and local police forces, military personnel, forensic pediatricians, representatives of internet service providers and other high tech companies - and a very few individuals from the victim/survivor perspective. The conference was organized by the FBI. I learned a great deal - perhaps more than I wanted to know - about the ways that children are harmed and the psychology of those who harm them. I was impressed by the quality and dedication of many individuals I met at this conference - people I would not normally encounter in my professional life.

In mid-June I saw a production of the play, “Sin: A Cardinal Deposed”, a powerful depiction - taken from letters and transcripts - of the abuses and attempted cover-ups by Cardinal Bernard Law and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston of sexual child abuse by clergy. I recommend this play to anyone, whether or not they are directly affected by clergy abuse.

Speaking of clergy abuse, in June the Victims Rights Committee (of which Thom Harrigan is a member) released their report “A Review of the Investigation Conducted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston into Allegations of Sexual Misconduct by Msgr. Michael Smith Foster. You can find this extraordinary document at http://www.vrcboston.org/

In late June and early July I had the privilege of facilitating two events in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in England. They were held at a retreat center (centre for you Brits) outside the village of Kettlewell (scene of the film “Calendar Girls”).

The first was a three day residential retreat called “Healing the Healers”, for people who work with survivors, professionals or volunteers. As far as I know, it was the first such event anywhere. And it succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. Men and women came from all over England, as well as Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Norway, France, Switzerland, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Friends and allies, old and new. Our numbers included psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, staff of rape crisis centers and survivor organizations, researchers, poets, clergy, professors and students, many of them survivors themselves - all of them powerful activists.

Our primary focus was self care in the face of the intense stress and vicarious traumatization experienced by people who work with abuse and recovery. The main goal was to prevent “compassion fatigue” and burnout. Additional goals were to increase and solidify our support networks, thus strengthening advocacy for child victims and adult survivors, to forge local and international alliances, to learn from one another and develop new resources - and most importantly to relax and have fun (yes, fun) in a safe, beautiful, creative, cooperative setting. All of these goals were met and exceeded, and the participants left affirmed, energized, and with a new supportive professional “family”.

Communication among the participants continues through e-mails, phone calls, and letters. Many of them intend to have a mini-reunion in Galway, Ireland on September 25th-26th, when we attend Ireland’s first national conference on Sexual Abuse Against Boys and Men (See the Events page for further details) organized by one of the participants.

Plans are already underway for a repeat of the Yorkshire retreat (expanded to four days) in 2005. Please join us. Details will be posted on this Web site, or you can get more information from the organizer, Bob Balfour of Survivors West Yorkshire at <survivorswy@mac.com> .

This wonderful experience was followed several days later (4th of July Weekend) by England’s first residential weekend recovery workshop for male survivors. The momentum was carried forward by some of the men who had attended Healing the Healers and enhanced by other men from many locations, background, ages, and histories. This workshop drew non-offending male survivors from London and Liverpool, Coventry and Cornwall, Sweden, Scotland and Swindon, Ireland and Australia, Cambridge (Massachusetts) and Christchurch (New Zealand), Boston and Barcelona, and more. Like the retreat, the energy, power, caring, support, and creativity were breathtaking. There were men who have been working on recovery for many years and some individuals who had never before spoken with another male survivor. The participants did work that was profound and powerful, but also lighthearted, cooperative, and joyous. Like those at the retreat, participants have remained in contact via e-mails, telephone, letters, and visits. (One man, who said that he barely knows what a computer looks like, has just acquired e-mail access so he can combat isolation and stay connected to his “brother warriors”. Many attended a picnic in Leicester for survivors and their allies (organized by one of the men who attended), and a number of the men plan to attend the conference in Ireland and return for next year’s Yorkshire workshop. I invite you to consider treating yourself to this event. You won’t regret it: ask anyone who was there.

After a good week of post-workshop relaxing and visiting old friends in Wales and London, I returned to Boston, only to leave a few days later for “A Global Vision: Many Roads, Many Cultures”, the national conference of VOICES in Action (Victims Of Incest Can Emerge Survivors) in Minneapolis. The power of survivors and allies was equally evident at this four day event. In addition to facilitating a gathering for male survivors, I was asked to give a talk about the status of the male survivor recovery movement outside the USA. This was easy to do, armed as I was with my international experience in Yorkshire. I called my talk “Heroes”. No exaggeration was necessary.

When I have more time, and with their permission, I may write something more personal about some of the individuals I have met in the course of my work. They (you), survivors, professionals, and other allies, are continual sources of inspiration.

In early August, Thom Harrigan and I returned to the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania for “Leaping upon the Mountains”, our 14th annual weekend workshop for male survivors at the Kirkridge Retreat Center. This event, with its thirty-five participants from 16 states and Washington, DC., provided the perfect bookend to the July workshops. I brought greetings and a photograph to the men in Pennsylvania from their brothers in Yorkshire. As in England, the work done at Kirkridge was profound, important, difficult, emotional, and lighthearted. Many of them sat for a photo to send to Yorkshire next summer. Some are thinking of attending in person.

It is difficult to present an adequate description of the energy generated by these workshops. I am neither author nor poet enough to convey it in words. I can only encourage you to experience it for yourself. Every time I attend one of these events I learn more, am deeply moved, am reminded of why I continue to do this work, and leave with renewed energy.

The dates have been set for next year’s Pennsylvania weekend - August 12-14 2005. It will be my fifteenth year doing this workshop at Kirkridge. Come celebrate this anniversary with us.

I’m told by my editor that sales of the new edition of Victims No Longer have been good. The response from readers has also been quite positive. Thanks to those of you who have posted reader reviews. They make a difference.

We resolved a mix-up with the distributor that had both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble mistakenly saying that Leaping upon the Mountains was out of print or unavailable. The book is back to being listed on their Web sites and is available from book shops as well as from this Web site.

I just completed an article I was asked to write for the November issue of Contemporary Sexuality, published by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). The title is “Adult Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse: Sexual Issues in Treatment and Recovery”. It is the second of a series of articles concerning survivors of sexual child abuse.

So I think you can see why it has taken me this long to get to writing this update. And there’s more work to come. I must prepare my keynote address and workshops for the Galway conference. But I’ll write more about that after the event. (While writing this update, I received an e-mail from one of the conference organizers, containing a preliminary draft of the program and registration form. It should be an interesting event - and is another historical “first”. I’ll try to post a copy of the final version of the program when I have it. In the meantime, you can get more information from MASC: http://www.masc.ie/

For now I’ll close with a poem written by one of the men who attended the Yorkshire workshops. I asked him for his permission to share it and whether wanted me to use his name. This was his reply: “You're welcome to use it, and yes I'd like to be known as the man who wrote the words, not sold the world!!!” So here is the poem called “I met a man today” - written by one of my many heroes, Kris Connolly from Coventry, England.

I met a man today
He was dark, he was light
He was brown, he was white
He was gay he was straight
He was someone I wanted to call mate
I met a man today
He looked like he would call me out for a fight
Instead he read me words
that were farphukin outtasight
I met a man today
I lie
I met him earlier this week
he told me tales of far away
and how far away he be
the same story
the same history
throughout the world
now is the time for my(our)warrior banner
to be unfurled
another man I met today sat and told me his story
and another and another
we sat and talked like long lost brothers
sharing a sigh, a breath, a laugh
no time now for epitaphs
now is the time for warrior style
to tell the world it's not my style
to be abused or raped or beaten
to feel as if I'm only a burden
but to stand up proud
being incredibly loud
and say
I am no longer a victim
but someone with a different rhythm
who knows what it takes
day on day to survive
and is having l-plates made
I now thrive

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