What's New? Update – July 22, 2005

These are indeed interesting, exciting, and often distressing times. There is much to be concerned about and also much that is encouraging.

This belated update will be longer than usual. So much has been happening that I want to take the time for a more complete report. I’ll do this in no particular order - just as topics occur to me. Anything I omit will have to wait until another update.

A number of new or updated resources will be included in the following paragraphs, and some additional new resources will be mentioned toward the end of this column.

I was in London during the July 7th bombings and their aftermath. It was sad to be part of a city in trauma - not unlike being in New York during and after the 9/11 disaster. I was heartened, however, by the cooperation, resolve, and, yes, heroism demonstrated by so many Londoners.

One of these heroes is Lil, a brilliant woman who works with the Colchester Rape Crisis Line. Lil, who participated in both Healing the Healers retreats in the UK, was a passenger on one of the trains that was hit. Uninjured herself, she stayed on the train to help care for the wounded until the paramedics arrived. With characteristic modesty Lil didn’t tell me about that part - someone else let me know about her heroism.

I’ve met many heroes over the past few months. I’ll tell you about some of them in this column.

In late May and early June I was in New Zealand conducting a series of day long professional trainings - in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch - sponsored by Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC). These were followed by a residential weekend workshop for male survivors in the magnificent countryside outside of Christchurch on the South Island. I had the good fortune to spend time with old friends in New Zealand, and to meet new ones. Here are some of the highlights:

-Meeting a Maori (indigenous New Zealand native) woman who came to the Auckland training from the far north of the country. She spoke about working exclusively within her own family/tribe and the specific requirements of living and working within one’s own family and cultural group. We talked of the special needs when working with different ethnicities, linguistic, and subcultures - and how important it is to examine and question eurocentric assumptions.

-Participants in the trainings included a good number of people from non-European backgrounds. Their contributions to the discussions were especially valuable.

-The visit to New Zealand provided a mini-reunion for some of us who were at last year’s Healing the Healers Retreat in Yorkshire, UK: Ann Williamson from Leeds and Naoko Miyaji from Tokyo - as well as New Zealand’s own Ken Clearwater. It was good to see them, continue to learn from their diverse perspectives and experiences, and see once again how we are forging an international network of survivors and those who care about them.

-After returning to Japan, Naoko spoke on the radio about her experiences in New Zealand. It is well worth listening to. It offers a perspective that is different from the more common eurocentric assumptions. To listen to it, go to http://cner.law.hit-u.ac.jp/audio Then click on the link Audio:Trauma and Colonialism. (I’m afraid I can’t help you if you aren’t able to open the audio link. I don’t know enough about computers to make useful suggestions. Perhaps it would be best to ask a 10 year old. Good luck.)

-Thom Harrigan was also in New Zealand during this trip. He met with a number of professionals around issues of sexual abuse by clergy - including a faculty member at a major divinity school.

-The ever-impressive Ken Clearwater organized the male survivors weekend workshop. As far as I know this was the first such event in the Southern Hemisphere. It was certainly my first one. But I doubt that it will be the last. Ken is thriving, as is his organization, Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (MSSAT). Ken has been speaking out against injustice wherever he encounters it. As you might expect, he encounters resistance - but my money is on Ken. He is too powerful and dedicated to be defeated. And he is being joined by more and more allies. Check out the link to MSSAT’s Web site on my Resources page.

-Men came to the weekend workshop from as far away as Western Australia. Three brilliant men from Perth (Western Australia) and one from Darwin (Northern Territory) provided a strong Aussie flavor to the mix of Kiwis (and a lone Yank). Also adding to the power was the presence of two Maori warriors. We were edified and moved by hakas (look it up) and speeches, songs, and blessings in the Maori language. The sense of brotherhood was profound.

-And speaking of heroes, here’s an example of how survivors let nothing stand in the way of getting the resources they need: One of the men was on a bus from Dunedin to Christchurch on his way to the workshop. The bus driver fell asleep, and this man commandeered the bus and drove it on to Christchurch. The police and bus company officials could hardly punish him, as the other passengers hailed him as a hero. I can’t disagree. Another participant from Invercargill drove over 8 hours through snowstorms, over closed roads, and disregarded police warnings to get to the workshop.

-One outcome of this weekend is the commitment by the men from Western Australia to organize a male survivor weekend there in 2007. Watch this site for details - and save your pennies for the trip. It will be a great event in a beautiful part of the world.

-Plans are also underway to begin a male survivor group in Darwin. If you know people who might be interested in either of these events (either as organizers or participants), please let me know.

I always love visiting New Zealand. It is a stunningly beautiful country with wonderful people and fascinating cultures. I look forward to my next visit.

I was home less than two weeks (barely enough time to recover from jet lag) catching up with all the work that piled up in my absence, when I left for England.

This summer’s UK events were as powerful, profound, and challenging as last year’s. Again organized by Bob Balfour of Survivors West Yorkshire and Purple Phoenix, Healing the Healers 2 and Victims No Longer 2 were held at a lovely setting in Cumbria (The Lake District) outside the village of Grasmere.

Participants in HTH2 were exactly evenly divided between people who had attended last summer’s retreat and newcomers. It was a wonderful reunion for the veterans, and the newcomers held their own and quickly became old friends. We had roughly equal numbers of women and men, and people came from all over England as well as from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States. Powerful, creative work was done and there was lots of fun as well:

-Six people attended from Glasgow, Scotland. They have created a new counseling service for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are aged 18 or over. It is called Thrive. You can contact them at thrive@glacomen.scot.nhs.uk or http://www.sandyford.org/sandyford/pubpages/thrive/thrive.html They are a wonderful, diverse bunch, and I’m sure will be making a powerful impact.

-Two men who attended are starting a male survivors group in Oslo, Norway. They, too, are impressive, dedicated individuals. There is no Web site yet, but I’ll post it as soon as there is. For further information contact Torbjørn Herlof Andersen at torbear3@yahoo.no or Jan Bjarne Sodal at jbs@ekumenikk.org

-Three wonderful people attended from Aberystwyth in North Wales. They are excited about their new building and many services offered by their organization, Mind Aberystwyth: http://www.mind.org.uk/Mind+in+your+area/Regions/cymru/Aberystwyth.htm

-Ian Warwick of Survivors Sheffield facilitated an important day on professional and survivor activism.

-For the second year we had six powerful women representing the Colchester Rape Crisis Line: http://www.crcl.org.uk/ . Four were returnees from last summer; two were new. All of them reminded us of how awe-inspiring this group is.

And, again, we had three people from Rugby R.O.S.A.: http://survivorguide.co.uk/default.asp R.O.S.A. is preparing an important new guide for survivors. I’ll provide information when it is available, or check their Web site. Among the group was Fay Maxted of R.O.S.A. and Survivors Trust. Fay (another hero and a force of nature) said that she wants to see me offer a weekend similar to Victims No Longer but for men and women survivors together. I told her that I would be happy to do that if she co-leads it with me. She agreed. So plans are underway for this event - probably next year. I’ll keep you posted.

The locations aren’t yet set for future HTH and VNL events in the UK, but some possibilities are under consideration. Don’t be surprised if future years bring workshops and retreats in Norway, Ireland, and Switzerland.

The Victims No Longer men’s weekend was also powerful and offered many challenges. As with HTH, participants came from many parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and also Spain, Brazil (via Chicago) Florida (via London) and Trinidad (via London). Feelings were expressed, memories were encountered, creativity was presented, alliances were established, and difficulties were encountered. I was honored to be part of this group of men and look forward to meeting each of them again. And the environment can’t be faulted. If you want a lovely place to stay - for a holiday, retreat, or family vacation, you could do a lot worse than this Quaker operated country guest house, Glenthorne: http://www.glenthorne.org/ A happy surprise was the quality of the food and the helpful, sunshiny international staff. There are magnificent walks and hikes just off the Glenthorne property. I’d return in a heartbeat.

After the events in the Lake District, I was able to visit the folks in Aberystwyth, and Coventry/Rugby. All dedicated, loving people doing important work.

My last several days in the UK were spent with friends in London, and, as I said earlier, I was there during the bomb attacks. Several days after the bombings I went with two good friends (one of them Steve Bevan of Survivors Swindon) to visit a London mosque that was having an open house for the community. We felt strongly that they needed and deserved a show of support (in the face of over 70 reported incidents of anti-Muslim backlash following the bombings). It was a moving and informative experience. The more we break down barriers between people and cultures, the better our chances for peace and healing.

I returned to Boston on a Sunday and four days later Thom Harrigan and I left for the VOICES in Action 25th Anniversary Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio: http://www.voices-action.org/ (I’m no longer sure where I am or in what time zone - but it’s all good.) Thom presented a workshop on clergy sexual abuse, and I did a gathering for male survivors and an address to the conference called “Heroes”. I collect heroes in my travels (they are valuable, duty free, and take up no room in my baggage). The Conference was inspiring. Here are just a few highlights:

-The organization has expanded its focus beyond survivors of incest to welcome survivors of all types of sexual abuse and trauma. I applaud this greater inclusiveness.

-It was impressive to see more African-American people at this year’s conference than in previous years - and than at most survivor-based organizations. VOICES is committed to reaching out to more male survivors in general and African-American men in particular, as well as members of other minority groups. The growth and maturity of VOICES over the past 25 years is inspiring.

-In her stirring plenary address, “All Survivors Have Voices”, Holly Sowells-Jenkins, the President of VOICES, employed her wit and wisdom to challenge survivors to move out of a victim identity and take responsibility for their own lives and healing.

-Author and journalist Robin D. Stone http://www.robinstone.com/home.asp spoke movingly of her own history and how it led to her writing the ground-breaking book No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse (2004 New York: Broadway Books).

-Angela Shelton showed her fascinating documentary “Searching for Angela Sheltonhttp://www.searchingforangelashelton.com/ and gave a hugely rousing and enjoyable keynote address. Don’t miss seeing this startling, important film - and seeing Angela Shelton if you have the opportunity.

-Another fine resource from another fine person who attended the conference is Ophelia’s Love: Breaking the Silence. Check it out at http://www.opheliaslove.org/

-There was a strong presence at the Conference of the Cincinnati chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). I’m not kidding. Check out their Web site for more information about these dedicated folks: http://www.bacausa.com/

-And there was lots more going on in Cincinnati. People did their own work and got together for fun. Lots of wonderful singing, dancing, and other creativity.

Now I’m back in Boston with no major trips planned for a while. I’m catching up on a number of things - including this column. Then, the first week of August, I’ll be at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York: http://www.eomega.org/ They generously invited me there for a week-long personal retreat. I’ll be doing a brief workshop for their staff, but otherwise I will get to relax and be taken care of in beautiful, supportive surroundings. Do I sound like I’m looking forward to it?

On the following weekend, August 12-14th, Thom Harrigan and I will be offering the 15th annual male survivor weekend recovery workshop at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Pocono Mountains. The event is filling up quickly, so if you are interested in attending, please don’t wait too long to register or you may not get in. For information and registration contact Kirkridge or the Events page of this Web site.

On September 26th I’ll be in Newark, Delaware, giving a three hour professional workshop on “Sexual Victimization of Males” at the two day 11th Annual Conference of the Criminal Justice Council. This conference is open to all and is incredibly inexpensive (just $30 for two days including lunch and continental breakfast). For information and registration contact Corrine Pearson at Corrine.Pearson@state.de.us or 302-577-8696.

And in early October I’ll be in Oklahoma City for another conference (see the Events page for details).

Other Resources:

Books: In addition to Robin Stone’s book, there are some other new releases I’d like to bring to your attention.

I’m pleased to let you know that Richard Hoffman’s stunning, important book Half the House: A Memoir will soon be re-released by New Rivers Press in a new, expanded edition. You can order it from Amazon.com or from your local bookstore.

I recently read another impressive memoir by a male survivor - Martin Moran’s The Tricky Part: One Boy’s Fall from Trespass into Grace. (2005 - Boston:Beacon Press). Moran is an actor and playwright who has written a deeply personal but universally accessible account of sexual child abuse, denial, awareness - and triumph. I highly recommend it. He has written a play with the same title. Search on “The Tricky Part” or “Martin Moran” for information about where it is being performed.

Richard Gartner’s Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse (2005 - Hoboken, NJ: Wiley) is currently available in hard cover.

Men’s Resources: The Men’s Resource Center Coalition has recently changed its name to Men’s Resources International. You can learn more about them and their work at: http://www.mensresourcesinternational.org/

There’s lots more, but doing this update has taken most of a day, so I’ll end it for now. I wish you all well. Peace-Justice-Healing-Love.

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