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Weeks have passed since we rang in the New Year, and already our holiday cheer has begun to fade. Nothing seems as bright or as beautiful as it once did, draped in the lights of the holiday season. The gifts that we spent hours shopping for are now just a long list of items on a credit card statement. The decorations that we delightfully hung from our tree are now a chore as we remove them from the branches. The tamales and cookies that we enthusiastically devoured are now a few extra pounds around our waist, and, as the final remnants of the holiday season are packed in a box, the guilt continues to set in.
Perhaps, that is why we begin each year with the same routine of reflecting on how we are going to improve ourselves in the coming year and then resolving to do a whole list of things that, too often, result in no change at all. This year, I challenge you to break free from this routine and the typical resolutions of weight loss and financial gain in order to bring about true change not just in yourself but in your community, as well. I invite you to reflect on the issue of male childhood sexual abuse and resolve to be a part of a growing network of support.
In 2012, male sexual abuse and perpetration garnered a great deal of media attention as the stories of abuse at Penn State and within the Boy Scouts of America became a part of national headlines. Beyond these stories, however, are many that are never told. Research tells us that 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused in childhood. We also know that over 70% of those men who have been abused do not tell anyone at the time and that on average men will take 22 years to tell someone about it-10 years longer than women. Between January and December 2012, nearly 600 individuals accessed the RAINN Hotline directly from the 1in6 website, and they spent an average of 30 minutes seeking support. This is up 67% over last year, from a monthly average of 30 hotline users in 2011 to 50 in 2012. These individuals are our brothers, nephews, sons, uncles, grandfathers, fathers, co-workers, classmates and teammates.
I would like to invite you to take the first step in supporting male survivors of childhood sexual abuse by making a personal commitment to believe. If you make this commitment and uphold it, then you can make a difference in the healing work of male survivors. So, I challenge you to make this commitment your resolution not just for 2013 but for each day of your life. This is one resolution that is too important to give up on after just one week. It requires an open mind and an open heart, but the rewards are great. Failure to uphold the resolution, on the other hand, can cost men their well-being; therefore, turn to 1in6 for support if you find the challenge too difficult to undertake yourself.
Too often, the goodwill towards men that we express during the holiday season is also packed up with the Christmas decorations. Extend that good will throughout the year. Don’t let one of the things you’re guilty about next year be that you spent more time obsessing about exercising than listening to the boys and men in your life, or that you stood idly by as a male friend disclosed his own experiences of childhood sexual abuse, or that you said nothing while legislators cut funding for sexual assault services. Instead, do your part—make the commitment, uphold it in 2013 and help end sexual abuse in our communities.
- By Emiliano Diaz de Leon
Emiliano C. Diaz de Leon is a Cultural Capacity Specialist for 1in6. Besides his work with 1in6, Emiliano has more than a decade of experience working for multiple domestic and sexual violence centers in Texas. Since 2008, Emiliano has worked as a Primary Prevention Specialist for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) and since October 2011 providing technical assistance to the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Engaging Men Program grantees around the country as a Men’s Engagement Specialist.
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.