While others argue over individuals in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (so debilitating for survivors who seek only for the truth to emerge and for recognition of their wrongs) we have been building partnerships and collaboration.
First, Mankind Counselling, Safeline, Survivors Manchester and ourselves have created the Male Survivors Partnership in which, collectively, we are looking at establishing quality standards for services for male survivors which can guarantee confidence in those who seek our help.
Secondly, we are joining with the Men and Boys Coalition to sustain the growing momentum that’s been building around men and boys’ issues over the past two years. There has been a sea change in the acceptability and recognition within society, the media and the political/statutory sphere that there is a need to address the issues that affect men and boys. Many charities, academics, organisations and professionals have come together to support initiatives such as:
- The focus on suicide/mental health for International Men’s Day including a Parliamentary Debate
- The change in the Director of Public Prosecution’s statistical reporting of its Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy
- The request to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that they recognise men and boys’ issues in their forthcoming strategy
- The request for the Chief Medical Officer that her next Annual Review is on men’s health (In 2014 it was on women’s health)
- A response to a Cabinet Office consultation on Big Lottery Funding to request that a more gender inclusive approach is taken.
As well as concentrating on improving and extending our services for survivors (such as, recently, both online and telephone counselling and, in London, the re-introduction of groupwork) we need to raise awareness nationally about male survivors not least to encourage more to come to us for assistance, knowing that we provide an anonymous, confidential and safe environment in which they can share what has happened to them and find the most appropriate way of dealing with the hurt and the consequences to be able to rebuild their lives. Seeing the messages we receive reminds me daily of the trauma and sense of despair and desperation that are felt by so many survivors.
The capacity for self-harm and disruption to their lives and personalities is enormous – truly, we are dealing with extremely vulnerable people in which we recognise that the slightest off-hand comment or ill-judged word can convey a sense that we do not understand or care or are indifferent to the suffering. We examine daily the way in which we respond to approaches and consider weekly in our team meetings how we might improve the way in which we extend the hand of help and professional expertise.
Yet we must also understand that survivors, were it not for the sexual abuse, have the same skills, abilities and aspirations as other members of society and we have a responsibility to assist them back to that place recognising equal rights and aspirations.
Although we are unique and the principal national charity for adult male survivors we are small in comparison with many big household name charities. So how can we make an impact? It is by working in collaboration with other similar charities so that together we can be more than the sum of our parts. We lose no opportunity to do this and to engage in events which raise the issues.