While many events regarding sexual abuse are guided toward raising awareness for female survivors, an event held Thursday night aimed to raise awareness, show support and explain available resources for male survivors of sexual abuse.
The event, entitled Dare to Dream, was co-sponsored by the Central Student Government and the Rackham Dean’s Strategic Initiative Grant. The event emphasized that healing is possible for male survivors.
The event started with a viewing of the documentary “Boys and Men Healing,” which tells the story of three male survivors and how their abuse impacted their recovery process.
After the documentary, Chris Anderson, executive director of MaleSurvivor, and Jim Struve, one of the nonprofit’s original founders, facilitated a panel discussion. MaleSurvivor is a national organization that supports male victims of sexual abuse.
Rackham student Ben Alterman coordinated the event with help from MaleSurvivor and many other University and local organizations.
Currently, one in six males are sexually abused before the age of 18 and one of every eight adult rape victims are male, according to Anderson and Struve. According to Alterman, 3,584 out of 7,446 sexual abuse survivors at the University of Michigan are male.
Alterman, Anderson and Struve are survivors of male sexual abuse and believe that the first step toward recovery is reaching out to people. While this may not seem hard in theory, Anderson described that social stereotypes are huge barriers toward reaching out.
Struve explained that societal myths, such as the idea that male survivors are gay or weak, have hindered survivors reaching out. Struve believes that social stigmas associated with sexual abuse have caused men to think that they can hide their traumatic experience and can recover on their own.
“The definition of masculinity in our culture really creates a strong disincentive for any man to come forward and to say that he has been victimized,” Anderson said.
While Alterman, Anderson and Struve have extensively researched and discussed this topic, many students who attended the event were shocked about the stories and statistics discussed. Rackham student Mallory Fuhst described that this event expanded her perspective of sexual abuse.
Others, such as Rackham student Ramon Martinez, praised the willingness and strength the panelists had to share their stories.
“It’s a real issue,” he said.