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Supporting LGBTI male sexual abuse survivors

Wed 25 Jan 2017 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

Ahead of tomorrow’s survivors of sexual violence community hui in Wellington, we chat to Richard Jeffery, the Co-Ordinator of hosting organisation Mosaic about the importance of sharing the stories of male survivors and supporting queer, takatāpui and gender diverse men.   The hui, open to people of all genders and sexual orientations, will focus on how peer support groups can be more welcoming to queer, takatāpui and gender diverse men. This is the first time a hui of this type has focused on queer, takatāpui and gender diverse communities. The term ‘survivor’, which we will use throughout this story can be a controversial term but is one which is used by Richard and those at Mosaic. Richard says “To some men it is an expression of strength, that this experience did not crush them, they survived. However some men who get in touch with me say they are not ready to come see us as they haven’t survived yet.” While pubic discussions regarding sexual abuse often centre on women as survivors and men as perpetrators, men who are survivors of sexual violence face significant barriers when seeking support. “Males are typically holding a strong sense of shame that they have been abused, which holds them back from disclosing and speaking to others,” says Richard. “Often when they do try to disclose they can get a bad reception, which often discourages them from disclosing again for a long time. This can mean decades in some cases. “Often this is because the person they disclose to simply does not believe that males can be sexually abused. In some cases, if a teenage boy is abused by an older woman he can be told that he is “lucky”, what we call the “good on you mate” factor, which can be very distressing. He says “Queer males can dismissed by police who suggest that it is some kind of “lovers fight” or that it is normal for queer males to abuse each other. There is a huge range of barriers, with little research having been done so far. “As well, clinicians often don’t know how to respond to disclosures, so put the information aside and work on other issues they are better trained to deal with.” Based in Wellington, Mosaic works with males of all backgrounds who have experienced sexual abuse at any time in their life. Richard says “Some male survivor groups only work with men who were abused as children. Some won’t work with queer men or trans-men but we work with all males. Except pre-teens, where we can support their families only.” Mosaic’s key therapeutic model is a peer support group in which everyone in attendance, including the group facilitators, are survivors of sexual abuse. “Mostly we just talk to guys and have a cup of tea,” says Richard. “Let them know they are in a safe place to talk about their lives, where they will not be judged or dismissed.” The organisation also provides advocacy support with counsellors, ACC, Police and GPs. Peer support groups for men, such as the one provided by Mosaic, are an important space for a survivor to talk about their experiences without having to explain what has happened to them. “They can see that other males have had similar outcomes to their lives,” says Richard. “They learn that they are not alone, as few realise how common it is. They are believed straight away without having to convince someone.” Stories about male survivors are not often featured in the media and Richard says he believes this is because it is not often a comfortable subject for many. Editors may be reluctant to run the stories when they are aware of them. A report released in December revealed that at least 15 percent of men in New Zealand have been abused. Richard says the story was only picked up by four media outlets, with one of these outlets not using the data they had received. “Men need to hear these stories so that they can learn that they are not alone,” he says “1 in 6 males in NZ has been abused, but only 10% of the population think it is common.” “So, 90% of males who have been abused may think they are a freak, a victim and that no-one will understand them. Then if they get a bad reaction when disclosing that reinforces this belief.” Tomorrow’s hui also aims to address how other groups around the country can better support queer, takatāpui and gender diverse men. MOSAIC Goes Rainbow
 Thursday 26 January, 6pm-9pm 
Evolve Youth Health Service
 Lvl 2, James Smith Building
 Corner Cuba   

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 25th January 2017 - 6:03pm

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