Men! Let’s Talk – A report of our first men’s event “What Would You Do If……” men’s breakfast.
As we prepared for the men’s breakfast my thoughts focused on the guests who will be attending. My heart soaks not only for the survivors but also the others victims; the husbands, parents, siblings, friends known as the secondary survivors. As I ponder on various scenarios I think about the husband who looks at his wife differently after she has been assaulted. He is angry, very angry. He criticizes and blames her for the assault. The marriage is in serious trouble. I think about the young girl who was viciously raped by her father or stepfather. Charges are brought against the rapist yet the court is lacking evidence and sends the girl back into the home environment. What will happen to her now? What is she thinking? What is her family thinking? How is life different for all? I think about the sister who sees a drastic change in her brother and doesn’t know why. Her bother faces darkness every day at school. He’s full of fear, shame and hopelessness. The sister doesn’t know her brother is contemplating suicide. How can she help him?
The purpose of the men’s breakfast was to get the dialog started. It was to bring awareness to the men in our community of the effect sexual crimes have on not only the victim, but also on the family and the local community. What should you do or not do, say or not say. Well the men’s breakfast was a success! Men from all demographics and cultural diversities attended the breakfast. The attendance was moderate but mighty. The panelists were just as diverse as the guests.
The attendees were first served a full breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, grits, fruits, drinks, etc. After breakfast the panel discussion commenced. We were not sure how engaged the men would be in the topic but felt the urgency to have this dialog among men after all, do men know what to do if someone they love is attacked? Do men understand the effects of rape? Our concerns were unwarranted because the men were very engaged mostly due to the powerful panelists. The panelist consisted of two survivors, two therapists and two attorneys.
As the men dialoged a few discussions stood out. One attendee said he didn’t know why he was there because the subject matter did not apply to anyone in his life. It was explained that the information he was receiving would give him an awareness and understanding of the challenges of a survivor and just may benefit him in the future. How would that gentleman know it does not apply to his life if these crimes are hidden and the victim remains silent? Most sexual assault attacks go unreported because most victims mask the attacks. This allows the perpetrator to feel comfortable and continue assaulting the victim. In one case a young lady was pimped out from middle school through high school. She masked what was happening to her every day. No one knew. But her case is not unusual in our neighborhood.
Another conversation was started by a pastor who counseled one of his church members who was assaulted. The pastor did what he thought would help according to his spiritual training. But this church member soon began to spiral down in their life and the pastor was not sure what to do. One of the panelists, Dr. OW gave some excellent advice to help this pastor and church member. However this advice meant going beyond the church to an outside counseling professional who would not only help the victim but the family as well. That conversation opened up another crucial point made by an attendee that the corporate church community sees itself as all powerful within itself. On the average religious establishments do not welcome outside assistance from professionals. Church leaders are trained in giving spiritual advice however some cases need professional counseling advice as well. In those cases the church is unequipped to diagnose and help the survivors who have faced tremendous trauma and have severe trauma effects. Stepping beyond ones area of training can be very detrimental to a survivor. Most survivors who have religion as a component in their life need both the spiritual and the professional to experience true recovery from trauma.
There were many other pertinent comments and questions during Q&A. The Q&A session of the breakfast went overtime. That is a good sign of the need to have more discussions like this. This men’s breakfast hopefully is the beginning of the dialog on this subject and will continue. Thank you to everyone who made our first men’s event a success.