What's New? Update – May 14, 2004

Well, there’s so much going on that I decided not to wait until all pending matters are resolved and reportable - so this is an interim progress report. Despite the terrible events in many parts of the world, there is also progress and we have reasons for optimism.

More and more survivors of sexual abuse by clergy have been speaking out (and standing together with their numerous allies) to challenge the voices of denial and misdirection, individual and institutional arrogance. Many of their efforts have been successful. Roman Catholic dioceses and the hierarchies of other denominations have settled lawsuits for multiple millions of dollars. Abusing priests and other clergy have been jailed and/or relieved of their ministries. Caring people and groups, clergy as well as laity, have spoken up and committed their efforts toward establishing zero tolerance policies toward clergy abuse, and to preventing future incidents of clergy child abuse.

More and more survivor organizations and Web sites are being established, including a number of groups for male survivors.

I keep receiving letters and e-mails from survivors, their partners, family, and friends, telling me of the reality of their recovery. There is ample evidence that not only is there life after abuse, but that life can be healthy and satisfying.

There is other good news closer to home.

The new edition of Victims No Longer is out - finally - and it looks good. It is significantly bigger than the first edition, coming in at over 400 pages (if the type size were as large as in the first edition, it would likely be about 600 pages long). There is much in it that is new, and the design and cover of the book are excellent. And the initial response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m pleased and vastly relieved.

But the book’s release doesn’t mean that my life has calmed down. The publisher set up a series of radio interviews. I’ve already done interviews with WHAM (Rochester, New York) and WQUB (Chicago). Others scheduled in the next month include WGAB (Cheyenne, Wyoming), WSB (Atlanta, Georgia), the Jack Roberts Show (Los Angeles), and the Michael Dresser Show ( a nationally broadcast show based, I believe, in Chicago), and more to come. I don’t know when these shows will be aired, as some are live and others are taped. I may even have some of the cities wrong - but it’s what I was told.

Speaking of books, I’d like to offer you some suggestions:

- I recently revisited the powerful (and sadly under-appreciated) In Cabin Six: An Anthology of Poetry by Male Survivor of Sexual Abuse, edited by Jill Kuhn. Treat yourself to a copy of this moving collection.
- I finished writing the foreword to a new edition of Father’s Touch, the memoir by Canadian survivor Donald D’Haene. Agreeing to write the foreword meant that I had to reread the book. It struck me as even more powerful on second reading.
- Richard Hoffman, author of another brilliant and important Half the House: A Memoir, recently released a book of poetry, Without Paradise. If you haven’t read Richard’s work (he also wrote the foreword to Leaping upon the Mountains), you’re in for a treat.
- Novelist Dennis McFarland’s latest work, Prince Edward, may be his best work yet. His understanding and presentation of boyhood sexual victimization (one of many important subjects addressed in the novel) is presented with clarity and sensitivity.

Some news about The Awareness Center: The Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (see the link to their Web site on the Resources page):

Vicki Polin, the Director, has put out the word that The Awareness Center is in serious financial difficulty, and may have to cease operation. The details are posted on their Web site. If you are interesting in offering suggestions, help, or a donation, please contact her.

Vicki generously sent out an e-mailing about the new edition of Victims No Longer. Part of her letter follows:
"I remember the first time I picked up Mike Lew's Book "Victims No
Longer".  It was ... right after it went to press for the
first time.  I was working at an organization called VOICES in Action,
and we received a review copy to review for the newsletter.  I
remember opening the package, and reading it from cover to cover.  It
was one of those books that I actually went out and bought for my own
personal library.  There's not that much room on my desk, but since
(1988), a copy of "Victims No Longer" has always found a place on it. 
Mike Lew's book has remained a reference/guide book for me to
understanding the issues and ramifications male survivors (adults and
children) endure during their healing process and throughout their
lives.  I don't usually say this, yet "Victims No Longer is a book
everyone on The Awareness Center's mailing list should buy.  It's not
just for male survivors. It's a book for therapists, rabbis, family
members and friends of male survivors should read. 
I still strongly advocate that
everyone buys Mike Lew's revised book. 
Mazel Tov Mike for a job well done! "

I thank Vicki for her support.

In that letter she also criticizes my use of the phrase “sexual child abuse” in place of the more commonly used “child (or childhood) sexual abuse”. She writes that she thinks that saying sexual child abuse “almost appears that the emphasis was on children being ‘sexual’ versus children being sexually abused.” Since I know that words have power to hurt as well as inform, I think it may be helpful to explain my use of the phrase as I did to Vicki.
I use the term “sexual child abuse” quite consciously. I believe that it in no way implies sexuality or responsibility on the part of the child victim. Using this phrasing places the emphasis where it belongs: that this is one manifestation of the abuse of children. That is, there are many forms of child abuse; this one is sexual in nature, but should be viewed as part of a larger spectrum of the abuse of children. Yes, it is also one form of sexual abuse, but I continue to believe that we must focus our attention on the many ways that we maltreat children.

I know that Vicki and some others disagree with my interpretation, but I stand by it. I hope and trust that our differences of opinion about language will not interfere with our mutual respect and support.

Plans are underway for a two day conference on male survivor issues to be held in Galway, Ireland September 25-26 2004. As far as I know, this will be an exciting first for Ireland. The conference is sponsored by MASC. For more information, you can link to them from the Resources page. I was asked to be a presenter, and I intend to be there for this Irish “first”. Among the other likely presenters are Colm O’Gorman of Ireland, Ian Warwick of Survivors Sheffield, and Bob Balfour of Survivors West Yorkshire. I hope to see you there.

The annual international conference of Voices in Action will be held in Minneapolis July 15-18, 2004. This year’s conference theme is “A Global Vision: Many Roads, Many Cultures”. I will be doing a keynote address and a male survivor gathering at the conference. Voices has long been a crucial organization for survivors of incest. Visit their Web site for more information.

Speaking of international, we keep adding nations to mix of people attending the June and July events in Yorkshire, England this summer. Our current mini-United Nations includes England, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand, USA, and possibly Ireland and Australia. There are only a couple of slots left, so if you are thinking of attending either event, contact the organizer, Bob Balfour as soon as possible: survivorswy@mac.com

In early June I’ll be participating in what promises to be a very interesting 5-day event: “The International Online Child Sexual Victimization Symposium”. About 150 professionals from many parts of the world have been invited to participate. They represent diverse disciplines, including sex offender treatment, victim services, academia, criminal justice, law enforcement, probation and parole, media, mental health, and education. The Symposium is hosted by the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). The results of the conference will be published in a monograph. I’ll tell you more about this after the event.

There’s more to tell, but it will have to wait for another time. I must get to other work. I wish you all the best.

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