New? Update – November 3, 2006
It has been quite a while since my last update (in July), largely because life has been so busy. I'll make this one longer than usual - to make up for lost time - and try to do better in the future.
When I last wrote I was preparing to leave for England to do two events in Wiltshire: Healing the Healers 3 (a four day retreat for people who work with survivors) and Victims No Longer 3 (a recovery weekend for male survivors. Both events were impressive and moving. Steve Bevan of Survivors Swindon did a fine job of organising, and helped significantly to create a safe and relaxed atmosphere. The setting was beautiful, an old manor house a short walk from the quaint little village of Urchfont.
Healing the Healers 3 benefited greatly from the co-leadership of Alastair Hilton and Georgina Winkley. Al is the founder of First Step, the male survivor organisation in Leicester, England, and currently is a social worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Gina is the director of Mind Aberystwyth in North Wales. Their facilitation of the day that focused on activism was a highlight of the retreat. We had an equal mixture of newcomers and veterans of past events, women and men, and the mix included people from all parts of England, Scotland and Wales as well as Ireland, Norway, France, Switzerland, United States, New Zealand (and, of course, Cambodia). We were disappointed that the person who applied to come from Bangladesh didn't receive his visa permission until after the event - perhaps next time. Spirits, openness, and creativity ran high. Old connections were reinforced, and new ones were forged. We are looking forward to more of these events.
Victims No Longer 3 was equally powerful. It, too, had an international flavor, with men coming from different countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Netherlands, New Zealand and United States) and cultural backgrounds (Iraqi, Jewish, Spanish, Chinese-American, Irish, etc.). As in most of these workshops the participants also encompassed a wide range of backgrounds, class, age, education, occupation, sexual orientation, and type of abuse history. By the end of the weekend, none of these distinctions mattered: the men were brothers, deeply committed to their own recovery and the recovery of all the men who attended. As is true of all such workshops, the courage, strength, creativity, humor, and honesty of the participants moved me deeply and confirmed the reality that recovery is both real and important.
I am in awe of everyone who participated in HTH3 and VNL3. They restore my faith in humanity. The dates and places have not yet been set for future events in England (and possibly other parts of Europe). I'll let you know when they are.
The Wiltshire events were followed in short order by a visit to the Yorkshire coastal town of Scarborough. I had been asked by Pauline Carruthers to do a ribbon cutting to help celebrate the opening of the HOPE Survivors Centre there. Pauline is a star. She has worked ceaselessly (and with minimal support) to create this safe haven for survivors. For a long time she did it as a volunteer, and then was able to obtain funding from the lottery. Her dream became an impressive reality, and Pauline became the HOPE Centre's first paid employee. The event was a lively celebration, bringing together local people and friends and supporters from afar. Among the friends and colleagues who traveled to lend support and help celebrate Pauline's success were Ken Clearwater (of Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust in Christchuch, New Zealand), Ian Warwick (of Survivors Sheffield), Bob and Chris Balfour (of Survivors West Yorkshire in Bradford), Alastair Hilton (before returning to Cambodia), Tony Lawson (of Yorkshire Survivors in Leeds), Kat Colher (formerly of Colchester Rape Crisis Line, now working in Plymouth, Devon). Greetings came in from far-flung friends and colleagues, as well as a huge floral bouquet sent by Tony Magee (of First Step, Leicester). The event received good media coverage, and helped to contradict Pauline's feelings that she was isolated and off the radar. The Centre itself is a place of joy and healing. It should provide a model of what can be accomplished with energy and dedication despite limited resources. I encourage you to visit the HOPE Centre if you are ever in Yorkshire.
Not long after my return from England, we held our 16th annual male survivor weekend at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. These workshops have been different each year, but what they have in common is the power, emotional honesty, mutual support, courage, and (surprising to many) fun. This summer was no exception. The dates have been set for next year's event: August 17-19 2007.
Thom Harrigan was disappointed that his recovery from cardiac surgery didn't permit him to attend HTH3 or the Kirkridge weekend, but he has made great progress in his healing and intends to be at next year's events with greater energy and stamina. He greatly appreciates the cards and good wishes sent by the workshop participants.
Part of the reason that I have hesitated to write this update (a flimsy excuse, I know) is that the schedule of events for my March-April 2007 trip to Australia and New Zealand keep changing. At this writing things are still in the planning stages. I'll update the Events page each time a change occurs. Here's how things stand at present: Although the folks in Darwin, Northern Territory were unable to participate in offering workshops there, two other locations have signed on. Chris Robinson and his colleagues at the Men and Family Centre are organising a men's weekend and professional training on the East Coast of Australia accessible for people in New South Wales and Queensland. And Ken Clearwater invited me to Christchurch, New Zealand to offer a men's workshop and help to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (MSSAT). Check the Events page for dates and contact information for these events as well as those in Melbourne and Perth.
I just received confirmation of the dates (they arrived while I was writing this update) and locations of the two trainings I will be doing for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR). There will be two day long trainings on male victimization and recovery, one at each end of this very long state. The training in Eastern Pennsylvania is scheduled for Thursday, May 10 2007 in King of Prussia (about 20 miles from Philadelphia). The Western Pennsylvania training will be in Greenburg (about 35 miles from Pittsburgh) on Thursday, May 17 2007. For further information and registration contact Karla at PCAR: 717-728-9740 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Norwegian conference on male sexual victimization is still in the early planning stages for June 2007.
I was recently asked to speak at next summer's national conference of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) - probably to be held in Chicago in July 2007. I hope to be able to participate and lend my support to this impressive organization (see the Resources page for a link to the SNAP Web site). I'll let you know more as soon as I do.
Now to some other resources and interesting developments:
I have been in communication with a male survivor in Russia. He has experienced massive isolation, but, impressively, has not given in to it. He is communicating by e-mail with male survivors in other countries, and has received support from the staff of several rape crisis centers in Russia. And he created a Web site (bilingual in Russian and English). You can visit his Web site from the link on the Resources page of this site.
One of the many powerful participants in the men's weekend in England this summer was Stuart Howarth, who served a prison term for killing his step-father who abused him and his sisters. This is only one aspect of his amazing life. I am waiting for the delivery of my copy of his book, Please, Daddy, No. It was released in October by HarperCollins UK. It is available from Amazon. I expect it to be as impressive as the man himself. You can learn more on Stuart's Web site: http://www.stuarthowarth.co.uk/
A new group called Survivors Fellowship London was created by some of the men who participated in the 2005 male survivor weekend in the UK. They describe themselves as follows: "Survivors Fellowship London is a group of men who meet to share our experiences, our strength and our hope with each other, in the belief that it is possible to recover from the effects of childhood sexual abuse." You can learn more about them at their Web site: http://www.survivorsfellowshiplondon.org.uk/index.html
Another set of ripples emerged from the Pennsylvania male survivor weekends: A group of men in New York State have been meeting monthly in Syracuse as an informal support group to sustain the momentum they established at Kirkridge. Despite the long distances they must travel (coming from every corner of the state) they have been meeting since the summer of 2005. They recently expanded to include participants from New England. Similar groups have been started by participants in Pennsylvania and the Maryland/DC area. It is a recognition of the importance of effective peer support in recovery, and the value of combatting isolation. I encourage others to follow this example. All it takes is dedication and energy. Good luck to you all.
I was asked by a male survivor in Israel about available resources there. If anyone knows of any good ones, please let me know and I will pass on the information.
I recently experienced a computer problem that caused everything on my e-mail address book to disappear. Various computer geniuses were unable to retrieve the missing data. This is not as disasterous as it might sound, because I had most of the data backed up on an external hard drive. But I had been remiss in backing it up, and lost everything that has been added or changed since May 2006. So if you communicated with me since May or have changed your email address recently, please let me know so that I can make the necessary additions, deletions, and corrections: email@example.com Thanks. This shouldn't be a problem in the future (I hope), as I have put automatic backup in place.
And once again I'm going to remind you that our mailing address has undergone a slight change. The postal service changed the box number from P.O. Box 1146 to P.O. Box 301146. The rest of the address remains the same: The Next Step Counseling and Training, P.O. Box 301146, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 USA. Our office phone number remains 617-277-7172. Please make the change; the postal service tells us that they will cease forwarding mail sent to the old address.
Please take care of yourself through the holiday season and beyond.