The Sandusky trial is starting and with it will come an upsurge of media attention, including reactions based on rape myths, gender stereotypes, and the stigmatizing of trauma survivors. These messages can be understandably alienating and even retraumatizing for survivors. I appreciate very much the Twitter reminder I have seen from Male Survivor:
High profile cases like this can indeed be triggering. Not just that this happened or could happen, a trusted adult sexually violated children. Trauma survivors and those of us who work in this field are all too aware of that reality. Big profile cases can also serve as a reminder that we live in a rape culture.
Rape is not just about one person’s choice to violate and harm another. It is a tactic of a larger power struggle. It exists in the context of a culture that privileges some groups of people and oppresses others. It is a tool and tactic used to maintain that status quo. Rape is after all, about power and control, not sexual desire. Minimizing rape, hiding rape, putting the responsibility for rape and/or preventing rape on the victims all serve to enable rape. This in turn keeps the power imbalance intact.
Will justice be done? This is the question trauma survivors grapple with when thinking about pressing charges. Contending with the legal system can be an out of control and overwhelming experience. Regardless of the legal outcome, healing is possible. Sometimes speaking your truth, no matter how it is received, can be part of that process. Not every survivor needs to take the same route to healing; any choice you make regarding the legal system is valid. We can focus on healing, individually and collectively, Male Survivor’s executive director reminds us in this letter with its focus on healing:
Regardless of the verdict, the outcome alone will not heal the harm these survivors have endured. Long after the final gavel has sounded and the news trucks and cameras have moved onto the next scandal, some of these men will still be hurting. All of them will continue to need our support, care, and strength for years to come as they come to grips with what was done to them and undertake the difficult work of healing from it.
The courage and resolve of each of these brave men should be an inspiration to every one of us. By standing with them in spirit, by clearly saying that every survivor of sexual abuse deserves compassion and support instead of ridicule and demonization, by showing with our words and deeds that healing IS possible for EVERY survivor we can empower those who were powerless for far too long.
By helping these young men, we will be helping heal ourselves as well.
What can we do? Those of us who are able can take this opportunity, this time of increased visibility, to speak out and address the larger context of rape in order to dispel the myths and support the survivors. Stop It Now! has a compiled a great resource: FAQs for Sandusky Trial Opening.
We can also, as always, go about the work of healing. More information and resources especially for male survivors are available here:
With an emphasis on men finding their own pace, 1in6 helps men educate themselves about sexual abuse, reflect on their situations, find answers to their questions and explore their options in complete privacy.
MaleSurvivor is dedicated to preventing, healing and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through online support, Weekends of Recovery, education, advocacy and activism.