Sexual abuse holds a special challenge for men, since the psychological act of admitting our own vulnerability is a source of shame added to the already growing pressure on our self-esteem that mounts in the aftermath of abuse.

For many of the men I interviewed, when the pain of secrecy outweighed the risk of opening up, or when opening up seemed less risky than before, then the willingness to see themselves as having been victims opened the door to tremendous healing and, paradoxically, greater personal strength.

For healing to begin, men must be able to see themselves as the hurt young boys they once were. When I taped an interview with Donna Jenson, a survivor and workshop leader, she called this phase “victimization,” and this informs the first section of Stories of Silence. Witnessing other men acknowledge this basic truth of childhood can create the psychological breathing room for which many men still yearn in order to stop blaming themselves for an adult’s mistreatment. As psychologist Mic Hunter points out in the film, “you weren’t willing, and this has harmed you.” This hurdle jumped, many men begin to feel the freedom to delve more deeply into their own experience, and what they find usually surprises them.


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