On Friday, November 5th, the Oprah show dealt with a tough topic, airing Part One of a two-part show: two hundred men were on stage, including filmmaker Tyler Perry, all standing together to speak out about having suffered sexual abuse as boys. The tales were horrific. The men's stories needed to be heard-- but it was very difficult to stay and watch the whole show.
I did stay.
I felt I had to stay and listen, to these men who were speaking out...
....and I stayed for my friend, Kathy. She and her husband have stayed and listened, and filmed, and spoken out for these men, for years.
When I met Kathy Barbini over two years ago, she mentioned that she and her husband, Simon, were documentary filmmakers. At the time we met, she was in the middle of putting together their current film, Boys and Men Healing. Their company is called Big Voice Pictures.
The film is about the difficult and taboo subject of sexual abuse of boys. It is partly about the ongoing ramifications for these boys and men, for their families, as well as for our society, when abuse is untreated-- or unaccepted-- in the myriad ways that sexual abuse towards a child, especially a boy, can be.
The film is also about healing.
"Unlike many films about male victimization, this one does not dwell on the damage and become...depressing about the harm sexual abuse does to its victims....This work gives men a model of strength and recovery...and provides a good message of hope and healing."
~Ken Singer, LCSW, author of "Evicting the Perpetrator: A Male Survivor's Guide to Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse," on the film Boys and Men Healing
Big Voice Pictures also is behind the documentary, The Healing Years, a film about girls and women's sexual abuse issues and the healing path. The Healing Years has been distributed far and wide, is highly acclaimed, and has been shown on PBS for years.
"This documentary does the most difficult, almost impossible feat: it admits the sick and cruel past. In doing so, it becomes therapy for a healthy future. This is an exhibition of abundant courage and great heart. Thank you."
~Maya Angelou, on the film The Healing Years
Boys and Men Healing features three men, including one who advocates for another male abuse survivor on death row, who were all abused as boys. They have each transformed their negative childhood experiences into successful lives, bringing a message of healing and hope to this film, and to any survivor: that there is hope, there is healing from having suffered sexual abuse.
As Kathy and I got to know each other, I heard more of what drew her to this path.
"I make documentaries, I am a mother with a son. That's why I do this. Sometimes this work is terribly difficult, but I felt Called....
....and now I know these men. Once I did meet them, began to know them, and I saw how suffering rape and abuse as children colored their whole lives, how could I not speak out? Not use my gifts?"
"I think we give a hopeful message in this film as well, that there can be healing. Lives can be saved."
I hope we all can stay and listen to the stories of these men, as much as we may want to turn away.
"....it becomes therapy for a healthy future" indeed...
The ramifications of sexual abuse of boys in this country are large, and they're largely unknown.
Imagine the pain of any internally-tortured man: trucker, policeman, CEO, or chef in a restaurant, who has been sexually abused. He likely is untreated, unhealed, possibly filled with rage, bitterness, and/or numbness because of the shame and fear of what happened to him as a boy. He might feel he has nowhere to turn.
Imagine an untreated coach, teacher, or soldier....or a man with too many burdens and not enough coping skills. One who is raging internally, externally, and all over their world.
Maybe raging all over our world.
At the death-penalty sentencing this November of the psychopathic murderer of the Petit family in CT, a lawyer for defendent Steven Hayes revealed that his client had been sexually abused as a child. It is thought that possibly 75% or more of the men on death row are victims of abuse.
While there is never an excuse for any heinous criminal behavior, there needs to be an avenue for these victims before they self-destruct, or turn into monsters....or merely live a half-life of numbness.
"Further study is needed on the role of abuse in capital cases."
~ a 2004 ACLU report at deathpenalty.org
We need to understand so much more.
Imagine being a male victim who is actually brave enough to want to reach out and tell, only to call a rape crisis line and be told, "We don't deal with that here."
There is no rape crisis center for male abuse victims in this country.
The Boys and Men Healing film debuted last year at the International MaleSurvivor Conference in New York City. Two of the men interviewed by Kathy in the film were on Oprah's stage during this show.
The Big Voice Pictures website is also listed under the resources section on Oprah's website, and below.
Thank you, Oprah, for being willing to be groundbreaking, to give voice to a difficult, crucial topic to discuss.
But my bigger Thank Yous ! -- and my utmost admiration-- go to my friends, Kathy Barbini and Simon Weinberg: parents, filmmakers, and regular good folks. Thank you for being willing to change your lives together, then and now, when you were called upon to use your gifts.
To use a Big Voice.
It's working. The secrecy surrounding this form of abuse is beginning to be thrown off.
Boys and men are healing.
Part Two of Oprah's show on male sexual abuse survivors aired Friday, 12 November 2010.
NOVEMBER 9, 2010 4:50PM