Boys and Men Healing ~ and the Oprah show (OS Archive - 2010)

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."

~Kathy Barbini

 I hope we all can stay and listen to the stories of these men, as much as we may want to turn away.  

" 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 

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. 

Not one. 

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. 



 RATE: 26

NOVEMBER 9, 2010 4:50PM

I saw the show and too felt it difficult to watch.. but this was a wonderful thing you blogged about.
Yes had to talk about but a huge NEED to he heard.
Rated with hugs
Thanks Linda, this was also incredibly hard to stick with long enough to write....but there is a huge need to listen. and speak out.
Thank you for bringing awareness to this uncomfortable, but rampant issue. I had a college boyfriend who had been victimized as a child by a neighbor. When he finally spoke up years later, his parents didn't believe him. The initial abuse and the later rejection affected every part of his life, personal and professional.
It is tough...I have boys...
I truly feel this is how the nation changes, when we allow men to feel, be truthful.
JT thank you for this. I will definitly check this out. I unfortunately found out about my ex-husbands abuse only as we were in the throws of divorce. So much made sense then. So sad....but its no excuse for what he perpetrated. What a tough subject. Thank you for this.
Yes a subject that needs to be heard. Thank you dearly. All abuse is ill and must be seen, heard, shouted about. For then it might have a chance to be
Thank you for this post. I am continually amazed at how huge this 
horrible problem is.
rated with sadness
trilogy: Never an excuse....ever. But such a shame and waste to have such rampant secrecy and lack of aid. Until now...
Well done. I think the more we break the silence on abuse, the farther we can go to acknowledge it's life long effects and challenge those with healing and closure.
You're right, tg...and thanks for coming by.
I really appreciate that, Romantic--
Didn't know any of that, Bonnie, I just had to write about this, it wouldn't let me go...
I'm not sure what makes me more angry: that the abuse occurred in the first place and went unpunished or that it requires a documentary for us to address it when society seems unwilling to accept responsibility at all. Excellent post. Sad and difficult subject.
Good post on an important topic. I've known a couple male friends who are victims of abuse and you're right, the lack of support in our society plus the pressure for men to be stoic leaves these victims with few places to turn.
I missed the first one, but have the date for the second one written down. I can't speak for a woman, and would never try. But for a man, you're dealing in his masculinity which in turn deals with their manhood and confidence in being a man. I would love to see the documentary!
Thanks for this well written and very important post, Just thinking! Difficult, but necessary to air this. rated
I did not see the show but I have spent 11 years dealing with a son who was sexually assaulted when he was not much more than a tot. his, and in fact our, path to healing has been long and difficult at times. 

Ours came complete with a fight with the state over whether or not he needed counseling and how much of it he needed. I "won" that particular round and my son will receive all the counseling that HE needs until he dies. As will his twin sister who was also assaulted.
JT I watched the show as well and will watch the 2nd part coming up. One of the most poignant moments to me was when the men held the photo of themselves at the age the abuse started. It broke my heart. 

This is important. As I read this I couldn't help feeling a flash of pride. I work at an art advocate. I am constantly having to "justify" the arts and make appeals for its survival in the schools and community. The work your friend has done is one of those justifications. The arts communicate what must be expressed to save us all.
Terrific post, JT. I saw Oprah's show and was very emotional, but could not stop watching. I have long felt a level of pity for men who are taught to deal with almost everything privately, so as not to appear emotional. So they must stuff it all, no matter how heinous.

Tyler Perry, with all his admirable success, has done nothing greater for his fellow man than to reveal his own horrible abuse. I believe Oprah has done her most magnificent good work to date with this one.

I was thinking about this while driving home today, no particular reason, about some gay men I know who were sexually abused as boys. And how being unable to talk about either thing makes this stuff down deeper. I know that being molested doesn't make you gay, or that gay men are more likely to molest. I just imagine that having a healthy sexual identity is hard enough, without having the shame and stigma attached and thus not dealth with when someone is sexually abused.
I had no idea there were no rape centers for men. That is just wrong.
Thank you so so much for taking the time and reading everyone,....I'll respond more soon : )
Thanks Sheila, it does take breaking the silence first...
cartouche: It's so heartwrenching and horrid, isn't it? so so wrong. At least there are people willing to do what it takes by making films, using the arts....
Glad you came by Grace, I know survivors personally too, it's so important to give men a safe place to come to...
Not one center IS outrageous!!!!
scanner: you're right, the extra layers of shame when it is a male being raped...
Thanks Muse...I appreciate your coming by.
Mrs.Raptor: How tough a story, I'm glad you've been willing to fight for these kids...there's just too many of them uncared for, or no one knows. Boys keep quiet so often. Best wishes to you...
joy: Welcome stranger! : ) That part was the most touching to me as well....
I didn't see the show but will tape the 2nd installment. So many lives have been damaged by sexual abuse and it is time ALL who need it get help. By witnessing their healing, we too lend ourselves to helping.

Thank you for writing about this and telling us about your friends. I will use this information and pass it on.
"There is no rape crisis center for male abuse victims in this country." I am completely horrified by this statement, it's as if we're living in the dark ages. As horrible as it was for you to write I'm grateful that you wrote this post, I had no idea. 

Even if boys and men don't become violent offenders, they deserve to be protected and to heal as much as girls and women.
mime: you're right to feel proud...and Kathy teaches various classes on filmmaking to kids-- it's so important to offer a variety of arts in schools!
Lezlie: Thank you so much for bringing up Tyler Perry!! I was so remiss in forgetting to include him, I've updated-- he has forwarded this issue to the forefront by being willing to speak out...and he was integral to the Oprah show last Friday.
I think I understand what you're saying....the pain of unsaid, un-dealt with, deep feelings, especially from horrific experiences must be agonizing, much less the sexual identity confusion that may come up for straight men, or not living authentically for a closeted gay is heartbreaking all around the issues of sexual abuse. 

This country needs to wake up to how widespread this issue is, and how far-reaching the problems radiating out from this are....
kate: glad you came by and read...this topic is so intense, and necessary!
diana, JD: Isn't it just outrageous?? I was shocked when I was told that...hopefully this will change very soon. I think this will become a much more visible issue moving forward... 
Thank you, thank you mypsyche, l'heure....glad you came by-- it IS time for all to get healing and protection...
Thanks everyone who came by for sticking with such an intense topic, I appreciate your input as well....
Thank you for bringing more awareness to this terrible matter. I am blown away at the extent of the abuse that has been hidden for so long.
Thanks Just Thinking.
Raging all over our world is right.
Glad to see you, Fay...isn't it shocking that this is so widespread??? Then I think of my men around here and wonder if they'd ever tell a horrible secret if they were told their parents would be killed if they guys probably wouldn't tell and they'd suffer in silence..or no doubt, act out wildly inappropriately. : (
Kim: It's frightening how 'raging all over', there is a huge epidemic going on I fear, and not until the secrecy is shed can these guys get help BEFORE they turn self-destructive, or into monsters, or into just sad shells of people...

Again, I so appreciate y'all sticking with an intense read....thank you, thank you.
Thank you! We are so moved by what you wrote, so very touched..thank you for not only honoring our work, but having the insight and sensitivity to see beyond our everyday lives, (the endless cooking, keeping up with our boys, driving to school, bills, and everyday concerns, and, and, and..) and really understanding the importance of the message of the film and how it impacts all of us. By sharing and sparking this wonderful dialogue through the power of writing, it's a powerful way to take the veil off the denial. We all need to speak for those who aren't capable. 

Thank you for your mother-heart, and for all these concerned and caring responses. Kathy

I have never been able to resist weighing in on this subject as a Gay man, because we so often get unfairly blamed for being the perpetrators. I have never been the victim of sexual abuse, but I do understand the difficult healing process from my experience of being a victim of violence. 

"Man Up!" "Be a Man!" That's what we are so often greeted with instead of compassion or understanding, as if hurting or pain is not allowed among the male species.

As for the secrecy and denial, I blame much of that on our inability as a culture to deal with sexuality in general and homosexuality specifically. Imagine how difficult it must be for a man or boy who has been sexually molested to admit that it has happened in a culture that won't even allow discussion about healthy loving male relationships, sexual or otherwise. Pushing it out of sight, denying its existence, makes abuse much more possible.
It's such an important topic. People often assume that it happens only to females. rated
yes, men have suffered this, i suffered it and only began treatment for
this inner rage in my late 40's ... i still have to go back to deep sympathy for women who have been raped, and their male aggressors
and others on the sideline regard it as just "rough sex" ... rated ... lew
I know more about this topic than most. It is a hidden, rarely discussed ill-hundreds of times more common than most think.
Dr.Spudman: Exactly why I sat with an upset stomach for days to write this post--- something I didn't feel knowledgeable enough to write about...I had to, sexual abuse of boys is so much more prevalent than known, and we need to speak up, speak out!
Kathy: How kind of you to join OS to come say a few words...your work is so powerful and greatly needed -- you are one fine human, Sister.
spiritman: I'm glad you're weighing in--and you're so right here, the extra issue that comes up for these victims is the ongoing internal question of sexual identity...for too many, the adult reaction can be criminal aggressiveness--without help, these men cannot process their nightmare, not to mention process and find a healthy sexual identity!! The untreated lashing out of these men we've all seen happen everywhere, but the label of "sexually abused as a child" may not be attached to the perpetrator, and by then, who wants to give attention or care to the former boy, now criminal man, for fear of giving an excuse?
Glad you came by and thanks, Caroline...
Betamale: Never should female victims be forgotten or pushed aside, but these boys should never be ignored either....and they have been.
oops, clicked too fast, thanks for coming by, lew : )
An important post, and educational. My brother revealed to me within the past year that he was molested as a child by our parish priest--he held on to that secret for 40 years. I am glad to see this.
sophieh: I'm sorry to is what usually happens I fear, I too am close to someone who never told--and who now is 60 and still dealing with unconscious ramifications.
I'm glad you came by...
Thanks for letting me know about this program.

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