Updated Wed, May 14, 2014 12:14 pm
Thom Wendt was sexually abused when he was 3 years old. Dan Adams was a 7 year old when it happened. Capp Whitney doesn't remember when the abuse started but he knows that it stopped when he was 13.
The three men are examples of many boys and men who are sexually abused. According to Howard Fradkin, the co-founder of MaleSurvivor, one in six boys have been sexually abused before the age of 16, and one in eight rape victims is a man.
Sexual abuse of boys and men is a topic people don't talk often about. On April 17, victims and Athens community members created a space to address male sexual abuse.
At the Athens Community Center they watched the documentary Boys and Men Healing, a Big Voice Pictures production that tells the stories of men who were sexually abused.
"It's an amazing film that so clearly illustrates the many challenges that men have," Fradkin said. The psychologist himself is a victim of sexual abuse. In 1994 he helped founding the non-profit organization MaleSurvivor.
He believes that healing happens in community. To provide help to affected men MaleSurvivor offers recovery weekends, community awareness events, training and education.
In a discussion following the screening Fradkin and the other victims highlighted the importance of speaking out.
"The biggest thing that helps people to heal is to be able to speak the truth about what was done to them," Fradkin explained.
To speak out loud and to address the lies their abusers have told them is also what helped the three men who shared their abuse experience at the event. It's a scary topic, Whitney said.
"When boys are abused people don't talk about it." It would be difficult for a man to admit that he had sex with another man as a boy, he explained.
"There's just such a stigma with that."
Adams explained that the society sees men as the strong, the macho. They would need to be able to defend themselves.
According to Fradkin MaleSurvivor works on spreading awareness that men get abused in our society. "Many people still believe it's not possible," he said. But there would be no gender divide. "Men are victims, women are victims," Fradkin said.
But healing is possible. That was the message every speaker had that evening.
"I'm here to show people that you can deal with it, you can put it behind you and move on and be successful in your life," Adams explained.
He also expressed his hope that the media would cover more of stories of men dealing successfully with sexual abuse.
"You see the tragedy but you don't see that people can get pass the tragedy in the long run."
WOUB Public Media and the Scripps College of Communication hosted the event as part of an awareness campaign. It was moderated by Tom Hodson, director and general manager of WOUB Public Media.