Currently I facilitate a group for Male Survivors of Sexual Assault. This rare group has been running in my office every other week since May of 2008. It is a safe, supportive, and confidential place for men who have been sexually abused as children or adults to talk to other men with similar histories. It is a place where they can talk about what happened, how it impacts them today, and how to move on.
When I asked my group members why they attended, they responded with the following list of reasons and explanations of what they get out of coming to group:
- “I get things off my chest.”
- “I develop more coping skills.”
- “I have an avenue to share stories.”
- “I can interact and open up with others who can relate and understand.”
- “I realize I am not alone.”
- “It’s hard to talk about this, and feels good to compare notes.”
- “I like that I can discuss how I feel and how I deal with this.”
- “I can alleviate loneliness and exercise this demon.”
- “The group affirms that it wasn’t my fault.”
- “It is easier to ‘dump’ here – because I don’t have to limit or filter so much of what I say.”
- “What happens in here is so unique – even the conversation in the waiting room before group, with the same group members, is different. Once we are in here and that door closes, something changes. It becomes sacred.”
- “I feel better.”
At times I begin group with a specific question or topic of conversation, but usually I let the group evolve on its own. Despite so many different theories and methods of group practice, I have always run groups in this open fashion, as I firmly believe that if you put people in a room together, they will find what they need to talk about, and it always defines itself and unfolds naturally.
Keep in mind that, as stressful or scary as it might feel to consider participating in this group, it can be extremely powerful and life-changing. It is often very difficult for me to get men to show up for the first time. Just remember that every man who comes to group was the new guy once, and they all know what that was like, and they will be supportive and respect your boundaries. I encourage you just to show up and listen. Say nothing if you don’t want to. Just be here with us. You will feel the difference in yourself.
I am careful to interview each group member before he participates to be sure that he is appropriate for group, and group is appropriate for him. Due to the sensitive nature of this subject matter, prospective members must either be referred by me or by their own individual therapist. A prospective member who is not already in therapy must participate in at least one individual session with me to be evaluated before attending. Referrals are welcome.