Male victims of sexual abuse support group launches awareness campaign

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Male victims of sexual abuse support group launches awareness campaign
(Photo : Courtesy)

A local support group for men who have fallen victim to sexual abuse is reminding Quebecers that there are people and services available to help guide them through difficult times.
The Soutien aux hommes agressés sexuellement – Estrie (SHASE) launched an awareness campaign on Tuesday. According to the organization’s president, Alexandre Tremblay-Roy, the group remains a little-known option to men across the province.
“It’s so taboo that people don’t usually want to come out for help, because they think people will judge them, so we’re trying to demystify this,” said Tremblay-Roy.
The campaign is geared more towards the Eastern Townships because that’s where the group’s headquarters is located, but Tremblay-Roy hopes to reach men all over Quebec. He wants to de-stigmatize the narrative surrounding male victims of sexual abuse.
“I think this is the first official campaign for men who are victims of sexual assault,” Tremblay-Roy said. “The message from the government is very general and not specific to men, so we wanted to take a step forward.”
SHASE has been around for a decade, serving about 125 men a year. While women undoubtedly outnumber men in terms of sexual abuse victims, Tremblay-Roy explained, the number of sexually abused men is also quite substantial.
In Quebec, one in six men are victims of sexual violence, assault or abuse before the age of 18, he added, and about 400,000 men province-wide. According to Trembla-Roy, 40 per cent of victims are abused by women and 60 per cent by men.
Quebecers are starting to reach out more to SHASE, Martin Waisman told The Record. Waisman, an English-speaker who works for the organization, is seeing an increase in numbers thanks to better government funding and a stronger outreach program.
“It’s mostly to tell people we’re here and we want to help, but also we are available and we want to demystify men asking for help,” he said. “It isn’t an easy thing, because masculinity makes it so that men are supposed to be strong.”
Tearing down toxic masculinity is one of the main goals at SHASE, Waisman continued, and explaining to men that opening up about their past trauma isn’t a sign of weakness. Waisman said as part of his job he often provides psycho-social services.
He meets with male victims one-on-one in an effort to define their abusive experiences and eventually discover how it impacted their lives and relationships. Waisman teaches men about tell-tale abusive behaviour and the meaning of consent.
The men he speaks to often bottle their emotions, avoiding any conversation regarding past sexual abusive trauma. The idea is to help them move forward by creating a place of belonging, somewhere people can speak up and feel safe, he added.
“It’s about helping them have a new contract of how to deal with life in which they feel safe, in which they can express their emotions and in which they can express their limits and be accepted,” said Waisman.

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