On October 9, 2014, the University of Toronto’s Men’s Issues Awareness Society hosted a talk by Lynne MacDonell, who spoke about sexual abuse of men and boys, in particular abuse of boys within the penal system. The talk was sponsored by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE, pronounced café). CAFE is a non-profit charity that seeks to address issues of gender inequality in society, with a focus at this time on issues faced by men and boys. The event went well, despite a couple of setbacks beforehand, such as a police presence being required and a venue change.
MacDonell is mental health practitioner, therapist, and men’s support group leader. She is also part of the team that runs MaleSurvivor.org, which is an online support group dedicated to men who are victims of sexual assault. They offer resources, access to health care professionals, and recovery programs for their patients. MacDonell spoke about her time in the mental health field and how she found that, while working in an addiction treatment centre, the one thing that affected the male patients the most was childhood sexual abuse. She sought to understand why this was the case. She also worked with women in this capacity, but eventually realized that female victims had plenty of places to which they could be referred to for further treatment. As one would expect, there weren’t any available to men.
Some of the facts she provided were unsettling, to say the least. Approximately one out of every six men has been sexually abused in their lifetime. It has been reported that 90% of sexual exploitation incidents within juvenile facilities are perpetrated by female guards against young males, according to Josh Vorhees in the National Post. Or if you prefer something more hard-hitting, have a look at this report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Studies, published in 2012. Specifically, go to page 23 and see table 14. An estimated 92.4% of youth who reported staff sexual misconduct said they were victimized by female facility staff. This sort of behaviour is wrong on so many levels. These women are in positions of authority and they are abusing that authority while they’re supposed to be ensuring a safe environment for the boys in the penal system. If that isn’t rape, I don’t know what is, despite what certain members of academia would like us to believe.
MacDonell also outlined ways in which men cope with their victimization, such as internalizing their problems or believing that they aren’t true victims because they’re men. She pointed out what happens to men who come forward and seek help. If these men aren’t flat-out denied the help they want, then they are told that sexual assault against men is simply impossible by virtue of their being male, or that the institution they have gone to doesn’t know to how to help them. MacDonell believes that the social atmosphere surrounding male victims will change in time, even if people are only just starting to catch on. After all, nothing lasts forever.
CAFE, of course, is famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) for the protests that have been known to accompany their events, most notably in November 2012 when Warren Farrell came to the University of Toronto and again in April 2013 when Paul Nathanson and Kathy Young came to the same campus. Thankfully, this event proceeded without incident. There was one attendee who walked in with two of her friends and, based on the way she presented herself, seemed like the sort of person who was going to cause a scene, but they left about 10 minutes into MacDonell’s talk. I must admit that I was disappointed by that. When you see the video footage from the previously mentioned events as much as I have, part of you eventually starts to wonder if it could happen in reality for a third time. I would like to experience it for myself, just for the sake of it, but I think the esteemed VIPs have decided that being recorded singing about crying rivers over male suicide victims isn’t the best idea in the world.
Ultimately, at the end of the talk, the big question I had for myself (and I suppose I should’ve asked MacDonell this in person) is why do we, as a society, have such a hard time admitting to ourselves that men can be victims and women can be criminals? The thing is, we know both of these things are possible. Even the staunchest, most rabid, misandric feminists know this. But even more moderate people who don’t associate with any kind of ideological group have a hard time admitting either of those things without coming up with some kind of excuse. To my original question, well, I don’t have an answer. I wish I did, but I don’t. I only take solace in the knowledge that there are people like Lynne MacDonell out there giving male victims the help they need and that there is a little bit the rest of us can do too. It’s why I took time out of my Thursday evening. I hope more of us decide to do the same in future.
You can view the talk in its entirety here, courtesy of StudioBrule:
Originally posted on Men’s Human Rights Ontario (mhro.ca).