What's New? Update – November 14, 2002

Hi Folks,

My original intention was to update this column every month or so, and additionally when something new and exciting called for sharing. But life has a way of getting away from us despite good intentions. I hope I'll be able to write more regularly in the future. Here's some of what has kept this column from being updated until now.


Plans are proceeding for a revised edition of Victims No Longer, but the release date has been postponed until 2004 to allow more changes and updates to be included. We want this 15th anniversary edition to be special. I've been hard at work on it, adding new chapters and sections on clergy and other institutional abuse, workshops,additional male survivor statements and new focus sections, updated bibliography and resource sections, a new preface and introduction, and some other surprises. I'm very pleased with the results so far. I'll let you know when I have more information.


Spending the month of September in Australia provided a series of extraordinary experiences. During my time in Oz, I met wonderful people, was again impressed by the power, courage, intelligence, creativity and dedication of survivors, people who care about them, and the professionals who work with them.

The people who organized (organised if you're Australian) the events were all amazing. They welcomed me, cared for me, worked ceaselessly to make these events a reality, and, in the process, moved from esteemed colleagues to valued friends. Consider this a public expression of my gratitude.

It was exciting to see the changes taking place in Australia in public awareness of issues of male victimization and recovery. The organizers forced the media to take notice and helped to increase public awareness of the issues. This meant that during my time there, I participated in two newspaper interviews, and was on five radio shows, including one national program and one on CAAMA, the Aboriginal radio network.

Here’s what led to my traveling to these parts of Australia I hadn’t visited before - another example of how often wonderful things happen when they are ready to, without conscious planning.

In 2001, Thom Harrigan and I conducted a series of trainings and workshops in Sydney and Melbourne, followed by my doing similar work in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland, New Zealand.

During the Sydney trainings I was extolling the importance of groups and workshops for male survivors. A participant at the two day professional training asked whether I ever offered trainings for professionals who want to facilitate such events. I said that I hadn’t. She asked why, and I replied that it had never occurred to me. She then asked if I would be interested, and I immediately said “Absolutely!” It turned out that the questioner, Lyn Shumack, is President of the Sydney branch of the Australian Psychological Society. She offered to act as a contact person to bring me back to Australia to conduct such trainings.

The following week I mentioned Lyn’s suggestion at the trainings in Melbourne. Four of the participants - who had traveled all the way from Perth, Western Australia - decided to work together to organize male survivor workshops and trainings in their city. Several other attendees, as well as New Zealand organizers, also expressed interest.

Not all the momentum generated last year was sustained, and Lyn was too overworked to add workshop organizing to her many activities, but the ball was rolling. The Perth "Mob"- psychologists Jonathan Kester and Anna Wright, art therapist Elissa Livingstone Kester, and social worker Prem Tej Sacha (activists all) - formed an organizing committee and eventually decided to go ahead with the project whether or not events were happening in other parts of Australia. Although Lyn couldn’t be an active part of the project this year, she sent the information to other professionals. Several individuals and groups expressed interest, but only one came through in 2002.

The amazing Maria DeIonno, a psychologist in Darwin, Northern Territory, single-handedly organized workshops and trainings in Darwin, and then (with very little time left) decided to add events in the town of Alice Springs in Central Australia and the South Australia city of Adelaide. (Look at a map of Australia to see the distances involved in this undertaking.)

Several of these events were touch and go right up to the last minute, and eventually the Adelaide trainings had to be canceled. But, at very least, many seeds have been planted. It looks like there will be further exciting adventures in OZ next year. More on these later.

Perth hosted an evening talk open to the public, a two day training for professionals who work with men, a day long recovery workshop for male survivors, and, for the first time anywhere, a day long workshop called “Training the Trainers” for professionals interested in offering workshops and groups for male survivors of sexual child abuse. After Perth (with a population of over 1.38 million), these same events were repeated in Darwin (pop. c.70,000).

Right until the last moment it appeared unlikely that anything would be happening in Alice Springs (a town of about 25,000). But Maria’s energy and dedication were not to be denied. She had been contacted by Ken Hampton, an Aboriginal man who works as a counselor at an Aboriginal organization. Ken heard about the events planned for Alice Springs, and when it looked as though there wouldn’t be sufficient registration, arranged to attend the trainings in Darwin. Actively supported by Maria's husband, psychologist Tony Franklin, Maria and Ken kept working, thinking, contacting people, and generating media attention until there were large enough numbers to hold a two day training in Alice Springs. Interestingly, the attendance numbers in little Alice were almost as high as those in the much larger cities - and far higher in proportion to overall population. In addition, more men than women attended in Alice Springs, whereas the Perth and Darwin trainings were attended by many more women than men.

Perhaps the most important part of the experience for me was the opportunity to meet Aboriginal people, and learn directly about the many generations of horrendous abuses suffered by Australia's indigenous people, both as government policy and in the form of clergy sexual abuse. I had the priviledge of visiting the Tiwi Islands and also speaking with Aboriginal professionals in Darwin and Alice Springs. What inspiring people!

Most exciting is the possibility of my returning to Australia, perhaps as soon as in 2003, to begin a pilot project aimed at creating effective, culturally relevant services for indigenous survivors of sexual abuse. The need is great, but the energy, insight, and dedication of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal professionals is equally impressive. I believe they are up to the task.

If you are Australian and are interested in participating in future events (either to help organise or just to attend):

---Northern Territory and points East and South, contact Maria De Ionno.

---Central Australia and Aboriginal groups, contact Ken Hampton.

---Western Australia, contact Prem Tej Sacha.

Or get in touch with me directly.

There's so much to tell. I learned an immense amount, and continue to learn from my time Down Under. I feel profound gratitude to all those who contributed to this experience.

There will be more specific information about the state of male survivor issues in Australia in the revised edition of Victims No Longer, especially in the area of clergy abuse.


Speaking of clergy abuse, if there are sufficient registration numbers and interest, our annual male survivor weekend at Kirkridge (May 9-11, 2003) will provide a new option. Within the larger workshop structure Thom Harrigan will offer a track specifically designed for survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Participants in this track will be part of the larger workshop experience, but may choose to do this specific piece of work.(See the Events page for more information about this weekend - and about other events as they are scheduled.)


Speaking of Thom Harrigan, while I was in Australia, Thom conducted a professional training in California for the counseling staff of the Western Region of the Veterans' Center. The training was on working with military personnel and veterans who are male survivors of sexual child abuse and/or sexual abuse within the military. It is exciting to see that the awareness of these vital issues is growing everywhere - even in the military.


To end this message, I want to share an example of the thoughtful caring I experienced during my time in Australia.

The male survivor workshop in Perth was held on September 10th, the day before the one year anniversary of the September 11th attacks in New York City and Washington, DC.

During the lunch break we were all sitting at a long table in a local restaurant. Naturally, the conversation turned to September 11th, and then to Australian fears about the American President's sabre-rattling regarding Iraq. Very quietly, the "Aussie bloke" sitting next to me turned to me and said, "I hope the Americans find a safe way to grieve." I felt deeply moved, cared about, and challenged. I told him I would share his loving challenge when I returned to the States. Here it is.

My heart goes out to the many Australians and others who lost loved ones in the bombing in Bali - and to all who suffer loss from abuses based on hatred, oppression, and inhumanity.


Until the next message, please remember to take exquisite care of yourself.


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