The CEO of charity Mankind talks to Charlotte Harding about the work it does.
In society the myth that men can’t be sexually abused can make it difficult for those that have to come forward.
“Men are thought to be in control and strong so it can be hard for them to come to terms and report it when they have been assaulted,” explains Martyn Sullivan, CEO of Mankind.
“We can believe a boy being abused but for adults there are gender stereotypes that women are weak and need help but men don’t.”
Mankind, based in Hove, is a charity which offers a structured programme of face-to-face counselling and therapeutic groups to men aged over 18 who have suffered sexual abuse, assault or have witnessed it.
“This can include witnessing your father raping or abusing your mother,” explains Martyn.
“Or being subjected to watching pornography whether you are an adult or it happened when you were a child.”
Offering a confidential support service it is free but people can make a donation if they wish.
Although it works with Sussex police to provide support it does not take referrals.
“In the past, support workers would give us details but we would contact the person and they would say they weren’t ready,” he reveals, “so we ask for our leaflet and details to be given but it is when they are ready, they need to be in a place where they can look back and talk about it.”
However, this can take years.
In his experience Martyn says it can take a victim of childhood abuse 25 to 30 years for them to want to talk to someone about it.
“Sometimes this is because they weren’t believed as a child,” he explains, “or a level of victim blaming where the perpetrator said ‘this is happening because of you’ or ‘I will hurt your family if you tell anyone’.
“Even after that person has died, the victim still has that ingrained in them that it is their fault.
“For an adult it can take five to seven years for someone to access help or report it.”
At Mankind there is a step process which doesn’t have to be done all at once or in the right order it is up to the individual.
The steps include one-to-one counselling, then a psycho-educational therapy which is a group but you don’t share your own personal experience.
“We find men are quite nervous to go to this to start with but they get a lot out of it,” he explains.
“I sit in my office and I can hear laughter coming from the room. Humour is one of the many ways we learn to cope and deal with trauma.
“I had one client say to me I knew I wasn’t the only one as I had seen statistics but it took being in a room with other people to actually believe it. Logic seems to escape us in those situations.”
The third step is a progress group where they share and here each other’s stories.
“They look back at what has happened and then forward to how they can heal themselves,” he says.
“We tell people they aren’t the only one and the way they reacted isn’t abnormal. It is about reconnecting with yourself, and establishing friendships, relationships and sexual relationships.”
Mankind is part of the Male Survivor Partnership which has been looking at male quality standards, which can help those charities that currently help women but want to help men.
“Their needs are different so we have created standards to help,” explains Martyn.
“A charity in Manchester, which is part of it, also helped with the David Platt storyline in Coronation Street which is why I think it has been done so well.
“You watch it and think ‘why are you doing that? I would go straight to the police’ but it doesn’t work like that.
“It is a really good portrayal as it is very rarely someone being dragged into a bush but can be someone you have an intimate relationship with and you feel foolish and confused when something happens.”
It covers all of Sussex but they will look at how far someone has to travel and may suggest a different charity as Martyn says they don’t want someone driving three hours there and then the same back after a session.
One issue that Martyn feels needs to be addressed though is the criminal system.
“We work with Sussex Police but once it has been reported and put in the system the door is shut on them again and they can’t talk about it,” he reveals.
“It is really hard as they need support but because of the legal system in this country they can’t talk about to anyone.
“Also our mentality towards victim shaming. We do it even if someone says their car has been broken into we immediately ask if it was locked, as a way to protect people from it happening again we look for a reason why so we can stop it.”
The key with Mankind is that the person has the motivation to want to take part as Martyn comments they need to look back but also look forward.
For more on ManKind visit mkcharity.org
Or the Male Survivor Partnership www.malesurvivor.co.uk