There's a taboo against men who have been sexually abused speaking out about their experiences, said Perry McLeod-Shabogesic.
Some seem to question why men — who are expected to be strong — let themselves be sexually abused, the director of transitional programming and community initiatives at the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre said.
This is despite the fact that many times, sexual abuse happens when they're just little boys, McLeod-Shabogesic said. As a result, many men keep quiet about the issue, he said.
They're “expected to tough it out and just deal with it,” McLeod-Shabogesic said. “It's kind of like that elephant in the room that nobody talks about.”
An upcoming forum for men who struggle with sexual abuse organized by the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre aims to break this taboo.
The Healing the Fire Within conference takes place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on April 19 at the Steelworkers Hall on Brady Street.
Guest speakers include Jim Dumont, who teaches in the Indigenous Masters Program with the Seven Generations Institute in Fort Frances, as well as mental health workers Frances Tabobondung and Angela Nahwegahbow.
Shkagamik-Kwe has run a support group for sexually abused men for four years, and McLeod-Shabogesic has helped to co-ordinate it for the past two years.
But there just aren't that many services for male sexual abuse victims, he said.
That's probably because unlike their female counterparts, men who have been sexually abused just aren't talking about the issue, McLeod-Shabogesic said.
One of the conference's aims is to “highlight the issue that there's not enough support out there,” he said.
Sexual abuse victims often have emotional scars they carry with them throughout their lives, McLeod-Shabogesic said.
Especially if they never talk about the abuse or get help to heal from it, the issue festers and manifests itself as drug or alcohol abuse.
“Whatever can numb you,” he said.
Sexual abuse victims can even turn on others and become an abuser themselves, McLeod-Shabogesic said.
Although Shkagamik-Kwe's support group is for those of all cultural communities, McLeod-Shabogesic said sexual abuse is definitely an issue among the Aboriginal population.
“It's a serpent that's made its way into all communities these days,” he said.
In some cases, it's the legacy of the residential school system, where both male and female students were sometimes abused.
“That behaviour was seen as somewhat of a normal behaviour for these young children, who were growing up in that institute,” McLeod-Shabogesic said.
They came home from residential with confused ideas about sexuality, a lack of parental skills and a lot of pain and suffering, he said.
“Family members who were abused, maybe that abuse has continued on through the families and the communities,” McLeod-Shabogesic said. “It's a multi-generational type of situation.”
For more information about the conference, phone the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre at 705-675-1596. Admission to the conference is a donation to Shkagamik-Kwe's emergency food bank.