Twice a month in Springfield, a group of men gather to talk.
These men talk about their childhood sexual abuse.
“If you’ve been through any kind of adverse experience, any kind of traumatic experience — and any kind of childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience — it shakes your core and changes your whole outlook on life as a safe place,” said Chris Davies, our staff lead for the men’s group (there are also domestic abuse and women’s sexual violence survivor groups that meet).
This group, which has welcomed dozens of men for nearly five years, stands as a beacon of healing for many victims.
“Being able to see they are not alone is an important factor in their recovery,” said Davies.
What do the men talk about? Davies said the issues are varied, but they generally come back to some common themes.
“A lot of the discussion in the group centers around men defining themselves and deciding what to make of their lives,” he said. “That includes their relationships, includes how they manage their emotions, and truly how they see themselves.”
Davies said in his view, there’s one significant benefit of the group that men realize over time. “They have that moment when they realize it’s not their fault. There’s nothing wrong with them.”
In response to a recent survey of the group, the men were asked if they were better off for attending the meetings. Three of the men responded:
- “I’d say better off. Just knowing I’m not the only one with all these emotional issues.”
- “I feel better able to share my feelings and thoughts. I also feel less alone.”
- “It’s a self check-in that I feel better if I attend regularly and I feel worse if I don’t. It’s a release of emotion I can count on having.”
That release of emotion is critical.
Davies notes that men can’t always count on people in their social system to support conversations about childhood sexual abuse.
“Some of the men who’ve tried to bring up their abuse to family members don’t always get a supportive response or maybe they’ve never brought it up because they were worried they wouldn’t get a supportive response,” Davies said. “They feel like they can talk about it in the group because that’s what the group is there for. It’s moderated to keep the conversation supportive. People there can expect each other to understand their experiences.”
The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Richard Byrd Library in Springfield.
It’s a free and confidential drop-in group. No pre-registration is required. If you would like more information or to talk with Chris Davies about the group, call 703-704-6727, TTY 703-324-5706.