Support group helps men who survived child sex abuse cope with the trauma
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For male survivors of child sex assault, there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to group therapy.
It’s the reason Andre Bisquera, a survivor himself, started one in Kalihi.
“The topic, obviously, is a little tough to talk about."
The first meeting happened in late 2019, with four men. It became a monthly therapy session. And within weeks, it doubled in size.
Bisquera talked about adding another meeting to accommodate more.
That’s when some of the survivors met with Hawaii News Now.
It was before the pandemic so the interviews were shot without social distancing and before masks were recommended.
Group members who spoke to HNN ― Scott Ritchie, Matt Brewer, Dave Henson, and Bisquera ― said they’re all very different. They grew up in different parts of the world and their jobs vary.
But they found the pain of the abuse as children put them in similar situations as adults.
“Instead of having a coach for my daughter’s soccer team, I was the coach for my daughter’s soccer team," said Ritchie, whose wife and children wondered why he was so overprotective.
"My daughters didn’t do sleepovers, they didn’t understand why.”
Ritchie was abused by a Boy Scout leader. He kept the abuse secret for 30 years.
Dave Henson was also abused while in the organization.
“My oldest son wanted to join the Boy Scouts and we let him, while being overly monitored,” Henson said. "But we did let him go because I was trying not to let my experiences prevent him from being able to experience things. but I spiraled pretty bad.”
Henson is in the military, where support groups he tried were geared for those with PTSD or substance abuse. And sex assault therapy was many times just for women.
“I went to the emergency room a couple of times for suicidal ideations,” Henson said.
“And at that point, I realized that I love my life. I love my wife. I love my children and I want to continue to experience the joy that they bring me so I had to get help.”
He said he cannot always explain to them the emotional swings. With the men’s group, he doesn’t have to explain. They understand from experience.
Brewer said he always struggled with being himself because of the secret. “It’s hard when you keep it inside, because then you are always faking somewhat. You have a mask," he said.
Brewer was abused by a family member.
He said it was difficult to tell relatives years later, what happened. It made them uncomfortable.
“If you talk to friends or family sometimes it’s a lot for them to hold on to, to tell them. And then you have to worry about that relationship.”
Bisquera said the men’s group provides a safe place for survivors to share the struggles of daily life.
Bisquera was abused by a relative.
“Being in group and being able to see yourself in other people’s stories and understand exactly what they’re going through. For a lot of us, for the first time, we can actually feel that, hey, I’m not crazy, this did happen," he said.
Richie recalled the first time he was invited to the men’s group in Kalihi, “Should I go? Should I not go? I should go.”
He said he felt that way about our interview too.
But he did go, to that first meeting, and then more meetings and he did show up to our interview.
“I don’t want to be like this forever, I want the power back," he said, ”Being able to take back some control of my own life, which is why I’m here."
Because of the pandemic, the support group is now meeting online, which has allowed for a more global reach. Survivors from Hawaii, other states and Japan have joined.
For more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The group is participating in a virtual luncheon on Tuesday. For more information click here.
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