According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) one in six men have been through abusive sexual experiences before reaching adulthood. Males experience the same feelings and reactions as other survivors of sexual assault, RAINN says, but they may also be up against additional challenges “because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.”
Rebecca Robinson, support group coordinator for Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) here in Lane County, says while there is a great need for a men’s survivors group, in the past SASS has struggled to get one going. However, a new partnership with National Alliance on Mental Illness-Lane County (NAMI) is giving male-identified survivors of sexual assault a place to go.
SASS is very female-empowering, says Jose Soto-Gates, executive director of NAMI-Lane County, and he says men looking for support around sexual assault issues may not feel comfortable in a space with so much female power, and may also worry about triggering women who have been assaulted.
“Most often women are assaulted by men,” Robinson adds. “So to be a man in that environment is to feel like they might be looked on like a bad guy.”
Until now, SASS has been unable to get attendees to come to a men’s survivors group at its offices. However, NAMI-Lane County, which Soto says is all-volunteer run and takes no money from pharmaceutical companies, recently moved into a space across from Autzen Stadium with a bigger resource center. Soto-Gates says NAMI is starting to get the word out about the meeting space available at its new location, and SASS is now hosting its male survivors group at NAMI.
Robinson says the drop-in group for self-identified males over the age of 18 is confidential and empowering and is starting to have participants for the first time.
She says that one thing many people don’t realize is that in addition to supporting recent survivors, SASS “also supports survivors who experienced sexual assault a long time ago.”
Soto-Gates says as more people focus on mental health and become more comfortable having a conversation about it, NAMI is becoming more well-known in the community. He says that SASS fits in well with the NAMI’s “golden rule — we maintain a culture of respect.”
Robinson is also working on hosting a teen workshop dealing with oppression, consent and relationships. The first two hours would be educational and the last hour would be personalized support. That group requires pre-registration and would meet on Friday afternoons at NAMI through July 26, if it gets enough participants.
The support groups are free. The men’s drop-in group meets from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Fridays at NAMI, 2411 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Someone will be there to open doors starting at 5:20 pm, Robinson says.
SASS also hosts a women’s drop-in sexual assault support group from 7 to 8:30 pm Mondays at SASS, 591 W. 19th Ave. in Eugene.
For more information on SASS go to sass-lane.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call the business line at 484-9791 or the 24-hour crisis line at 343-7277. To contact NAMI-Lane County, call 343-7688.