Danville man looking to form support group for men
Published 8:41 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2017
One Danville man wants to form a group for men who have been sexually abused — a topic he believes is often avoided, or worse, made fun of.
“It would be my desire to have a group where people can come talk about their experiences, learn from others and not feel that their experience is so bizarre,” Dan Phillips said.
Email newsletter signup
A sociology professor at Campbellsville University in Harrodsburg, Phillips is quick to point out that he’s not a therapist.
“I’m just a guy trying to start a group about this,” he said. “If someone has a crisis right now, they need to contact a mental health care provider or doctor.”
But Phillips does have a doctorate in sociology and has taught classes in criminal justice and related fields, giving him some educational experience with the subject.
“I teach things that are around this, but not this particular issue. This does come up,” Phillips said.
What makes him suited for the group isn’t his educational background, but his personal life — Phillips isn’t just a bystander in this issue. As a child, between the ages of 4 and 5, he was sexually abused by a female relative and her friend at a church. A few months later, he also witnessed his mom attempt suicide.
“Those two things really impacted me,” he said. “You don’t know who’s safe and who’s not safe. A lot of times the very people that can help you, you stay away from. Most abusers are nice in public. So as a kid, you just don’t have any idea.”
As a kid, Phillips said he couldn’t stand one-on-one interaction — he always had to be in groups. There were and are times when he needs to be alone, which has been hard on his interpersonal relationships.
“When you get married, people expect you to share things with them. When you have issues with this and you just need to be alone — it doesn’t help your interpersonal relationships,” he said.
“I’ve mentioned this particular issue to people as I was growing up and no one had much to say at all. It’s not that they would say, ‘I think you’re lying.’ …” he said, yet a few of them did. “It’s been difficult. I think there’s a lot of men out there that get treated for the aftermath — depression or substance abuse … It has lifelong impacts.”
Phillips said he can understand why people don’t respond or why they might not know how to respond.
“When you tell people, you’re not even sure what you’re expecting back. After a while, you don’t quite know what to do with it.”
Many even face ridicule over it, such as one man he knows who attempted to discuss his experience with a girlfriend. She began teasing him, prompting the man to shut down about the topic.
“When males talk about being sexually assaulted by females, some people say, ‘They got lucky,'” Phillips said.
That reveals a deeper issue with society, he said.
“As a guy, the few times I’ve brought this up to family members or other people, I’ve either not been believed or — I don’t want to say I’ve been laughed at, but it’s almost kind of like, ‘It’s been a lot of years ago, whats the big deal?’ It’s very difficult for a guy to get to the point to admit he has a problem, then to talk about it, only to be ridiculed,” he said.
The idea men can be sexually abused is a taboo topic, he said.
“You don’t know how many men I’ve lifted weights with who, after they get to know you, will talk about various problems they have … the root, for many of them, is being abused as a child,” Phillips said. “When you get to talking to people one-on-one and you get to know them better, they’ll relate better to you.” That’s why he wants to form a group for men who have been victims of sexual abuse.
“Anyone who has been sexually abused has all kinds of problems being believed and helped,” he said. In some cases, he said, having co-ed groups are not beneficial — some women find being that vulnerable around men after having been the victim of a sexual assault is too difficult, which he said is completely understandable.
In other cases, men are insinuated as being the problem, even when some have been victimized, too. Phillips has tried to join groups online for sexual abuse survivors, but said most groups tend to be focused on women. In one instance, he tried to respond to a post sharing that men are sometimes victims too, only to face ridicule.
According to 1in6.org, one in six men have faced unwanted sexual experiences, including abuse and assault. The number is likely higher, the website states, because men are sometimes “unwilling to disclose their experiences due to the stigma, silence and myths around the issue.”
In researching support groups, Phillips said he’s reached out to national groups aimed at supporting victims of sexual abuse, but hasn’t had much luck. He’s trying to locate other groups, so he can learn about what works for them. He’s not aware of other groups in area.
He’s talked to a few pastors and individuals in the community. So far, his pastor, Brian Montgomery, from the Danville Church of God, and Choe Sergent, from the Junction City First Baptist Church, have given him their support.
Hearing their acceptance, without it seeming burdensome to them, was a big deal.
“It seems to be, in this area, people are more open to developing such things,” he said. “I felt there was a real need for this sort of thing.”
His hope will be that men can come to the group knowing it is a safe space to talk freely about it, so they can work through the problems that have come from their sexual abuse. He hopes it can help these men work on their relationships with their own families, too.
“My guess is that there are men out there who have children, are married and have never mentioned this to their spouse,” Phillips said. “My hope would be that more men can be better fathers, better husbands.”
SO YOU KNOW
For those interested in learning more about a group aimed at helping men who have been sexually abused, contact Dan Phillips at email@example.com.