My Name Is Project Update

We’ve had great interest in the My Name Is Project and are waiting with much anticipation for you to submit your survivor video stories in support of this project.

Recently I had the priviledge of participating in the Oprah two-part event on male survivors of child abuse.  The first show aired last Friday and began with an emotional opening where the entire audience of 200 male survivors held up pictures of themselves at the age when they were first abused.

It was a powerful moment, standing amongst all those men, holding up a picture of who I was before my life changed so traumatically.

(Wo)Men Speak Out has an idea based on that powerful moment on Oprah.  We are working on a new video montage which will hopefully include pictures of all of you.  We all have our individual stories.  But we have a collective story of abuse that is worth telling to everyone who has felt trauma in their lives, and to those who haven’t.

So this is a call out to ALL SURVIVORS.  If you are interested in participating in this montage, send us a high resolution picture of you holding a picture of yourself at the age of your abuse under your chin.  Also, include the age of abuse and you can optionally include your name as well.  We will collect all of the submissions and create a video montage telling a shared story of abuse.

We need as many submissions as we can because we want this to show the magnitude of abuse and at the same time the human face of survivorship.

Also, keep your personal video submissions coming in.  We need to create our video community of survivor stories to inspire all of our brothers and sisters who are right now suffering in silence.  The only way we can do it is with your stories.

Thank you for participating in this project.  Break the silence.  To live.

Chris de Serres

christopher@womenspeakoutnow.com

WSO

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My Name Is Project


It’s been a few years since I first posted the video My Name is Chris on Youtube.  I wanted to create a snapshot of my life.  I have been silent about my abuse for over 2 decades and this video is my admission that it has affected almost everything about me.  I wanted that happy childhood dream.  But I finally knew that there was nothing I could do to take my childhood back, to wipe away the abuse.  I couldn’t even pretend anymore that the abuse didn’t exist.

So I made My Name is Chris, and I cry just a little every time I watch it.  Recently I had the privilege of taking part in a two-part Oprah special on male survivors of child abuse.  Oprah wanted an audience of 200 male survivors to show a face to the millions of men who are abused and never talk about it.

Shortly after the filming I received an email from Jarrod Marcum Noftsger.  He was among the 200 men.  He wanted to let me know that My Name is Chris helped his recovery.  In fact, he made is own version of the video, called My Name is Jarrod, as a way of coming to terms with his own horrific abuse.

There are millions of survivors out there who want to tell their stories.  Yet, we feel isolated and unable to express the deepest pain in our lives.  The My Name Is Project is there to provide a survivor a way to express it.

So our project is simple:

1.  Create your own My Name is… video. There are many programs to make nice montages.  I made My Name is Chris with One True Media.  If you have any production questions feel free to email me at christopher@womenspeakoutnow.com.  I’m no video wizard but i’ll do my best to help.  I want your video to be as representative of your voice as much as possible.

2.  Post your video on Youtube as a “response” to My Name is Chris. Our video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYBkMzQrknk. This way, we stay connected and others can see all of the videos in the project stream. 

Click here for a quick tutorial for those who aren’t sure how to add a video in response to ours.

3.  Feel free to incorporate what elements you want from My Name is Chris, but your video should have the taste of your personal experience to it. We want to learn about your personal adversity and growth.  It can be happy, it can be sad.  As long as it is real we want it to be a part of this project.

4.  Email Chris along the way with your thoughts, experiences, and questions and to let us know that you have contributed to the “My Name is…” project.

Our goal is to create a community of “My Name is…” videos which tell the collective stories of abuse and trauma in our communities.  The short term goal is 50 before the end of 2010.  50 videos.  Men and Women. Together. Starting with My Name is Chris and My Name is Jarrod.  We need 48 more before January of 2011.  We can only do it with your voice.

Sharing your story is the greatest gift you can give to another survivor.  When I made My Name is Chris I was only trying to heal from my pain.  Imagine the impact our collective montage of stories will have on survivors who need to hear that they are not alone and that their pain matters.

We can only do this with your help.

Chris de Serres

WSO

 

Corey Haim, Lost Boy, Dead at 38

I never liked Corey Haim.  Growing up I used to see him and his buddy Corey Feldman in movies and on TV, usually acting obnoxious in some way or other.  Smug.  Brash.  Cocky.  Just a few words to describe this duo.  They were The Corey’s.  Teenagers given too much money and fame too fast.  As a teenager myself growing up in the 80’s they had everything that I wanted.  Money.  Girls.  Fame.  But like them or not, they were  a product of the 80’s, and I own the Coreys every bit as much as I own the 80’s as my teenage formative years.  So Corey Haim was a part of my generation.

You often wonder what makes these young stars so wild and crazy.  I used to wonder if Corey Haim was always like that.  In a manic state, floating from party to party, girl to girl, gig to gig.  Somewhere it all stopped, and we didn’t hear much about Corey Haim anymore.  It was almost like he just got swept under the rug of Hollywood, like so many child actors are.  He hit the peak of his life before the age of 18 years old.  How does one go on living knowing that the best has already past them at such a young age?

I thought that this was probably Corey’s struggle.  You hit it big, then you are yesterdays news.  What do you do with the rest of your life now?  I didn’t know that there was much more to this story.

A few years ago A&E aired a reality show called The Two Corey’s.  It reunited Corey Haim with his old pal Corey Feldman after all these years.  Cameras followed them around as they were making what was supposed to be their triumphant comeback filiming the sequel to the classic vampire flick The Lost Boys.

From the opening episode it was apparent that time hadn’t been very kind to Corey Haim.  He was unemployed, slovenly, and an addict.  His behavior was erratic.  He couldn’t keep himself together.  Corey Feldman struggled to find a way to keep his friend afloat.  In the end, his drug-induced anxiety led to Corey being almost completely written out of his last comeback movie.

Now Corey Haim is dead.  Probably because of a drug overdose, but probably from so much more.

I scoured the internet to see what people were saying about Corey.  One media source cited Corey’s 2007 Nightline interview where he admitted drugs hurt his career.  Or his 2004 Sun interview where he admitted that he smoked his first joint on the set of The Lost Boys.  Another outlet offered how his cocaine use led to crack.  In his Larry King interview in 2007 he explained how he was “a chronic relapser for the rest of (his) life.”

All of these reports coming out covering his prescription medication and drug abuse, as if this was the explanation for why Corey is no longer here.  I couldn’t believe how we all missed it completely.

The answer to the question of why took me back to the The Two Coreys.  In one episode, they decided to see a therapist together.  Corey Haim and Corey Feldman shared a terrible secret.  An adult friend of Feldman’s raped Corey Haim.  A friend Feldman kept around after knowing what he did.  During the therapy session you could see the pain that this had caused Haim.

Just for a brief moment I understood what underlied this cocky and obnoxious persona I resented back in the 80’s.   The drugs only masked the deeper pain that none of us male survivors ever want to deal with.

But Haim did deal with his trauma in the only way that men know how.  In 2008 he explained, “It’s something that will be addressed in my inner soul for the rest of my life, and it’s something that truly affects me . . . It’s just like, it happened, it’s over, and move on. Let’s move on to the next subject.”

But he never could.

Corey Haim, the Lost Boy, passed on March 10,2010.  A drug overdose is suspected as the cause of death.

Male Survivor Conference Update!

The Male Survivor Conference in New York City is fast approaching and there are some new updates since we last announced our sponsorship of the event.

Mike Lew will be giving a workshop.  He’s been a great ally and supporter of our organization.  He wrote Victims No Longer, a great resource for male survivors, at a time when there weren’t many books on the market covering male survivorship.  Also Richard Gartner, the author of Beyond Betrayal, will be expected for a workshop of his own.  I can’t say enough about Betrayal.  Well written, practical, and presenting a mastery of the issue of male survivorship.

Check out the Male Survivor lineup for more details.  Better yet, save the date and go to the conference!  It’s a great opportunity to educate yourself and be inspired by these great advocates and experts in the field.  As well as expanding your community of peers to make change happen for survivors everywhere.

Male Survivor Conference 2010
March 18-21, 2010 at
John Jay College / NYC

The Day I Became An Advocate

A number of years ago I was asked by a college to speak about my personal experience with abuse. This was the first time I ever spoke about what had happened to me in a public forum. I remember the weeks leading up to the speech I felt a mixture of dread, anxiety, shame, and empowerment. It was then that I got a taste of what it really meant to be an advocate. I was preparing to advocate for the little boy that represented who I was, and am still today.

On the day, I had every intention of talking about myself. I took the podium and began to speak. But what came out wasn’t about me. It was about my best friend. You see, my life was filled with people who were looking to take advantage of me. As a child and survivor of abuse, I wasn’t very good at sticking up for myself. I was routinely pushed, prodded, and pummeled by the bigger kids in school. I think in my heart that they knew something was different about me. I was just another easy mark.

That all changed one day when a kid came by my house and introduced himself. His name was Eddie. He was only a year older than me, but he was a kid in a man’s body. We became fast friends. I soon realized that this kid, who I proudly called best friend, had a huge heart.

Eddie had a reputation as a a troublemaker, but he was simply misunderstood. I noticed the more I hung out with him the less I was bullied. Somehow my best friend Eddie also became my best advocate. From the day that I met him to the day that he took his own life he was always trying to protect me. Most of the time I didn’t even know he was.

I think he knew I was a survivor even though I never told him. I remember the day he came to my house and told me his dark secret. His mother had physically beaten him from as long as he could remember. It was then that I knew why he would go out of his way to help a little defenseless kid like me. I was the first person he told. I never knew if he told anyone else.

Chris speaking about male survivorship at a college keynote.

I realized that it was impossible to tell my story without first telling his. So I told the audience about Eddie. I wanted them to know that he deserved an advocate in his life. He didn’t have one. He had been my strongest advocate and I was grateful on that day to be his. He gave me something so simple yet so needed. The feeling that I wasn’t alone in this world. The more I told the story, the more stories I received from other men. They didn’t have the power so they wanted me to speak for them.

There isn’t much incentive for men to speak out about their abuse. They have to deal with the ignorance of other men and women. Men are often the subject of ridicule, having our manhood and sexual orientation called into question. There are even people who don’t believe boys or men CAN be abused against their own will. Certainly not by a woman. These are only some of the reasons why we don’t see men speaking out about abuse.

There are even female advocates who believe that men should be excluded from the resources that are provided to women. Men shouldn’t be in groups designated for women. So it’s no surprise that our men are continuing to suffer in silence. It’s no surprise that our communities are not confronting change as a united front. The abuse will continue as long as we decide to fight it apart.

It was in that spirit that I started a non-profit organization with my wife Ophelia, a survivor herself, to ensure that all survivors of abuse, rape, and gender violence have a voice when they need it. We decided that the best way to achieve a true end to abuse is by including women and men together in this fight. We are mutually supportive, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or color.

Abuse occurs everywhere. So it’s going to take everybody to fight it. Women have been fighting it for so long. They have won many battles. Now is the time to empower our men to come forward and share their experiences. I sometimes wonder if Eddie’s life would have turned out differently if he had a strong male advocate in his life. For now, I am resolved to speak his truths and stand by strong women and men when I do it. Advocates simply speak out for those who can’t. Men. Women. Together.

Note: This article appears in the Self Help Packet for Jersey Care Leavers Association. For the full packet of great articles and resources go to http://www.jerseycareleavers.com/ and download the packet today.

Tyler Perry Breaks The Silence

You may know Tyler Perry from many of the films he’s produced, directed, and starred in over the years. It seemed like every year I would see a new Tyler Perry movie coming out of the box office. I can’t say that I have seen any of them, though he is a clear success story being one of the highest paid men in Hollywood.

Tyler Perry - Survivor

What I did see on 60 Minutes recently was the startling admission that, like myself, he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The reason why this is shocking isn’t that he IS a survivor of abuse. The statistics show indeed how common abuse is in our culture, with 1 in 4 women being victims of abuse before the age of 16 and 1 in 6 men.

What is of note is that Tyler Perry is a high profile black man admitting that he was abused as a child. It’s the coming out that has always been hardest for us men. One of the basic virtures of early manhood is being able to successfully defend yourself from harm. For male victims it is this perceived failure that is sometimes the hardest thing to come to terms with.

Tyler is coming to terms with this specter that has hovered over his life for so long. He spoke of a friends mother who molested him as a child. She locked him in their house and only provided the key to leave if he ‘had sex’ with her. Tyler later shared additional details about living with a physically abusive father. After his admission, his father passed along the message to Tyler that “…If I had beat your ass one more time you probably would have been Barack Obama.”

You may be horrified by that comment. Yet, its so telling of how parents so often confuse discipline with outright abuse. Or maybe it’s just his fathers way of rationalizing the abuse and suffering he inflicted on his defenseless children.

These admissions from public figures are inspiring and courageous but to people who want to make real change in our society we can’t leave it at that. We have to explore the questions raised by the personal accounts from survivors of abuse.

I was always a big fan of the comedian Richard Pryor growing up. He would often compare men with women, and how black culture differed from white culture. He once mentioned quite fondly about the time his father gave him an especially violent physical beating because he came home after his curfew. The audience laughed. Pryor’s genius was in being able to make his misery funny. I have all of Pryors tapes. I think he’s the most gifted comedian, yet I never laughed at those jokes.  Pryor joked on how it taught him character and professed his admiration to his father for making him hard.

It made me wonder. How can any physical beating ever be a point of pride in any culture, any society? What extremes and rationalizations are parents willing to employ to make sure they have well behaved children?  What should our response be when this is too often the message we are sending in our society?

I may have not known about Tyler Perry’s admission if I had not known about his work with a new movie coming out called Precious. It’s about the struggle of a 16-year-old survivor of abuse. You don’t see too many films about abuse streaming out of the Hollywood lot. This is one of them. Go see it on November 6th.

And remember, there is courage in breaking the silence, but change only comes when we decide to respond to the brave stories of those like Tyler Perry.  How do you plan on responding?

WSO Sponsors Male Survivor Conference!

We’re proud to announce our sponsorship of The 2010 Male Survivor Conference on March 18-21, 2010.  It will be held at John Jay College in New York City.  This conference brings together advocates, professionals, and survivors to share new knowledge in the area of male sexual trauma.

We hear the lineup of presenters this year is going to be quite engaging.  WSO plans to be a presenter in 2011!

If you are in the New York City area make sure to attend.  We need to support new research in helping male survivors in their recovery process.  This conference supports breaking the silence about abuse.  Our men need our help more than ever.

For more information:

http://www.malesurvivor.org/conference-2010.html

Chris & Ophelia

WSO