ODIN â€“ Oâ€™Brien Dennis Initiative News To advertise send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Content Strong Black Men Are Victims Of Assault, Too. Jay Connor Pg. 13 Can the #MeToo Movement Free Black Men of The Sexual Predator Stereotype. Dahleen Glanton Pg. 18 Black Men Standing in their Truth. Pg. 28 #MeToo: Voice of the Black Man Damary Rodriguez Pg. 24 What I Know for Sure Pg. 40 Resources for Male Survivors Pg. 22
Editor’s Note April 2018 #MeToo This month’s issue contains some of the most open and vulnerable conversations since we started. April is Sexual Violence Awareness month; we are pleased to have four brave black men on the cover of this month’s issue. The black community is often plagued with negative stereotypes especially about black men. So, for us, it was an honor when Chad Bailey decided to take over this month’s issue and to also have four black men from varied backgrounds stand in their truth. I was on set for the photoshoot and what I learned from these men was that in their willingness to be vulnerable they all showed up, with a willingness to stand in their truth and own their stories. I hope that you, the reader, take the time to appreciate the courage and bravery of these men. We all know someone who has gone through sexual trauma; the real issue is, have we given them the space to stand in their truth? We decided to focus on the black man. Actor turned activist Terry Crews is featured in “Strong Black Men Are Victims of Assault too”. The article speaks volumes in how important it is for the black community to be supportive and change the image of the kind of men who are victimized sexually. The #MeToo Movement has taken up some stronghold in the media and has gotten some attention. The question was asked, “Can the #MeToo Movement Free Black Men of The Sexual Predator Stereotype?” This was a hard question to ask, especially within black America as so often black men are seen as predators. This issue is personal to me, as I have struggled with how much the #MeToo movement has excluded men, as though men are not victims too. We have to strike a balance and realize that the long-established feminist movement with its fully-oiled systems is still at it. While men are often the perpetrators against women in sexual violence cases, men, not just gay men, are also victims of sexual violence. Resources for men are often not published in traditional outlets, so we have created a list of resources for men. The list is not a one-stop shop as every man will desire various kinds and levels of support. It is however important to let men know that their voices can be heard. We hope that you, the reader will get a different outlook on male sexual abuse. O’Brien Dennis Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
10 | P a g e
11 | P a g e
ODI News A Publication Dedicated to Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse _____________________________________________________________________________________
Cover Design ___________________ Debbie Bailey Old Post Studios Editor-at-Large ___________________________________ Courtney Graham Editorial Design __________________ Sheldon Brown Contributors ___________________________________ O’Brien Dennis – Editor-in-Chief Jay Connor – Strong Black Men Are Victims of Assault Too Dahleen Glanton – Can The #MeToo Movement Free Black Men of th The Sexual Predator Stereotypee Damary Rodriguez - #MeToo: Voices of The Black Man Chad Bailey – Photographer for Black Men Standing in Their Truth For Suggestions/Feedback _____________________ ODINews@obdi.org
12 | P a g e
Strong Black Men Are Victims Of Assault, Too Jay Connor Guest Writer
In 2016, the YouGoodMan hashtag jump-started an entire movement for black men to create a digital space for ourselves to address our struggles with mental illness. After rapper Kid Cudi announced on Facebook that he was checking himself into rehab to get a handle on the suicidal urges and tumultuous “pool of emotions” that comprised his everyday life, black men rallied behind the hashtag not only to unveil their own struggles, but to create a community of transparency, healing and refuge. A little over a year later, we find ourselves in the midst of another hashtag-driven revolution. The combined might of Me Too and Times Up have emboldened waves of sexual misconduct victims to expose their assailants. And among the stomach-churning exposés was the news that actor Terry Crews was allegedly groped by William Morris Endeavor executive Adam Venit. In his police report, Crews said that Venit made “overtly sexual” moves with his tongue before brazenly squeezing Crews’ genitals at a party. Following this incident, Venit was suspended from WME for 30 days. But in stark contrast to the droves of black men who identified with the unveiling of Kid Cudi’s inner demons, Crews stood virtually alone following his own revelation. From the male contingent, there was no outpouring of similar grief. No sanctuary to be found. No brotherhood to be had. While women collapsed into each other’s virtual arms as they wept publicly across multiple social media platforms, Terry found not only his sexuality questioned, but his manhood. 13 | P a g e
“A person’s sexuality is not the issue when it comes to conversations about assault. Assault is the issue. “ On her popular daytime television show, Wendy Williams dismissed Crews’ bravery as “just talking” and then asserted that bringing such allegations against a powerful white man would derail his career. Russell Simmons, who’s currently embroiled in his own controversy, pleaded for Crews not only to “give the agent a pass” but to ask that Venit be reinstated ― as he eventually was. Crews was also forced to address an onslaught of homophobic attacks on his sexuality. After a Twitter user labeled him a “faggot” for coming forward, Crews retorted, “Being sexually assaulted makes me gay?” and admonished the black community for allowing “this mindset” to “go unchallenged” for so long. For far too many, sexual assault of a man by a man is synonymous with a homosexual victim. After mustering the courage to report his sexual abuse, Iowa native Caleb Byers recalls being demoralized by a “really direct and insensitive” line of questioning by his local police department: “Are you sure you’re not just gay? Why didn’t you push him off?” His case was eventually dismissed due to insufficient evidence. The sexuality of the victim should not determine the magnitude of the crime. A person’s sexuality is not the issue when it comes to conversations about assault. Assault is the issue. And assault is the only crime, no matter whom it happens to. When we question a victim’s sexual preferences after an attack, not only are we criminalizing homosexuality, but we’re devaluing the severity of the actual crime.
“We often assume that men ― especially those built like Terry Crews ― can’t be sexually assaulted. But if they are assaulted, the preservation of both their manhood and their heterosexuality requires their silence.” Unfortunately, our responses to sexual misconduct are governed by the prism of patriarchy and toxic masculinity in which men are meant to be sexually dominant, not sexually dominated. We often assume that men ― especially those built like Terry Crews ― can’t be sexually assaulted. But if they are assaulted, the preservation of both their manhood and their heterosexuality requires their silence. This creates a culture of outward skepticism and internalized shame in which black men especially are deterred from revealing their abuse. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report asserts that 1 in 6 men has experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime, with 14 percent of men experiencing sexual assault before the age of 18. But because so many men fail to report their assaults, specific data about the sexual abuse of black men and boys is hard to come by. As Crews noted, there are cultural dynamics within the black community that deter black men from coming forward. The well-documented schism between black men and law enforcement contributes to an aversion to engaging in any kind of voluntary interaction with police. How can the sentinels of a broken criminal justice system be entrusted to protect the same lives they disproportionately persecute? As for instances of child sexual abuse, a strict statute of limitations may serve as a deterrent to reporting these crimes. In New York, for instance, victims have only until the age of 23 to report and persuade prosecutors to file criminal charges against their abusers. This can force the victims to act before they’re emotionally prepared to do so or give up any hope for justice. 14 | P a g e
But most notably, in order to survive in American society, black males of all ages are conditioned to be “strong black men.” We’re encouraged to avoid sensitivity and revel in sexual conquests, even when our maturity level isn’t up to discerning consent. The “strong black man” narrative often drives a corrosive misogynoir in which we frequently dismiss the agency of black women and reduce them to possessions or epithets. When we’re in turn treated the way too many men treat women sexually, our entire identity comes into question.
“Black men can no longer afford to be silent victims or silent bystanders.” In a world in which our masculinity is as much armor from an unjust society as it is a target because of it, having our manhood called into question might feel like a death sentence. But failing to accept our vulnerability and find the capacity to heal is actually the death sentence. The internalization of our emotions and experiences that we think is making us strong is, in fact, weakening us and encouraging a culture of silence in which assault against men, women and children can thrive. There are services that provide support tailored to men and boys who have been sexually abused. Organizations such as 1in6 and Male Survivor facilitate healing and discourse through support groups, access to therapy and other resources. But these initiatives are less effective than we need due to their restricted locations, limited funding and lack of multicultural competency to cater specifically to men of color. So we must heal the pain in our own communities. Black men can no longer afford to be silent victims or silent bystanders. When did we stop checking on our brothers, our cousins, our friends? When did we stop asking, “You good, man?” Silence and inaction have wreaked enough havoc on sexual assault victims. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to the black community as a whole, to erect sanctuaries where honesty, belief, encouragement and healing can be fostered. Terry Crews is not the only black man who has been sexually assaulted, despite being one of the only black men we’ve heard from. There are nameless others who’ve yet to come forward. They deserve the safety net of a brotherhood of their own. Jay Connor is a writer, consultant and co-host of “The Extraordinary Negroes” podcast.
15 | P a g e
The Conversation is an unconventional support group for men led by men. The group allows men to network with each other in a safe space. A clinician or counselor is always present to give support as needed. It is imperative that men share their stories amongst themselves and gather strength and support from each other. We have decided to take more of an ecological approach by realizing that we must accept everyone at the level where they are currently in their respective lives. The Conversation will resume at the end of Spring 2018. The Conversation Addresses: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
Childhood Sexual Abuse Male Rape Prison Rape Intimate Partner Violence Workplace Sexual Harassment
16 | P a g e
17 | P a g e
Can the #MeToo movement free black men of the sexual predator stereotype? Matt Lauer, left, then host of "The Today Show" speaks with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in New York on April 21, 2016. Lauer recently was fired for alleged sexual misconduct, and some senators are calling on Trump to resign amid similar accusations. (EPA)
Dahleen Glanton - Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune December 12, 2017
White men largely created the myth that black men should be feared, as a means of dehumanizing them and keeping them enslaved. The stereotype has persisted through generations, though the implications today often are more subtle, and in many cases, subconscious. Questlove, drummer for the Roots and bandleader on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” wrote a few years ago about his encounter with a frightened white woman on an elevator in his upscale New York apartment building. In a polite gesture, he asked what floor she was going to and she froze in silence. All he wanted to do was push the elevator button for her, but she acted as though his intentions were more sinister. Longtime Congressman Elijah Cummings once said he crosses the street at night in Washington when white women are walking toward him to avoid making them feel uncomfortable. These are scenarios that many African-American men encounter every day because in society’s eyes, they are assumed to be bad guys. Meanwhile, powerful white men have been shielded even in cases where they are dangerous predators. As women needlessly cowered in fear whenever a black man got on the elevator, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein may have been in a hotel room demanding that a young woman give him a naked massage and forcing her to have oral sex. When women instinctively crossed the street as a black man approached, fired “Today Show” host Matt Lauer may have been in his NBC office exposing his penis to a female co-worker or giving a co-worker a sex toy with a note explaining how he would use it on her. As black men were deemed a threat simply because they are black men, Charlie Rose, the trusted CBS and PBS news veteran who made us all feel so comfortable, may have been making lewd phone calls and walking around naked in front of co-workers. 18 | P a g e
I’m certainly not implying that black men are exempt of sexual misbehavior. A handful of powerful AfricanAmerican men also have gotten caught in the #MeToo purge. Rap music mogul Russell Simmons was forced to step down from his business empire after he was accused of once assaulting a 17-year-old model. Veteran Congressman John Conyers was pressured to retire amid reports that he paid a settlement to a staff member who had accused him of sexual harassment. What do all of these men — black and white — have in common? Power — which can corrupt, no matter who holds it. Indeed, the white perpetrators represent a small percentage of white males in powerful positions. Of course, there is an obvious absence of black men in the top tiers of corporate America. Instead of rising in the ranks, black men historically have been saddled with the burden of trying to defend themselves against a myth that was created out of fear and reinforced by lies. In 19th- and early 20th-century publications, writers routinely portrayed black men as brutes. The caricature depicted black men as menacing predators, void of morality, who targeted helpless women, especially white women. In 1915, “The Birth of a Nation” made its way to the big screen. The film, which was widely viewed in its day, catapulted the myth of the black predator further into the mainstream and gave white men cause to take action to protect the honor of white women. In the early 1930s, the case of the Scottsboro boys in Alabama gave America a firsthand look at how racial prejudice could wrongly condemn black men for sexual assault. Initially, all but one of the so-called “Scottsboro Nine” were sentenced to death for raping two white women on board a train. One of the women, Ruby Bates, later said that she had lied under pressure from police. The case of the “Central Park Five” is a more recent example of hypocrisy. In 1989, when five African-American and Latino teenagers from Harlem were falsely accused of brutally beating and raping a white woman in Central Park, Donald Trump took out full-page ads in four daily newspapers in New York calling for the return of the death penalty. This was the action of a man who has since been publicly accused of sexually assaulting or sexually harassing at least 16 women. And a man who was caught on videotape boasting that he could “grab them by the p---y.” It is unlikely that an African-American man in power could have gotten away with such a remark. He surely would not have been elected president. Maybe the #MeToo movement will open everyone’s eyes to the injustice in that. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @dahleeng Source: story.html
19 | P a g e
20 | P a g e
How to Help ODI
If you are interested in helping the O’Brien Dennis Initiative, here is a list of some of the things that you can do: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
Go to www.obdi.org and share with your contacts Follow us on Instagram - obdisurvivors Follow us on Facebook – O’Brien Dennis Initiative Donate at www.obdi.org Join our board – send email to email@example.com If you are a survivor, join our support group – send email to firstname.lastname@example.org Attend any of our informative events Read our monthly newsletter – ODI News Join ODI News planning team – send email to email@example.com Volunteer – send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
21 | P a g e
Resources for male survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The Conversation A free non-traditional approach to group therapy. The support group is facilitated by male survivors. It allows survivors to take control of their own narrative. The Conversation: Live Chat A YouTube web channel that showcases interviews of male survivors of sexual abuse. National Sexual Assault Hotline National hotline, operated by RAINN, that serves people affected by sexual violence. It automatically routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search your local center here. Hotline: 800.656.HOPE 1in6 The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. 22 | P a g e
Father's Touch A web site about Donald D'Haene's memoir detailing his experience of sexual abuse in a seemingly traditional and strongly religious family in rural southwestern Ontario. Dr. Richard Gartner's Web Site for Male Victims of Sexual Abuse Read about his book, Betrayed as Boys, and learn of other resources. From Darkness to Light A resource for child survivors of rape and sexual assault. Hope for Healing Male Rape. Yes, men can be victimized. No, it does not mean you are weak. A listing of web resources for male survivors. Male Survivor In October of 1988 the first professional Conference on Male Sexual Victimization was held in Minneapolis. This ground-breaking conference, organized by a few dedicated mental health providers, brought together professionals who wanted to better understand and treat adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization Dedicated to a safe world, we are an organization of diverse individuals committed through research, education, advocacy, and activism to the prevention, treatment and elimination of all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men. No Escape Male Rape in US Prisons Human Rights Watch undertook three years of research to expose the problem of male rape in U.S. prisons. The resulting 378-page report is based on information from over 200 prisoners spread among thirty-four states, some of whom were interviewed personally, as well as an exhaustive survey of state prison authorities. The Sexual Abuse of Males Jim Hopper. PhD is a psychologist and for over 15 years a researcher and a therapist for men and women subjected to unwanted sexual experiences and other forms of abuse in childhood. He has published this site as a way to help those looking for resources on the sexual abuse of boys and the lasting effects of childhood sexual abuse in the lives of men. Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) A national 501 (c) (3) human rights organization, Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) seeks to end sexual violence against men, women, and youth in all forms of detention. Through education, outreach, and advocacy, SPR confronts indifference and combats the causes of prisoner rape. Xris.com Resources Resources for male survivors of sexual assault including links, books, and videos.
23 | P a g e
#MeToo: Voice of the Black Man Damary Rodriguez
February 13, 2018 AddT his Sharing B uttons
Facebook Twitter More58
Share to Facebook
Share to T witter
Share to More
By the NSVRC's Yolanda Edrington, Associate Director, and Damary Rodriguez, Database and Resource Assistant The #MeToo movement has been empowering to survivors of sexual violence. Tarana Burke founded #MeToo to "help survivors of sexual violence, particularly young women of color from low wealth communities, find pathways to healing.” As an advocate, I have seen few black women advocates and survivors, and encountered even fewer black men involved in the anti-sexual violence movement. So when I heard Charlamagne tha God from the radio show The Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM explaining his realization that men have been raised on rape culture, I was pleasantly surprised It spurred the thought of reaching out to black men about their thoughts on the #MeToo movement, the intersections of race and sexual violence, and how the movement has affected black folks. My colleague and I reached out to two prominent black men in our community; Brandon J. Flood, Chairman of the Political Action Committee for the Pennsylvania NAACP State Conference and Chairman of the Greater Harrisburg NAACP’s Community Affairs Committee and Jamien Harvey, Executive Directive for the Historic Camp Curtin YMCA. How does the history of sexual violence, slave masters raping slaves, affect present day black families? Flood: I think there was an element of emasculation that had - and has - a significant affect upon black males. This has resulted in the existence of hyper-masculinity and widespread behavioral problems. What is your take on the #MeToo movement? Harvey: When one person speaks out it gives others the power to speak out. “The power of voice.” How does the black man support the black woman in this movement? Harvey: By continuing to stand beside them we’re equals. We don’t always support our women in general. Whether its things males have seen from their childhood or the way things are perceived on TV. On the radio show The Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM, Charlamagne explained his realization that men have been raised on rape culture. Would you agree or disagree? 24 | P a g e
Flood: Yes, I agree…misogyny permeates the everyday lives of black millennial men. This is mostly facilitated by the music and culture that this demographic espouses. As a result of this recurring theme, both misogynistic and predatory behaviors become commonplace and ultimately normalized. Harvey: I played football in college, Division 1 football, there were a lot of things that went on, that I don’t necessarily agree with. And let’s take it even a step back further, I remember when I was in elementary school and if you liked a girl, you went over and touched them some type of way, like you grabbed her butt like The Wood movie. That was like the thing. If you were hitting a girl or a girl was hitting you, you go home and tell your parents and they’d say, “don’t worry about it, they just like you.” I applaud him for bringing everything to light because you have to check yourself. How has the #MeToo movement impacted you personally and/or in the work that you do? Flood: What may seem innocuous to me may prove hurtful and devastating to another. I also believe that it has taught me to be more empathetic. Harvey: You have to check yourself before you can check anyone else. You got to have hard conversations. This is not okay. We have to reteach and make them (youth and staff) rethink what they’re seeing out there. We’re providing staff with more information on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Hopefully this will help people to feel comfortable. Knowing what you know now, what would tell young black boys? Flood: I would simply explain how far a little empathy can take them in every sphere of human endeavor. Secondly, I would do my best to articulate and enumerate the many adverse ramifications that may arise from subscribing to a culture of misogyny and bullying. Harvey: I would probably talk more to them about decision making. The best way is by showing them, being in their presence, pulling them in, building relationships and showing them how a male figure should be. What should be the next steps? Flood: Every one of our commonwealth employers need to revisit their sexual harassment policies to ensure that the victims of harassment can seek relief and remedy from a truly independent and impartial entity. Harvey: We’re going to continue to have conversations with our kids especially about inappropriate behavior and making youth conscious about the things they see on TV. Continuing the empowering work of the #MeToo movement, black women must be centered in the work to end sexual violence; however, we must also involve black men. Conversations with black men in the community are a start to ultimately ending rape culture and sexual violence. To start the conversation, connect with your local rape crisis center through the coalition listing on our website. Interview has been edited for length. Source: https://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/metoo-voice-black-man
25 | P a g e
ODI Book Club The book club will select books that are motivational and be an inspirational guide to our readers. Not all the books will be focused on sexual violence survivors. Our aim is to allow readers to find a deep spiritual awaking on the larger journey to understand the purpose of living. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. “This book by don Miguel Ruiz, simple yet so powerful, has made a tremendous difference in how I think and act in every encounter.” — Oprah Winfrey
Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle In Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle illuminates the fundamental elements of his teaching, addressing the needs of the modern seeker by drawing from all spiritual traditions. At the core of the book is what the author calls "the state of presence," a living in the "now" that is both intensely inspirational and practical. When the pressures of future and past thinking disappear, fear and frustration also vanish, conquered by the moment. Stillness Speaks takes the form of 200 individual entries, organized into 10 topic clusters that range from "Beyond the Thinking Mind" to "Suffering and the End of Suffering." Each entry is concise and complete in itself, but, read together, take on a transformative power.
BLOOM The Essential Journey: A New Guide to Balance, Growth & Well Being by Olubode Shawn Brown BLOOM~The Essential Journey is a guidebook for BLOOMERS - a movement of people who are seeking to live more authentic lives as we deliver our gifts to the planet. At stake, are our health, well-being and gifts that are urgently needed now. With insightful stories and exercises developed over 20 years of life-coaching, BLOOM offers a new life-balancing paradigm rooted in the 5 Elements of nature to help keep us balanced as we seek to do the seemingly impossible.
26 | P a g e
The â€œI am a Rape Survivorâ€? campaign was started out of an increasing number of women coming forward about sexual assault and sexual harassment. The conversation has been thought provocative, however too often men are seen as perpetrators and not as victims. Men are survivors of Rape, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault. The aim of the campaign is to have men come forward to put a face to the assault which hopefully will encourage other men to stand in their truth and tell their stories of survival to uplift other men. To join the campaign, please send an email to email@example.com
27 | P a g e
Black Men Standing in Their TRUTH
Photo by Chad Bailey
Note: All the men who participated in the cover photoshoot are victims of sexual trauma. ODI thanks all the men for standing in their truth and for addressing a topic that is still taboo within the black community. It has taken an extraordinary amount of courage for these men to share their story so publicly and we salute them all.
28 | P a g e
Christopher “Wishes” Holmes Age: 36 years old Place of Birth: Atlanta GA Occupation: Recreation Assistant for a Non-Profit Organization I honestly don’t have a very vivid memory of my abuse. Over the years, I was told that I was sexually abused at the age of three years old, but I only remember the experiences from ages eight to thirteen from my cousin. To the best of my ability, I would say it all lasted about 10 years from 3 years old to 13 years old. Like most survivors, I’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations in my life from the day I came out my mother's womb. From being given up at birth for adoption and thinking for a long time that the family I grew up with for years, which I had thought was my family, were not in fact my birth family as I found out years later. It's been a lot but I cope with life because dwelling on the past doesn't get anyone anywhere. I move to the beat of my own drum in life and look at each morning as a new day with a smile and go to sleep peacefully. My abuse has scarred my life, it has changed how I view myself, it has impacted my life in all ways, like not being about to trust and love others. One of my biggest struggles is learning how to love myself or giving myself permission to love myself. I've never had the option of being in an intimate relationship with someone. I have only encountered short-lived sexual relationships; sexually I aim to please and move on to the next. It's a learning process for me and hopefully one day I will find that one to love. I see myself as a survivor, because I have moved on with my life and I'm putting myself and stories of me out there so others won't feel alone and know that life is all about lessons and you learn from them and show others along the way. 29 | P a g e
I am thankful that I am a part of the ODI family. ODI has helped me see things that I blocked as a young child and now I'm able to cope with the past and understand a little more of my life and purpose on this earth. ODI has given me a brotherhood that I love and will cherish for the rest of my life. THANK YOU ODI! I haven’t taken much notice to the “Me Too" movement. I mean, I have no feeling towards it because everyone is different; it takes a leader for others to follow to make a stand. If I had a conversation with my younger self I would tell myself to love myself more and know it's ok to be selfish and everyone isn't your friend, know that your past isn't a dead end, and someone loves you. You have more love from people you will never expect to have love for you. Never change for anyone. What I know for sure is that I have a good heart and I'm a blessing to not only myself but to others and I touch people in ways that I never thought I could. I am a platform for others and I know I have opened doors and people's eyes and hearts in ways I never thought I could or would have. I have now realized that I have a responsibility to give back to others. I know that there are so many men like me, especially younger men who are struggling in silence. My advice to them is to stop looking for an apology, stop giving excuses for your life. Every day you wake up is an opportunity to make a difference and change in your life. The past is the past and the future is now, and life is short.
“Knowing these men, has allowed me to appreciate myself more and own my past for what it is.” - Christopher “Wishes” Holmes
30 | P a g e
Raymond Sosa Age: 36 years old Place of Birth: Ocho Rios, Jamaica Occupation: Recreation Assistant for a Non-Profit Organization I spent about 7 years growing up in Cherry Gardens. I couldn’t tell you one thing about Jamaica except that the waters are beautiful and go to Dunn’s River Falls. At the age of 7 years old my brother & I were sent to America by our father to live with my mother who I barely remembered, because she came to America 4 years before I came to America. I remember the car pulling up to the house and having no idea where I was, which I later found out was New Rochelle, NY where I grew up for most of my childhood life starting way back in 1990. I had no idea what my future would be like or even a clue what I wanted to be, but the following story is what led me into the field of prevention where I currently help others by doing testing & counseling. Years later in 2008, October to be exact I was unfortunately raped by a guy who I took a liking to. I was 25 at the time it happened & I remember just having a bad feeling after it occurred. The type of abuse I experienced did not last for long, it was all but 15 minutes maybe, but those 15 minutes caused a revolutionary rift in my entire life & I didn’t know it yet. It wasn’t until Feb 2009 that I went in for my routine check-up at my doctor’s office where I found out I tested positive for H.I.V. I knew the root cause happened because of the rape & nothing else. I had never tested positive before until that point. The impact that those two events had on my life was nothing but catastrophic. I literally changed, I became more angry, combative, I hated people, didn’t trust anyone, and by the time I started going to therapy I had already disassociated myself from who I was but didn’t quite realize it, however with years of therapy I started to heal. I was always determined to get well, to be myself again, and with the coping skills that I’ve learned throughout the years I’ve become smarter, wiser, and way more vigilant about who to trust and who not to trust. Taking up mixed martial arts also has been a great coping skill because I made a promise to myself a few years back that I would never be a VICTIM ever 31 | P a g e
again in my life, one time was bad enough. Today I can truly look at organizations like ODI & #MeToo movement as platforms of inspiration because organizations such as those bring hope and CHANGE to so many individuals that have been victimized. Silence sometimes kills but I didn’t die and I’m still not dead yet that’s why if I could have a conversation with my younger self I would just simply say that “if you’re having second thoughts follow that feeling and if that feeling is telling you not to go then DON’T GO.” If I had the chance to have a conversation with my younger self after the abuse I would tell him, “you’re not going to understand it right now because you’re HURT, but once these feelings pass you’ll realize how much stronger this situation will make you, but you can’t give up.” That’s the one thing I know for SURE, that you cannot give up, and that’s the same advice I would give to any young man who is struggling with sexual abuse. The funny thing is I did give my younger self advice after the abuse, but it wasn’t me, it was an individual who I identified with not only because of the abuse he faced but because of his STORY. He reminded me of me when I was around that age and I eventually became not just a mentor to him, but we became best friends as well thanks to the O.D.I.
“I was able to find brotherhood and a new friendship from this group of men.” Raymond Sosa
32 | P a g e
Phil Percy Age: 24 Place of birth: Brooklyn, NY Occupation: Alumni Leader I was sexually abused during my pre-teen years by a family member. The abuse lasted for roughly about six years. Over the years, I have tried different things to cope with the abuse. To be honest, I used music as an outlet and over the years I have found comfort in my friends. As I got older, I realized that taking some time to be with myself and finding myself is the key to my recovery. My family is from Haiti, and my Caribbean roots are as strong as ever. Religion has always played an instrumental role in my life. I may not be an avid church goer; however, I am a firm believer that everything in this life happens for a reason. I had however stuck to my familyâ€™s heritage, and it is this desire to be a survivor that still keeps me going. In dealing or coping with any traumatic experience, it will have some level of impact on your life. Sexual abuse has literally changed my life and how I view the world around me. What the abuse has done is, it has allowed me to be less vulnerable, colder and less forgiving. Seeing myself as a victim would mean that I havenâ€™t let go of the pain the trauma has caused me. Looking back at my past and where I was, I can only see myself as a survivor. I am a survivor because I had mentally gotten out of the trap that was set for me, so I could physically help myself get out. I recently got acquainted with ODI and in the brief period of time it has impacted my life in ways unimaginable. ODI has allowed me to digest what has happened to me and just know that it was not my fault. I was too young to understand that type of set up. 33 | P a g e
I have not taken much time to deal with my younger self, however if I were to have a conversation with my younger self, as real as it could get I would honestly tell the younger me to “Beat his ass right now and go ham on anyone involved”. I know that I am much stronger and wiser after I learned and continue to learn my self-worth. I now realize that there are so many young men who want to speak, however they are struggling with shame and denial. If I were to give advice to a young man struggling with sexual abuse, I would tell them to find their center, “find what you like, find yourself, allow you to love you and anyone that is in your way you must leave them. Also, you are not a victim and never will be for as long you do not carry yourself as one and do not hold pity for yourself. Hold your head up high and live your damn life you only have one man, keep it moving!”
“It was a pleasure bonding with these gentlemen, knowing that we are all from different walks of life and standing in our truth.” Phil Percy
34 | P a g e
Dennis O Tyson Age: 38 years old Place of Birth: Westmoreland, Jamaica Occupation: Author, Advocate, Behavioral Specialist I was sexually molested at the age of five years old while living in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica by a teenaged boy, who was the son of a woman who sewed for my mother. He tried a few nights after molesting me again, however my maternal grandmother prevented the act from happening. At the age of five, I didn’t have the words to fully express what I was going through. I did know that something bad had happened to me, however I just didn’t know how to talk about it. For years on end, I lived through a recurring nightmare that aliens would abduct me from an outhouse in my grandmothers’ backyard. Growing up on an island paradise such as Jamaica where homophobia is rampant, the social fabric entwined with religion, and music did not make a clear distinction between, male sexual abuse and the sexual act of homosexuality. Based on how I was socialized, I never saw the abuse for what it really was. I blamed myself as a child for what had happened to me also. I found comfort and solace within the church and got baptized at the age of nine years old. I never realized that I had gone through a traumatic experience; religion didn’t prepare me to first deal with the trauma, the hurt then how to address forgiveness. For years, I lived in a shell, a prison with no bars. I never wanted to interact with the boys in my neighborhood as I felt that one of the older boys might try to hurt me. My level of vulnerability and inability to trust was seemingly evident to the adults around me. I never met my father until the age of nineteen years old and my uncles were never fully present in my life. For literally all my teenage life, I never had a strong older male figure in my life. Between the ages of fourteen to sixteen, an older neighbor had befriended me and sexually abused me. At that age, I trusted this man and at one point had even convinced myself that I was in a healthy, functional relationship with him. 35 | P a g e
I questioned what was going on, and I self-medicated by turning to alcohol and overly sexualizing myself. In the latter part of my teenage years, to better project an image of masculinity and conform to society’s views, I slept with as many girls as I possibly could. By the time I had gotten to twenty, I knew something was wrong and I needed to address my past traumas. I sought counseling, however the female counselor was not ready to deal with male sexual trauma. I had befriended a young man who had gone through similar experiences as myself as a child. Regrettably, this young man I had befriended held me down late one night with his friend and raped me at the age of twenty-one. I migrated to the United States within weeks of the rape, vowing never to return to Jamaica again. Within the next couple of years while living in the US, I continued to use alcohol as a means of coping. My “drug” of choice was sex, while I never once used hard drugs, I was often in the company of those who used hard drugs. By the time I was twenty-four years old my liver was messed up from drinking too much. I was unable to keep a job, I was homeless on a few occasions and entered the sex trade just to survive. I did seek professional help; however, it was a struggle finding individuals who understood my culture or knew how counsel men who are victims of sexual abuse. I never had a need, desire or purpose to live, I did everything to cope with the pain of the abuse. It was at thirty that my life transformed when I was hit by a cab in midtown Manhattan on my actual birthday. I found myself in an ambulance, asking myself why I survived, questioning my purpose and my reason for living. I started traveling, with the intention of finding answers to the eternal questions that so many people ask themselves. I am thankful of every experience that I have gone through in my life. I see myself only as a survivor and not as a victim.
“Knowing that I was able to get a group of strong black men, living their best lives, and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to the world is one of the biggest legacies I will be leaving behind.” Dennis O Tyson
36 | P a g e
Chad Bailey Age: 22 years old Place of Birth: St. James, Jamaica Occupation: Community Associate I was sexually abused when I was younger by a family member. The abuse has impacted my views on love, and how I view myself, because that one situation had forced me to live a life of shame and guilt. I had to learn from early how to forgive and force myself to grow up. I no longer live my life as a victim as I refuse to seek sympathy from anyone. I am fully owning my story and standing in my truth. I have now allowed myself to become vulnerable and own each moment as I am living in the now. It is not always easy being vulnerable, however I am grateful to have a supportive partner, friends and family. I am a survivor because I didn’t allow my abuser to take away my power. Every survivor of sexual abuse has the spirit of a King/Queen so show it. Being that I was abused at a youthful age, when I got to my teenage years, toxic relationships were the norm for me. The first time I fell in love that person was very verbally and physically abusive and I stayed. I knew it was unhealthy, however I had normalized abusive relationships, so I didn’t know how to walk away. As I got older, I realized that I had so much growing up left to do. Its 2018 and unhealthy relationships are a No for me, I’m worth so much more than that. The abuse for me was more confusing than anything else. It didn’t make sense to me how my cousin thought that molesting a little kid was cool. I used to wake up every day knowing that what he was doing was wrong but it’s that great fear of being judged by your parents that compels you to keep it to yourself. My cousin would sneak in my room in the night to have his way with me; he didn’t care about me bleeding and feeling pain, he didn’t care that this one decision would have affected my life. As a young boy growing up, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Growing up in that house as
37 | P a g e
a kid I just wanted to be loved and a lot of times we as victims of sexual abuse tend to think that is unrealistic but that isn’t true. I know that I have a presence on social media because of my modeling and a lot of people only see the great pictures. I am still struggling to find my way and come to terms with my abuse. I have used modeling as an escapism, to create different worlds for myself. Being on a set, I get to be someone else, not just a make-believe world; I get the opportunity to create a world of my own. To my followers who are young like myself, my message to them is to first fall in love with themselves; that will not be easy. Look at life knowing that everything in this life happens for a reason. I don’t want the younger generation to keep holding this dark secret thinking that they are all alone. It is important to seek help and come to terms with the hurt that you are going through. Love is a very complex subject topic, not everyone will love us the way we want to be loved. I was fortunate to have met ODI’s founder and he has helped to open so many doors for me. In my brief time living in the USA I am truly humbled to have met Dennis who has introduced me to a circle of friends who have helped to uplift me and encourage me to live my best life. Dennis has been a mentor who has allowed me to realize that we only have one chance at living and all we need to do is just live in each moment as though it is our last. ODI is a great resource for men who are looking for an outlet to deal with sexual abuse. What I know for sure is, I am exactly where I need to be in my life. While I hated the fact that I was abused sexually by a family member, the trauma has made me stronger. There is nothing in my life that I would ask for differently. My life is far from perfect and some days, I fight myself to get up. I didn’t get this far to just give up, I survived this experience for a reason.
“The photoshoot was iconic because it brought together four men from diverse backgrounds who are a strong representation of what a survivor truly is.” Chad Bailey
38 | P a g e
The Ripple Effects: The Untold Stories Of Sexual Violence Photo Exhibition By : Michael Letterlough Jr
39 | P a g e
What I Know for Sure For years I told my story of how I was molested as a child, sexually abused as a teenager and raped as an adult male. I told the story, seeking empathy, sympathy and at times, holding back on the truth as I was too scared to tell the truth. I usually focused on the graphic nature of the abuse. By focusing on the sexual nature of the abuse, I felt that it would have made my story more believable. I never fully understood that by telling the story the way I was, I was retraumatizing myself. In my mid-thirties, a friend of mine was involved in a project where he was trained to tell his story of sexual trauma in seven or less minutes; I was invited to participate. I was confused, as why would I want to capture years of trauma in such a short period of time? The class lasted for a few weeks, and I struggled like most of the participants. The instructor was a French playwright director. The essence of what he was doing was forcing us to own our story and telling the story to sensationalize those who were listening to the story. The night I was scheduled to tell my story, I did so in less than six minutes. What I know for sure is, telling your truth is one of the most powerful guides to living your best life ever. It was difficult at first telling my story as I so wanted people to believe me. I would have polished the story as best I could just to let it sound great. I now realize that the story of my life is my own and it belongs to me. I was invited on the OWN network’s Fix My Life Series; it was while on the show that Ms. Iyanla Vanzant taught me the importance of standing in my truth. Owning the story of my past, speaking my truth and letting it go. It is not easy standing in our truth, as it takes vulnerability and courage to own our truth. Vulnerability and shame often stand hand in hand. It is the shame we feel that we might face by standing in our truth that prevents us from telling the truth. I have now come to terms that the past has helped to shape the journey that I am on. My past is behind me and it does not define me as a man. I no longer believe in failures, I strongly believe that everything in this life happens for a reason. Our experiences are all teachable moments; it isn’t a failure however, if we have learned from the mistakes. For those who are survivors of sexual trauma, the hurt at times will linger with us for a lifetime. We owe it to ourselves to not trap ourselves in bondage, trying to not own the story of our lives. It is important to live our life as survivors, knowing that what doesn’t break us can only make us stronger if we own the truth. I leave you with this note from a true legend and musical icon. “Truth is everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” – Bob Marley
Dennis O. Tyson MPA Founder, President & CEO O’Brien Dennis Initiative firstname.lastname@example.org 40 | P a g e
ODI News was created for, and is geared toward male survivors of sexual abuse, their supporters/loved ones, and those who would like to know...