Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lee Ferrill is Speaking Out

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

Sexual assault is not a "women only" issue. It's an issue that affects young girls, boys and men as well. The National Center for Victims of Crime's website states that "Sexual assault takes many forms including attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats." (Emphasis mine.)

There are some wonderful people spreading the word and educating others about sexual assault over on Twitter this month. Twitter is where I made the connection with Lee Ferrill, a survivor and an advocate who really gets it. I am thrilled to have made this connection with Lee, and I'm thrilled to bring you this guest blog today. Lee inspires me on a daily basis. Let him inspire you with the story of how he became a voice in the movement to prevent childhood sexual abuse:

Lee Ferrill, Advocate

I have never felt as strong or as passionate about anything in my life. That is, about being an advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. After 20 years of suffering in silence from being sexually abused from the ages of 2-13 years old, and 5 years of healing through therapy and group, I finally found my voice. And when I did, it felt really good. As I spoke up, people would listen, and show their support which was encouraging and empowering. There have been far more supportive feedback than negative, and thankfully I am at a place now where I can respond to the negative feedback in a positive way by trying to educate them.

I started speaking out through guest speaking to small male survivor groups in different cities around the province (Ontario) telling them about my experience of recovery in group therapy, and answering their questions, giving them hope and inspiration. It was a success, the group participants found it very helpful and comforting to know that the process does work, and to have their apprehension laid to rest by having their questions answered by someone who has been there. That was the beginning, and from there things really took off.  I was asked to tell my story on CBC Radio, a Canadian National Broadcast with former NHL All-Star Theoren Fleury. It had an overwhelming response resulting in a flood of calls, emails and feedback, and donations made to agencies providing services for men. After that experience, a variety of agencies in the mental health field began to ask me to speak to their staff. Over the course of less than a year I have told my story in front of thousands of people at a variety of conferences, discussion panels, and local television broadcasts with the clear message. Sexual abuse of children happens everyday, and it will continue to happen until we stand up and do something about it. I am proof of the research, the aftermath and the possibility of recovery.

I am considered by most to be an advocate for male survivors. Which I feel is important because males are rarely considered as victims within our society, usually we are thought of as the offender.  And with very little awareness, there is very little funding and resources for men in our communities. However, I feel that being an advocate for men, I am also raising awareness for women. It's about raising the awareness and helping others find their voice, or being a voice for people until they can find their own. It is about being active in our communities, raising awareness, raising funds, creating services and helping others to move from isolation to inclusion. Sexual abuse has been swept under the rug for too long because it is not something people want to talk about. Well I believe that as I continue to talk about it with other advocates, we are normalizing the issue, so that people will speak up about their own abuse, or abuse that they have witnessed.  That is what needs to be done in order to end this horrific crime against innocent children.

Thank you for your support,
Lee Ferrill

You can follow Lee Ferrill on Twitter by clicking here. If you'd like to search for tweets specifically related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month, just search Twitter for the hashtag #SAAM.
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