SAMSN pleads for on-going support to help male survivors of childhood sexual abuse
A leading advocate for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse has called on Government to reinstate funding for peer-led support groups which have helped hundreds of men on the road to recovery.
Craig Hughes-Cashmore, co-founder of Survivors and Mates Support Network, laid out his plea in an article for the ABC, noting that child sexual abuse was not a gender specific issue.
Referencing a recent address made by Grace Tame to the National Press Club, Hughes-Cashmore reiterated that one in four females and one in six males experienced child abuse before the age of 18.
He was one of them.
Craig’s story took him more than 25 years to share and ultimately led to him establishing SAMSN 10 years ago, to help men overcome the shame and stigma that prevents them from opening up about past experiences with sexual abuse.
“Male survivors are over-represented in Australia's appalling suicide statistics: the male suicide rate is three to four times higher than that of females,” he said.
“Men are also over-represented in our jails, psychiatric wards, rehab facilities and those sleeping rough. We cannot overestimate the role childhood trauma plays in these serious social issues.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse noted in 2017 that tens of thousands of children had been sexually abused in many Australian institutions.
“We will never know the true number,” the Commissioners reported. “Whatever the number, it is a national tragedy, perpetrated over generations within many of our most trusted institutions.”
More than 4000 individual institutions were reported as places where abuse had occurred spanning the past 90 years. “Child sexual abuse in institutions continues today.” It also acknowledged that child sexual abuse was widespread in non-institutional settings, such as families.
The majority of survivors documented by the Royal Commission (64.3 per cent) were male.
The Commission recommended funding of specialist services for survivors, such as SAMSN, that connect male survivors with trauma-aware, healing-focused professionals who “get it”.
“Victims and survivors face numerous barriers when seeking assistance from services,” stated the Commissioners.
“These include stigmatising attitudes from professionals; unaffordable costs of services; and gaps in the availability of services, especially for some groups including children, men, the elderly and those transitioning out of prison.
“The lack of an integrated system makes it hard for people to find their way to relevant services and access those services.”
A service system should include a “dedicated system of community-based support services for victims and survivors,” they stated.
SAMSN has helped more than 600 men and there is a current waitlist of 100. Funding for the program was withdrawn by the NSW Government two years’ ago, with no explanation, said Hughes-Cashmore. The organisation still holds monthly drop-in meetings and provides counselling services, but its plans are uncertain beyond June without further funding.
“It is imperative that all governments fully invest in specialist services to engage with survivors who are struggling,” he wrote. “The social and economic costs of not doing so affect us all. This is a human rights issue. All survivors deserve to be reminded that we see them, they matter, and that hope is not lost.”
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Read: Australia is finally having a crucial conversation about sexual abuse. But let’s not forget about male victim-survivors.
Read: Final Report Recommendations, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse