Speaker, author and radio show host Thomas Edward is looking to create a home for men who have been abused and often have to suffer in silence in the church.
A victim of sexual abuse himself, Edward believes such men are ignored or given the cold shoulder, largely because church leaders are afraid to address the issue.
“When I was dealing with abuse, it was difficult to actually find resources in the religious community,” he told The Christian Post. “It’s seen as a taboo and unfortunately leaders hide their heads in the stand and ignore that the problem actually exists.”
After suffering from vivid flashbacks and memories of his abuse, Edward said because he felt so alone, he even attempted suicide.
Author of the 2008 publication Healing a Man’s Heart, Edward is gearing up for his Healing Broken Men retreat later this month. He founded Healing Broken Men Ministry, a faith-based workshop session and support group, in 2001 for men dealing with the aftermath of molestation and sexual abuse.
His book and ministry offer men the help and guidance they need to deal with their suffering.
“What we’re trying to do at the retreat is to actually start building a network for the men so that they have not only resources, but they have other men they can talk to and bond with as we work through the issues,” he explained.
His personal experiences with sexual abuse motivated him to start the ministry and later to recount it all in a book. The book, he said, is a guide for men who have been abused to finally admit it to themselves and others, and seek help. He introduces three stages in his book for men to follow, one being “Surrender and Submit.”
“Surrender just simply means we are allowing ourselves to just ask for help, saying I can’t handle this on my own, and I need someone to help me,” Edward explained.
“The book is written for men who are afraid to take that first step in telling someone. Hopefully by the time you get to the end of the book you are ready to start to share your story.”
Men, he noted, are more reluctant than women to come forward about these issues, especially among Christians.
“A lot of times in the Christian community we have the saying ‘say it, pray it, and it will go away.’ That’s not true,” he stressed.
“We as Christians need to stop sitting on the sidelines. When I go to different congregations, the people feel unequipped. We need to point people toward the resources,” he added, noting that churches can help by doing such simple tasks as printing resources for abuse victims in the weekly bulletin or in the church announcements.
In addition to the Healing Broken Men ministry, Edward also hosts a radio show on Seattle KGNW 820 Sunday nights called "Break Free." There, he conducts an ongoing discussion of men being victimized.
Last week, The Oprah Show highlighted the plight of male sexual abuse survivors. Two hundred men came forward to tell their personal stories of abuse. The two-day special featured Tyler Perry, who talked about his abuse earlier this month on the show.
Dr. Howard Fradkin, co-chair of Weekends of Recovery, said on the show, “It’s really difficult for men to come forward to talk about sexual abuse because everything that they’re taught about manhood is betrayed to them. … Men suffer a lot of stigma being sexually abused because they’re supposed to be in control and they are no longer in control.”
A lot of times, they’re afraid to reveal the truth because the stereotype is that if you were abused, you’re gay or that you will also become a perpetrator, Fradkin said, listing the false perceptions society holds.
According to MaleSurvivor, it is estimated that one in six men were sexually abused as children. This statistic increases to one in four men if sexual abuse done by someone who does not actually have physical contact is included. Most men never talk about their abuse because boys are socially taught they should withstand emotional and physical pain without complaining and because of extreme shame.
Overall, Edward believes the church is behind when it comes to aiding male survivors of abuse.
"I long for the day when churches, Celebrate recovery groups, Christian counseling groups, Christian media lovingly open their doors, instead of giving the cold shoulder,” he said. “The secular arena has resources for male CSA (child sexual abuse) survivors, why can't the Christian community?"
Edward’s three-day retreat is scheduled to take place Thanksgiving weekend. He intentionally planned for that weekend because he said he doesn’t want men who do not have a family and supporters to be alone during the holidays.
On the Web: http://www.healingbrokenmen.com/index.htm