Rick Goodwin attempts to heal men’s soul wounds: the bleeding of their hearts, the psychic suffering. He works to lay to rest ghosts that do not sleep, ghosts originating from unfathomable sources of pain.
As I approach twenty years of managing a therapy service for men who have been sexually traumatized, I ponder the meaning of it all.
Meaning-making—giving a narrative to the unspoken horrors, which can then ultimately be crafted into one’s life story—is the ticket for those who are wounded. This is the true ‘take-away’ from counseling; yet not just meaning-making for the individual involved. In a universal sense, we all need to have a necessary conversation about how we define our lives—our pain, our struggles and our need for wholeness.
Recovery usually does not involve healing on the physical plane—but the healing of something that can best be described as soul wounds. The bleeding of the heart; the psychic suffering; the ghosts that do not sleep …
I write this in the midst of a truly international gathering here in Cambodia of advocates committed to eradicating sexual violence against boys and men. Some delegates come from societies where sex is not discussed.
Others come from worlds where the only words to suggest sexual offences against men are to describe being ‘treated as a woman.’ Other folk come from cultures where there is no word for counselling. In some countries, being a male victim of sexual assault, if reported to authorities, could result in the victim’s arrest, because the assault would be interpreted as homosexuality, which is illegal. The universality of shame is present in all corners of this world—an emotion that demands hiding, not dialogue.
This conference occurred a block away from S-21—an infamous place of killing during the dark period of history when the Khmer Rouge were in power. A school, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, was the center for the murder of up to 20,000 people—men and women, boys and girls. Babies, too.
I saw enough skulls not to question these facts.
And here we are, a block or two away from this site, discussing another atrocity in our shared stories of the childhood rape of boys, the adult rape of men, wartime rape, ethnic cleansing rape, clergy rape, prisoner rape. Tuol Sleng is the view from our building when we break for coffee. We talk to each other as if we are unaware of this shadow on the shadow, but we all know.
Despite the darkness, there are many points of light emerging around the world, emerging for the healing of boys and men. People are coming together to speak their truth. Some gatherings look like evangelical meetings where people shout out their stories; some take the appearance of meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in musty basements; some look like clusters of shipwrecked sailors joining hands in the water as the only means of staying afloat.
They almost all take the shape of circles, a thought that seems only right in the making of things whole.
Originally appeared on 1in6. Reprinted with permission.
Rick Goodwin is the National Manager of 1in6 Canada, as well as serving in the role of Clinical Supervisor for 1in6, Inc. He conducts training workshops for professionals across Canada and in the USA, and maintains a clinical practice in group trauma treatment program for men with The Men’s Project in Ottawa. He can be reached at [email protected].
Unedited Photo: Flickr/Hernán Piñera