Silence is not golden. Silence is corrosive, toxic, deadly.
Looking at the theme and nominated target areas for this year’s International Men’s Day, this Tuesday, 19th November, it occurred to me that this was a common theme running through most of the issues.
The theme for 2013 is, “Keeping Men and Boys safe” and the nominated target areas are:
- Keeping men and boys safe by tackling male suicide;
- Keeping boys safe so they can become tomorrow’s role models;
- Tackling our tolerance of violence against men and boys;
- Boosting men’s life expectancy by keeping men and boys safe from avoidable illness and death;
- Keeping men and boys safe by promoting fathers and male role models.
It is well established that men and boys are less likely than their female equivalents to seek help and support with their physical and mental health; they are less likely to report being the victims of domestic or sexual violence or to seek help and advice afterwards. They are less likely to report bullying; less likely to report abuse; less likely to turn to friends or family to offload in times of crisis or loneliness.
This is not a random product of chromosomes or some bizarre genetic mutation. It is actively manufactured by our society, beaten into us, both emotionally and physically from the day we are born, and frankly, it sucks.
Nor is it just individuals. Men, collectively, are bloody awful at standing up for our needs. We’re men. We don’t need help. What kind of wimps do you think we are? The consequence of that is to actively discourage those individuals who do need help from seeking it. Man up. Boys don’t cry. Take it like a man. Be strong. Be brave. Literally destroy yourself before admitting to a weakness.
Well fuck that for a game of soldiers.
So when a brilliant charity on my own doorstep, Survivors Manchester, decided to mark IMD13 with a sponsored silence to raise both funds and awareness for male victims of rape and sexual abuse, it struck me as a profoundly brilliant, if rather ironic gesture. It is particularly timely, as I have recently been badgering a few politicians about the ineligibility of Survivors Manchester and similar organisations for the government’s Rape Support Fund. This week my MP forwarded on a letter to me from Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary, which boasted that through the Witness and Victim General Fund, support services for male victims of sexual assault and domestic violence across England are being funded by the government to the tune of £580,000 per year. His letter did not mention that the Home Office’s Violence Against Women and Girls programme is funding similar projects to a total of nearly £40 million over three years. (That is still not enough, I hasten to add) Meanwhile Survivors Manchester gets by largely on the goodwill of volunteers, private donations, a wing and a (secular) prayer. To get a sense of the importance of their work, I urge you to browse their brilliant recent booklet: Breaking the silence
So, it’s time to put your money where my mouth is, if you know what I mean.
Since I work from home, and rarely speak a word to a human being until the kids get home, I’m taking the much more challenging (for me) commitment that for six hours on Tuesday 19th November, from 9am-3pm (GMT) I will maintain complete internet silence. No Tweets, no updates, no blogging, no arguing below the line, no commenting, no trolling politicians for lulz. Nada. I might just burst.
Survivors Manchester tell me that:
£55 can provide a peer-support group session for up to 12 male victim of sexual abuse or rape.
£35 can provide a counselling session for a male victim of sexual abuse or rape.
£20 can help to pay for a peer support session for survivors
£10 can buy the first positive step for a male victim in need – telephone support
Enjoying the blissful silence of an Ally-free internet for only a penny per minute would cost you just £3.60.
If you could spare a any amount to make the stress worth my while, we’d all be really grateful. The giving page is here.
Well, I made it.
It actually turned out to be more difficult than I imagined – I had forgotten that International Men’s Day is also one of my most demanding Argue-With-People-On-the-Internet days of the year! So I spent my six hours of exile productively, doing a post for the Independent that covers much of the same ground as above, with a few added digs at the cynics.
More importantly, I raised loads of money to Survivors Manchester. I’ll be honest, when I first thought of doing this, I hoped I would raise at least £50 – anything less would have felt slightly underwhelming. I secretly hoped that I might raise £100 which – considering that it was just a little sponsored silence at a few days notice – would have been fantastic.
Well, at the time of writing I have actually raised over £150 which I’m absolutely delighted with. Thank you so much to everyone who chipped in and coughed up, or who helped to share the link or just offered support. It is hugely appreciated. You are all wonderful. When I find out the total raised by the whole IMD Break The Silence team I’ll let you know. And if you never got around to it… the donation page will remain open not just for the rest of today, but until the end of the year.
In the meantime, happy International Men’s Day to you all.