I have been a sexual assault victim advocate for 9 years and a proud supporter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Helping people cultivate change is very important to me. However, being a male advocate in this field is very challenging. Therefore, I wanted to write this blog to help current and future male advocates. Please feel free to share this information.
Congratulations on your decision to become a volunteer advocate. Advocacy is an instrument for change. As a volunteer, you will help facilitate the ambivalent and recovery phases of victims (survivors) of sexual assault.
Your commitment is a representation of the (Your Agency Name) and supporting agencies. Meaning, you are the face of multiple agencies that share one common goal: serve survivors of sexual assault without allowing any of your biases to interfere.
Whenever I am facilitating training, I always ask this question: “What is the number one thing you notice about me?” [Which is the best answer]
- You are committed to helping people.
- You’re a male advocate.
- You are just going through the motions and do not really care about this topic. (check-the-block mentality)
- You facilitate this training way too much.
If you answered 2, you are correct. Although answer 1 is valid, it is not a major factor. Wanting to help people and actually doing it are not always the same thing. I usually get a few laughs and an occasional shoulder shrug. “Why does that even matter?” With the way society is today—thanks to television shows, movies, magazines, music videos, advertisements, and social media—it matters a lot.
Being a male advocate in a female-dominated field can be incredibly challenging and exhausting if you are not prepared. Preparation is the key. Here are some examples of the stereotypes you might be up against:
- “Wait—why are you here? You’re a male…”
- “You’re an advocate? Why?”
- “I’m sorry but—she is not going to want to see you because you’re a guy.”
- “I appreciate you doing what you do. However, we normally recommend that a woman responds to these types of events. I’m sure you understand, right?”
- “Are you trained for this?”
- “Wait—you volunteered to be an advocate? But, you’re a guy!”
These are just a small sample of the obstacles you can face as an advocate. They might sound like the worst-case scenarios because they are. The reason why you need to consider the worst-case scenarios is because you need to prepare yourself to hear things that you’re not expecting. Keep in mind, these are comments that you might hear before you even see the survivor. When you’re talking to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or hospital staff, you are in a safe environment. Meaning, your body language and emotional reactions to these comments should not impact the survivor. However, once you receive permission to enter the survivor’s room—there is no room for you to demonstrate how uncomfortable you are with these types of comments.
Not everything is about you. Leave your ego (h-ego) out in the waiting room.
The fact is, if you are not willing or prepared to take criticism——due to the fact you are a male—then this is not for you. That might sound very harsh but it is true. Allowing your pride and ego to get in your way does not serve survivors. If anything, it insults them. It is not always about you.
How do you get better at handling these types of situations? I highly recommend you incorporate Push Back scenarios into your training. This will help condition you to handle real-time resiliency.
What will using Push Back scenarios and exercises do for you as a male advocate?
- It will condition you to handle circumstances that you are not expecting.
- You will become a better advocate.
- You will become a better facilitator and leader.
- It will help you understand how other people feel about this topic, to include how they feel about male advocates.
Ohio Men’s Action Network (OHMAN): https://ohman-ohio.org/
A Call to Men: http://www.acalltomen.org/
The Next Generation of Manhood (A Call to Men): https://youtu.be/GG9fefzuFWs