As the founder of the Famous 5 Foundation, Frances Wright has always been an avid feminist. It was those same feminist values that also inspired her to start CC4MS, an organization dedicated to providing treatment for men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse.
“Since my early twenties, I have been an addict; I’ve been an ardent, passionate, determined feminist,” said Wright.
Wright directed this passion to convince the government to erect the Famous Five monuments on both Parliament Hill and in Calgary’s Olympic Plaza. The statues honour the five Albertan women who petitioned for women to be recognized as persons under Canadian law.
Isabel Metcalfe, an Ottawa lobbyist, worked with Wright on advocating for the monuments.
Metcalfe explains how few nations, including Canada, acknowledged women’s contributions to their countries.
“She [Wright], framed it around something called ‘women are nation builders,’ … that concept was very successful and there were a number of initiatives she did by that concept,’” said Metcalfe.
This includes successfully advocating for the Famous Five to be displayed on the back of the $50 bill.
Surviving and Healing
Seven years ago, Wright was asked a question that would take her advocacy in a new direction.
“An acquaintance … asked me, ‘What do you think the statistics are for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse?’”
Wright admits she had never really thought about the men who had been abused.
“I responded with, ‘One in 5000,’ and she said, ‘No. It’s one in six.’”
This statistic prompted Wright to wonder where these men sought treatment. She discovered there were only three places in all of Canada: Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.
“But for women … there are over 200 of these assault centres and shelters,” said Wright.
Wright recognized the disparity and joined the Theo Fleury Society, an organization aimed to help male victims of sexual assault. However, with Fleury’s case coming before a court, the society disbanded.
But Wright was invested in the cause. With the help of several other members from Fleury’s society, she founded CC4MS.
CC4MS focuses on four key areas: healing, education, advocacy and research. The educational aspect aims to inform the public, health care professionals and law enforcement officials. Increased awareness will lead to more disclosures and better recognition of warning signs.
“Ninety-six per cent of men do not disclose and of the four per cent that do, it’s usually after 20 years. In that 20 years … most of them self-medicate.” - Frances Wright
Kerry Gladue, a director at CC4MS and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, did not disclose what had happened until age 27.
“One of the hardest things I ever did in my life, I walked into a police station … I walked up to the desk and I said, ‘I need to tell somebody something.’”
Gladue was molested as a young teenager by a worker running the Edmonton group home where he was living.
“He started by giving me a massage and then he started molesting me. The first time it happened I ran into my room … and I was crying for my mom.”
Gladue describes how the man threatened to have him locked up if he told anyone but if he stayed quiet, he would be allowed to see his mom.
“I thought I was so screwed. So I went on, you know?” said Gladue.
Gladue’s case gained attention as more men came forward. It was discovered the accused had child molestation convictions dating back to the 1950s.
“When he was arrested, he was still working with children,” said Gladue. “The monster, I called him, got nine years.”
In the time between being molested and disclosing, Gladue became addicted to crystal meth and made 15 suicide attempts.
“I hung myself once. I was a cutter.” Gladue rolls up his shirtsleeves, showing the scars.
Gladue received addictions counselling and treatment at the Simon House Recovery Centre. He later became the intake coordinator and addiction counsellor at the centre, and it was there he was introduced to Wright and CC4MS.
“When they came in and did their presentation, I was instantly attracted to the compassion, the hope, the healing … CC4MS opened my eyes and gave me hope that I’m not alone anymore” said Gladue.
The stigma surrounding male sexual abuse contributes to the low disclosure rate.
“They develop such shame and guilt — they think, ‘I’m not really a strong boy because boys are supposed to be strong and able to defend themselves’” said Wright.
The Need for Support
Wright explains how the lack of awareness has lead to an inequality of government funding.
“Virtually no government department has funds for treatment of adult male survivors … they are not cognizant of the tremendous trauma these men have suffered as children.”
Wright is currently advocating for both the provincial and federal government to change their department name from Status of Women to Status of Gender Equality.
“I realize probably 90 per cent of their funds will still be needed to help women who are systematically disadvantaged, but put in 10 per cent to help the men who are vulnerable,” said Wright.
For men who do disclose, another challenge is being treated with a female-centred model of victimization; which leads to the men abandoning therapy altogether. This is why CC4MS employs therapists experienced with a male-centred model of treatment.
“We know when we send a client to a therapist that they are trained, they are sympathetic, they are effective,” said Wright.
Wright describes her advocacy efforts for these men as a heartbreaking challenge.
“In many ways I feel strange advocating for men, having been a feminist for so many years. But the need is so great.”
Wright believes the most important message for these men to know is they are not alone, they will be believed, and healing is possible.
On May 9th, The Magnificent Men! fundraising lunch will honour George Brookman, CEO of West Canadian Digital Imaging Inc., and raise funds for adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
- By Kate Mackenzie