Last week on Thursday, September 21 in the Student Memorial Center’s MPR, The Center for Health Education and Promotion held a documentary screening for “The Voiceless.” This documentary was comprised of five males of varying sexual orientation, race, and cultural backgrounds recounting their stories of when they were sexually assaulted. Each story shared was raw and uncensored, explicitly showing the emotional impact of these events.
“The Voiceless” came into production after the first documentary “We Are Survivors,” following eight survivors of sexual violence. Audiences were surprised when one of the survivors was male, so the creator of the documentary, Vanessa McNeal, decided it was imperative to create a follow-up documentary, exposing the unspoken issue of male sexual violence.
“The Voiceless” was created to expose the unspoken and ignored issue of sexual assault against males at the hands of males and females alike, both young and old. The five men in the documentary made it clear that assault can come from strangers, friends, and even some family. Some incidents as graphic and extreme as rape were discussed and shared, while others talked about how subtle their assault was. This caused doubt as to whether they even could identify what happened to them as sexual assault.
After the documentary, Dr. Marc Felizzi, an assistant professor in the Social Work Department at Millersville University, led a dialogue to discuss its impact on the audience. One of the largest takeaways from the event was the staggering number of assaults, the documentary reporting 1 in 6 males before the age of 18. Dr. Felizzi went on to further explain that amongst those of same sex the statistic increases to 1 in 4, with many still unreported.
Another large point of discussion after viewing the documentary was the ways the men coped with the events. Some turning to alcohol and drugs, others to violence and gangs, while others hid and acted like it was normal, although they were very aware it was not.
Dr. Felizzi, supported by statements from the documentary, explained how many men that are survivors of sexual assault internalize the situation. They are afraid that there will be judgement or criticism for supposedly allowing the situation to occur. Instead of receiving sympathy or empathy, men are often criticized for not fighting back. They can be accused of knowing what they were getting into or lying to cover up their sexuality.
The reality is, these are victims, not instigators. While sexual assault is often reshaped to somehow be the victim’s fault, those that are assaulted are never to be blamed. The Center for Health Education and Promotion provided ways for those that have been assaulted to receive help. The YWCA of Lancaster has a counselor who works with Millersville University to help those that have been sexually assaulted, as well as other resources around campus.
The documentary ended with the message that it is important to speak out and not stay silent, and to not be afraid that the victim somehow deserved the situation or caused it. Sexual assault is a very serious problem, especially amongst men, due to the low reporting rates despite the staggering statistic.
While “The Voiceless” focused on the pain that these incidents caused these five men, they also focused on the reclaiming of their life, and their stories. By the conclusion of the film, the five men left the audience with an important message.
While “the wound never completely heals,” the five men reminded viewers “we are powerful.” To speak out and understand that there is support and it is not their fault, those males that have been sexually assaulted can begin to reclaim their life and heal.
Those that have encountered personally or know someone that has been sexually assaulted, please seek out those that can help, because as the five men in the documentary stated, “even if you feel alone in the world, know that we will fight by your side.”
The Center for Health Education and Promotion can be contacted at 717-871-4141 or visit www.millersville.edu/chep to find resources and help on campus and locally.