A recurring theme in the Men’s Group* discussions has been how to work out what aspects of life’s challenges are a result of their abuse history, and what are just part of the rough and tumble that all of us face and have to deal with. It is a challenging question and one without a definitive answer.
Most of the men in the group were abused between the ages of 8-14; some by family members, others through people associated with school and church. For all, the experience/s have left life-long scars. Abuse affects how people relate to others, how their education and therefore work life unfolds, how individuals feel about themselves – their self worth and how they feel about others. Trust can be difficult to establish and maintain. Additional to the many and profound effects of abuse that both men and women experience, men have additional layers to contend with such as societal beliefs/fears to contend with that relate to sexuality and a male victim’s potential to grow up and harm others. These last two fears can further silence male victims.
The men in this group are valuing the exploration of their experiences and responses through art and also through the relationships and trust that have gradually built with the other members of the group. Talking and expressing the range and complexities of their lives and experiences through art and discussion has created a strong and committed group and has helped challenge and reshape some of the thoughts, behaviours and ideas that have not always been helpful.
After some weeks of working creatively together, and hearing this recurring question about the effects of abuse, I offered a project which gave form to the illusive answers most were seeking. The invitation was to create a vessel which had openings through which light could fall and shadows created. We discussed how the light and the pot changes depending on your perspective and the shadows picked up on the theme of my research – and gave way to explore some aspects of living, life and the past that could not be pinned down, determined, knowable or answerable.
Each in the group responds to a project idea in their own way; possibly some enjoy the emotional exploration more whilst others probably are more inclined to simply work with clay and form. Regardless of the individual approach, all seem to find the process enjoyable, revealing and relaxing.
The following week we experimented with placing a range lights and candles inside and outside the vessels. It was fun to dim the lights in the art room and marvel at the light and shadows as they played on the pots. Here are the photos from that session:
* An art group for men who have been sexually abused. Facilitated through the Northern Centre Against Sexual Assault, Melbourne.