They live alongside us, thousands of men, teens and children that are hiding a secret. Society has taught them to keep silent, instructed them that only women are harmed. But the truth is otherwise: One in every six men in the Western world undergoes a sexual attack in his lifetime, and one in every five male adolescents is sexually molested.
Up until the age of 12, boys and girls are molested at the same rate. Every year, 1,000 new calls come to the Emergency Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault for Men and Boys at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center.
Emergency hotline for victims of sexual assault, open for calls 24/7:
- Women: 1202
- Men: 1203
- Arab Women: 04-6566813
- Religious Women: 02-6730002
- Religious Men: 02-5328000
Yet, despite the alarming numbers, the silence of sexually assaulted men is intense and all-encompassing.
Now, with exposed faces and rare courage and great strength, six men—Ronen Fox, 47, Avidav Goldstein, 28, Manny Waks, 40, Eyal Shalev, 45, Nachum Pachnik, 43, and Menachem Roth, 42—dare to say, "I've been hurt." All of them suffered terrible assaults, sometimes for years.
Eyal was raped by a stranger when he was 15 years old, a lost boy who needed help. Manny was first attacked at 11 years old in a synagogue, which was a holy place for him. Menachem was assaulted at 14 years old and didn't tell anyone because "I knew that it was my word against the adult's word." Ronen was assaulted when he was only five. Avidav was assaulted again and again from third grade until the end of eighth grade, and for years wanted to die.
All bear the consequences of the trauma to this day. The pain, the memories bursting forth unexpectedly, the anxiety and difficulty in trusting others. But alongside the scars, they carry with pride the truth, the ability to live and love despite the assault, the strength that helped them to survive, and the sense of mission. For the save of boys, adolescents and men who are assaulted now.
Along with 13 other men, they are participating in an exhibition by Alicia Shahaf in, cooperation with the Emergency Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault for Men and Boys, to smash the wall of silence.
"We, as men, identified exposure as weakness, but exposing a story of assault is strength and courage," said Nachum, who was sexually assaulted during his mandatory military service. "The victim's silence and shame are the most powerful fuel for the attackers. Talking about sexual assault is excellent healing."
The photo exhibition is being displayed at the Enav Center for Culture in Tel Aviv until July 16; entry is free. For details: 03-5217763