The sixth annual Paths to Healing conference, which focuses on providing support for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, will specifically target survivors from communities of color. The conference takes place Friday, June 22 at the American Family Insurance Training Center on Madison’s far east side.

“I think men in general don’t talk about a lot of things, particularly when it comes to things like sexual abuse,” said conference founder Callen Harty, who will also keynote this year’s event. “We’re raised in a society where there’s just massive amounts of toxic masculinity out there. Any indication that you’re not a man makes people nervous. To admit that you were sexually abused as a man can be a really scary prospect for most men. To even think about, let alone speak it out, can be very scary.”

That fear can be especially pronounced among men of color, Harty said.

“I think for white folks it’s a little bit easier,” he said. “For me it’s a little bit easier because there’s resources, but I don’t know that there are those resources within those communities. I think Latino folks and African American folks are welcome to go to the Rape Crisis Center or domestic abuse intervention services, but I don’t know how comfortable people are doing that.”

There’s also the issue of ICE.

“You think about in the Latino community, if you’re an undocumented immigrant, it’s scary to go to anybody with anything,” Harty said. “You’re afraid to go to the doctor or to a crisis center or whatever. People will ask too many questions. Then that secret is out and you’re suddenly being ripped apart from your family, as we’re seeing happening.”

To address these issues, Harty has organized a number of breakout sessions aimed specifically at helping men of color who’ve survived abuse.

“One of the really exciting things is there’s a Hopi man coming from Arizona, who has his own survivor story. He is going to speak about how that has been for him and how it is on the reservation for men to be able to deal with these kind of things. I think that is going to be fascinating as well,” Harty said.

Scheduled speakers include a mix of survivors and professionals.

  • Chelsea Marie (Chelsea O’Neil Karcher, MA, LPC-IT), Art Psychotherapist, and Owen Karcher from the Center for Community Healing, will give participants a deeper awareness of personal ideas, stereotypes, and assumptions related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer survivors; an increased comfort level in addressing concepts and language regarding LGBTIQ communities; and an increased awareness of the unique challenges and experiences of LGBTIQ survivors.
  • Carmin Valerdi, Bilingual Help Line Coordinator & Fatima Macias, Bilingual Youth Advocate, UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence, Madison, will present on the unique challenges of serving male survivors in the Latinx Community.
  • Aaron J. Evans, MS, LPC, TIC, Healing Counselor at Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services in Milwaukee, will present on the unique challenges of serving male survivors within the Black community.
  • Maureen Ryan, Executive Director of Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers, will give participants an increased understanding of issues related to working with people with disabilities who are sexual assault/violence survivors.
  • Vong Khang, Hmong Youth Services Coordinator at The Family Center will present on the unique challenges of serving male survivors in the Hmong community.
  • Waylon Pahona’s story will give insight on serving indigenous survivors. Pahona, who is Hope, Tewa, and Maricopa Piipaash will cover historical trauma, challenges indigenous survivors face with seeking medical care, reservation life, and how providers can possibly bridge gaps to provide culturally respectful services.

Harty said many attendees are therapists and other professionals who come to learn specifically how to help men who’ve survived sexual abuse. Family members of survivors and survivors themselves will also benefit, he said.

Harty became an outspoken advocate for male survivors of sexual abuse after the burden of his own experience led to a heart attack in his early 50s, back in 2010, more than 40 years after his own abuse began.

“I was sexually abused by a sibling from the time I was 10 until I was about 17 and a half,” he said. “Like many, many, particularly male survivors, but many survivors in general, I suppressed that for years. I became an alcoholic. I used drugs. Suicidal. all these things that survivors go through. Until after I had a heart attack. … After that, when something like that happens, you start thinking about what’s important in my life? What do I need to look at? What do I need to do?”

What Harty, a longtime playwright, performer and author, decided what he needed to do was to write a play and then a book about his experience, as well as forming the Paths to Healing conference.

The 2018 conference will take place beginning at 8:45 am Friday, June 22. Tickets are available online for $40.