When I was still in foster care my social worker arranged for me to attend group therapy. It was a group for incest survivors, primarily adults, though two of the others there were also under 18. I attended six sessions. My presence created obvious tension. I was the only male there and my silence must have made me stand out more even more. I am not certain what occurred in the sessions prior to my arrival, but I noticed the women were hesitant to speak openly. On several occasions comments were curtailed, many of which appeared to be generalized comments about males. The woman who ran the group seemed nice enough though, and did not push me to speak.
For the most part I felt like an invader, as if I had stepped unwanted into a private space. While I never hung around before or after the sessions to socialize (I am not sure if anyone did this), there was no real attempt to make me feel welcome. Being overly self-conscious, I could feel them glaring at me as I sat there with my head down listening to their experiences. The way they emphasized “he” and “him” and “men” often seems as if they viewed me as the physical representation of the males who had raped them. At the time I accepted it without complaint because I did not want anymore conflict between me and my social worker. But it also made me dread going to the session for an hour a week.
For the sixth, and my last session, the moderator (I forget the word the woman used to describe herself), asked that we bring pictures of ourselves as children. This presented for me a unique problem as I had few pictures of myself as a child and those I did were not photos I could show to anyone. The one I ended up cutting (at the time I did not have access to Photoshop) was one of me and my aunt. For some reason I was anxious when I attended the session. When it came time to show the photos, I was asked who the woman was. I said it was my aunt and explained, unasked for, why the picture looked oddly cropped. The woman next to me made an incredulous remark. She said she doubted my aunt had done those things and doubted that anything had been done to me at all, though those were not her exact words. I do not recall what I assumed when the woman stood, but I did not expect her to slap me and storm off. I sat there quietly, more surprised than hurt, and decided it was best that I leave.
Later my social worker tried to convince me to return. I refused, and when she stated that the woman who slapped me was still part of the group, I saw no reason for me to return. I am old enough now to understand a little better what might have set the woman off. But regardless of the things my presence may have caused her to feel, that experience always sits in the back of my mind whenever I enter spaces intended for or dominated by women. I cannot say that it is a fear that women will assault me more so that their behavior will be condoned. The moderator of the incest group went after the woman. She did not stay to check on me, though in all fairness I left before she got a chance. The other survivors said nothing as well, though they may have been just as surprised as I was.
When I see instances of women bashing males or those they perceive as male, all those hesitancies creep back up and I wonder whether it is worth the effort to speak out. At the same time I wonder whether silence is worth it either, since that resulted in getting slapped.
read Being a Boy: 101