Working as a sexual assault crisis counselor, Bridget James noticed an unaddressed need: the lack of visibility for resources for male victims.
“It’s been something that’s been on my mind for awhile. After doing [counseling work], and from my own experiences and talking to other people, I started to realize how hard it was for men to know about the resources available to them,” James said. “And, it also showed me there weren’t many resources available. I just wanted to do something to change that.”
The 30-year-old Bridesburg resident sought to address it a few months ago, and posted on social media looking for help in developing a website.
Luckily, she found help close to home.
Her 32-year-old cousin and Northeast Philly native, Patrick Judd, reached out.
“I have a background in web and graphic design, and I’ve been working in the arts for the past 10 years,” Judd shared. “Bridget and I were very close growing up and we continue to be. And, she put on Facebook she was looking for a web designer and obviously, she’s family, so I said, ‘Don’t bother paying for one. I’ll help you.’ ”
James filled him in on the purpose of the website and the duo got to work, from choosing layouts to compiling all the resources throughout Philly they could get their hands on.
The website, Philly MAVRC (Men Against Violence Resource Center), got up and running within the last month.
“MAVRC is a community resource center in Philadelphia dedicated to changing the way our community views violence against men, starting constructive conversations about this issue, and providing access to resources for victim survivors,” James said. “It’s just really making those resources more visible.”
Currently, the website lists resources available in Philly from nonprofit organizations, to hotlines, to shelters.
“It’s really just to make that first step of identifying what help is available easier to navigate and less intimidating,” James said.
There’s also a forum for male victims and survivors of sexual abuse on the website.
“So, that’s our own resource for men to go on there to vent, to talk to other survivors, to know they’re part of a community and they’re not alone,” James said. “And, to share things that have helped them personally in their healing journeys.”
Other additions to the website are in the works, but one that may come sooner rather than later is meditation.
James has been in contact with a mindfulness provider in the greater Philadelphia area.
“Our next goal is to offer trauma-informed meditation through the website,” James said. “Therapy and counseling are great, but that isn’t necessarily something that works for everyone, so this will be a different resource we will be offering, hopefully soon.”
The details are not set in stone, but one-on-one, virtual guided meditation may be the first step, and eventually, virtual group meetings.
While the website is still in its infancy, James has been thinking about what the future of Philly MAVRC might look like.
“Definitely, a long-term goal is to really create a community and something that’s available for men,” James said. “I think online is great, but I think there being something physical gives it more room to grow and makes it more visible to survivors.”
Part of creating that community and visibility means bringing challenging conversations to the forefront of everyday life.
“One of my big things is to normalize the conversation when it comes to sexual assault against men. Mental health is becoming easier to talk about, but when it comes to men and sexual assault, we’re just not there yet and people aren’t comfortable talking about it,” James said. “And, that really does a disservice to men who have experienced trauma and not being able to talk about it makes them feel more isolated and makes healing even more difficult.”
Judd is 100 percent onboard with James.
“It’s to help build a sense of community among survivors and allow an open and safe space for them to come and communicate with each other and give them an outlet to understand they are not alone in this challenging issue they face day to day,” he said.
Aside from the actual website, there are Philly MAVRC Facebook and Instagram accounts.
“We do a resource spotlight, which is explaining what the resource is and what services they provide,” James said. “It just makes it a little easier to find.”
Making it easier to break the stigma and finding resources is the bottom line for both.
“If it’s just something as simple as a little Google search, finding the website, finding what resources available and it makes it easier on them, then I’ll be happy,” James said.
“People can think [sexual assault] doesn’t happen to men and if it does, it’s less serious. It is something serious that happens to men, so I just want men to know they’re not alone.” ••
To learn more about Philly MAVRC, visit www.phillymavrc.com, or follow philly_mavrc on Instagram or Philly MAVRC on Facebook.