In this episode, I speak with Doctor Kelli Palfy, a registered psychologist specializing in working with adult male survivors of sexual abuse. Prior to becoming a psychologist, she was an RCMP officer who worked in the Integrated Child Exploitation...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e327-male-sexual-abuse-with-kelli-palfy-trauma-healing-podcast/#show-notes
In this episode, I speak with Doctor Kelli Palfy, a registered psychologist specializing in working with adult male survivors of sexual abuse. Prior to becoming a psychologist, she was an RCMP officer who worked in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit, part of the Behavioral Sciences Unit of the RCMP. As many of you know, one of the subjects that I've brought to this show, my career and books that I have written, articles that I have published, podcasts that I've been on, and other appearances is the fact that when I was a child, I was sexually abused. I had this moment where I did not share it for a very long time, and once I did what happened, I was told never to talk about it; this would damage our family, and we will lose support from people who were supporting us and so on.
This conversation that I have today with Doctor Kelli Palfy is about exposing not only this subject matter to society at a greater scale in depth but also looking at a lot of the ways that boys specifically fall into sexual abuse, how they are groomed, how they are cold, how society doesn't talk about it or looks the other way and then how we create space for male survivors to finally have this conversation, to find community, to find help, to find guidance, to find ultimately a way to be able to move through this and not let it be that hidden thing that stops you from finding love, compassion, empathy, hopes, success and whatever else it is that you may need in your life.
So, I greatly appreciate her coming on and sharing not only her life's work in this subject matter but also helping me move towards bringing this closer to the light not only through the show but also in my own personal life and on this healing journey.
It's my honor and privilege to have these hard conversations because I know that someone listening today is going to find the support they need. You may be able even to give that person, and you may not know what that support by sharing this because of the day may through the secrecy of navigating what has happened in their life.
Be willing to sit, and listen to this conversation and I hope that holds true.
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Learn more about Dr. Kelli Palfy: https://kellipalfy.com/Books
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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! I hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. Very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest Doctor Kelli Palfy who is the author of Men too Unspoken Truths about male sexual abuse. Kelli, my friend I'm very excited to have you on the show today, how are you?
Dr. Kelli: Thanks Michael. I'm well and I'm happy to be here.
Michael: Awesome. And I know that this is a subject that we're going to create a lot of contexts around and for those folks who don't know you, can you tell us a little bit about you and how you got to where you are today?
Dr. Kelli: Sure. I'm a registered psychologist, I work in private practice in the Edmonton, Alberta area but prior to becoming a psychologist, I was a police lady and so that's sort of what gave me the background to do this type of work with male survivors of sexual abuse, and I'm happy to explain that to you if feel like.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to know kind of what sparked this interest for you to go and create not only in write this book but to be of service in this area and and I'll preface the conversation with this. When I was young, I was molested by a member of our church and it was something that was told to be pushed down, don't talk about it, pretend it didn't it happen because in context my mother was trying to make sure that people in the church could take care of us and she didn't wanna for a lack of better term rock the boat, very common right? And it sent me down this and credible confusion around sexuality, around who I am as a person, my identity so on and so forth and it really wasn't until I got deep into the work that thing started to change. I'll tell you this as context to this conversation, I really haven't dived into this depth in on the show and so, I'm very excited to have on and talk about this. So, I love there's a little bit of background and understanding about sexual abuse in general.
Dr. Kelli: Absolutely, Michael. We're gonna have to make this a two-part series probably, there's so much we could talk about. So, I was an RCMP Officer, I was working in the behavioral sciences units specifically in the integrated child sexual exploitation unit. So, they were training me to be a subject matter expert and to be honest we had seized all these video tapes we were investigating the RCMP's first we call it sex tourism file which means that Canadian had traveled abroad for the purposes of exploiting a child sexually, we'd seized all this material we were going through all of the videos of what had taken place unfortunately. You know, we were seeing male sexual abuse happening there but to be honest I didn't recognize it as abuse because of course the boys looked like they were having fun and I didn't really think too much about it but then that was one crime scene or whatever that we're investigating getting one crime – one set of crimes but then we got more and more and more files and I started to see more of this. And on a training seminar when they were trying to like training me to be a subject matter expert, they had Sheldon Kennedy come in and talked to us now he was sexually abused by his coach, he's a former pro hockey player, he played for the Chicago black hawk Calgary flames Detroit a few teams like that and he's sort of being abused by his first coach.
He talked to us about all the reasons why he didn't talk about it, so you know he had his reasons were so valid I mean he said, he was raised in poverty and his newfound career was literally lifting his family at a poverty, his whole community was super proud of him, his parents were super proud of him, he knew he had the skill set to go pro and he knew that his coach could get him there, so those are of the reasons that he stayed quiet but he said, he also stayed quiet because he felt like some of his teammates parents knew that he was being abused and did nothing so he felt like nobody would help, and this was early two thousands, right? So, I prior to becoming a police lady, I had worked in corrections and I remember when I was working in corrections wondering, why are there so many men and women you know compared to women and I never got that answer and never understood it but when Sheldon Kennedy started talking the ways he cope with his abuse which was you know like on the ice, he take it out aggression and turning to drugs and alcohol it was like the light started to go on for me, I started to see holy crop is this why there's maybe, why there might be more men in prison than say women because you know, we've got a plethora of boys who were abused that had no supports and you know continuing, their abuse being minimized or being told that they shouldn't have been abused or they weren't abused and having to turn to alcohol and drugs to numb themselves rather than how a woman might be fully supported in society. So, at the time, I just remember like my heart just bled for him and I remember thinking like we have to do something like we need to do more but of course I'm working full time investigating child sex crimes and I just remember you know my heart blood for him and I was just so aware that there were no resources for men, ironically at the time he also talked about living a double life he said, you know on one hand, I was a pro hockey player but on the other hand, I was being abused and that's the small piece that I kind of related to because I was going through pretty significant bullying and I didn't know how to stop it and it was like destroying and I was an adult, I was a police lady with a badge a gun, he was a youth like away from home for the first time with like you know his entire future career on the line. So, I was just very, very aware of how society fails boys and men.
So, then fast forward a few years, I actually ended up losing my career and placing to bullying and I was absolutely desperate to find something else to be passionate about and I'm very grateful that one of my professors in my master's program, I had already started my master's degree before I left the RCMP, I just decided to stay in school. And one of my professors mentioned that he worked at a place called the BC Society for male survivors of sexual abuse and I mean you have to understand that was clinically depressed at that time and when he said that it was like hey, I could get on board for that like, I know I've witnessed this like, I was trained in this area like, I understand some of the problems that boys and men have or at least a few of them and the biggest thing was that, I had missed it initially you know like I said, I didn't know what I was seeing initially and there was a huge conviction that for me. So, it was like if I'm supposed to be the expert in this area and I don't even know this what does the rest of the population like less than I do? So, I just decided to make it my goal when I pursued my doctor or research to examine like other reasons why boys and men might not be coming forward. So, that's how I got involved in this and then I got really, really good reviews and ended up turning it into a book so that it could be accessible. You know as a support for male survivors and then also like as sort of a tool to help other people in the world understand, you know, the reasons that boys don't come forward the complicated barriers that they face compared to women.
Michael: Yeah, I would love to start there and ask you why is it that there's so much confusion for male survivors and why do they not come forward?
Dr. Kelli: There are a lot of reasons; a lot of them have to do with society, right? Like, you know, masculine biases that say boys and men are not supposed to be victims and you know that old myths that we used to believe boys and men always want sex they never turn it down, they can control their stuff like this. So, of course, if you've got a boy that's been abused and he was not able to control his direction or ended up enjoying it he's obviously gonna be very confused about his own willingness to participate. So, even though he may have been course, threatened, shamed into engaging in these sexual acts, his body may have responded, so that's very confusing for a boy or for a man. And of course offenders in their grooming process will throw that sort of back at the victim and say oh look, you like this, we're friends, this is a healthy relationship, we're in love kind of thing and they get confused about their own willingness in that abuse, their own participation, their own degree of willingness.
So, I mean that's one reason, there's a lot of reason like, I mentioned Michelle and Kennedy one of the biggest reasons was they felt like nobody would care, nobody was gonna help them even if they did disclose so that's like terrible, right? I mean that's perpetuated by society, I mean it's still not uncommon to hear joke on popular tv, right? Like blows my mind to this day that that's allowed, so things like that, a lot of it is fear too, I mean oftentimes the offenders will threaten their victims so you know a victim that's been threatened is a lot more likely to say quiet, many times they're victimize by someone in their biological family so someone that they might be dependent on, a bio parent which is really sad but you know a couple of my participants my research said that they never disclosed their abuse because if they did they would never have a chance to going to university. So, calculated decision to not say something oftentimes there's a fear that if I do say something about dad or step dad or uncle, whatever what's gonna happen to the family, right? They protect their parents, they protect their siblings, they'll say, I'll take the abuse so my sister doesn't have to that kind of thing, it's just like boys even at that age doing what boys and man are conditioned to do, protecting other people from information that they think would be too hard for them to handle or too hard for the family to manage. Like you mentioned in your case Michael like your mother didn't wanna rock the boat, a lot of the boys abused that church often don't wanna blow their parents church apart by this information, right?
Michael: Yeah, and it's very interesting to me because you know, you mentioned that a lot of times it's somebody in the family and I think that perhaps this isn't discussed enough maybe it's just the way that we look at society but there's also females who abuse boys and girls as well. Why do you feel like that is and how do we kind bring more awareness to it from all aspects and all scope of the conversation?
Dr. Kelli: I mean, why do I think that is? I think the females would abuse a child for the same reasons possibly for the same reasons actually, I mean that's not my area of specialty honestly but you know like, why they would abuse a child. But I know that it happens it's very common and the way society responds to that is shocking. You know, a female abuse as a male, I know that it's changing but not fast enough, they will often treat it as if it's a coming-of-age things or like a rite of passage kinda thing, right? So, yeah but you know it just doesn't happen when it's a female victim, right?
Michael: Yeah, and that's one of the things that I've always kind of been perplexed by because I’m on a different side of the coin really than a lot of people have gone through those experiences. One of the things that you talked about was this idea of grooming and I know that so for context a lot of people listening, I call the majority of listeners of this show they have children or they have kids, they have teens, can you talk about the tactics of grooming and what people what can be on the lookout for?
Dr. Kelli: So, grooming techniques, one of the things that parents really need to be aware of is that offenders will typically work really, really, really hard to come across as the least likely person you would ever just suspect. A stranger danger used to be the thing that we weren't kids about unfortunately over ninety percent of abuse is happening by someone that the child and loves and also someone that the parent trusts. So, typically offenders will try to meet the needs of the parent and the child, so let's say the parent wants to you know allow little Johnny to go off to soccer camp but they can't because it's on a day where they work, oh, I can take Johnny, I will make myself available that kind of thing and they will pay special attention, maybe offer to coach little johnny extra, oftentimes their friendship is maintained for a very long time before sexual abuse begins happening but there is usually a kinda deliberate primitive process that they will go through. So, it's gonna start with just like, visits with the family involved and then once they've won the affection and trust of the parents they'll start to be alone with the child or maybe alone with the child and one of two of his friends they'll get them engaged and say rough play that kind of thing and they'll encourage masculine principles, right? Like whether they're wrestling or swearing or whatever it is have them doing they'll reward them for these behaviors, somehow introduce secrecy into the process so perhaps by allowing the younger person to do something that their parents might not allow them to do like drive a vehicle or drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette or smoke marijuana or something like that, so typically they're gonna treat the child as if they're older than they are and so that gets them bound in this secrecy and it's a bit of a test. So, if they don't tell on their offender for allowing that to happen there's less chance that they're gonna report themselves later on because of course if they do report their abuse later on, they've also got to admit that they did all these things that they weren't supposed to do. When a offender choose a target, he'll put himself into situations where there is access to young people you know slightly before their age preference so they have that time to establish the relationship and then they will allow them special privileges like I said and then they're gonna start to somehow then they're gonna work too the relationship will progress to touch like and it will be non-sexual at first typically so, rough housing like I said or in younger children it would be typical and stuff like that, maybe even getting the two ways to rust and he'll coach them or something like that, maybe teach them how to use weapons that kind of thing. Sometimes offenders will ask the children what they know about sex and then sort of get their interest built up that way offer to teach them, offenders will often offer to teach young boys about masturbation, so, this is the thing that I like to advocate to parents. We have to be the first person to educate our children on any matter sexual because if an offender is the first one to introduce subject to their potential victim; the victim may be feeling like entitled or deprived to that kind of thing so they might be resentful that their parents wouldn't have allowed them to do this and the offender will often use pornography that might show other children engaging in these acts with like children with children or children with adults so that it lowers their inhibition. Somehow, they're lowering their inhibition and then they're you know like maybe showing them graphic images so that it actually gets them excited, they may offer to teach somehow to you know engage in sexual acts, that kind of thing, they're gonna normalize it, they're gonna say, things like this is what everybody does, this is what you do when you get older. You know, other people might not understand, whatever they need to say to entice the child they will say, sometimes they'll use religion and shame them you know, we shouldn't have did this, you've sinned now kind of thing now, you can't tell anybody or you just need to repent that kind of thing or like I said their body's response as blackmail against them and say oh, look, you know your body responded you must have enjoyed it, this was consensual kind of thing. So, at the end of the process the offenders primary goal is to leave his victim very confused about whether or not they were willing participants, that's sort of the grooming process and it is also one of the other reasons why like lot of victims don't come forward because they go well you know prior to the abuse I really liked my offender so was it really abuse.
Michael: Yeah, and I'm sure that's probably a very difficult thing, I know for children to cope with. One of the things that you've mentioned a few times is like types of offenders, are there different types of offenders that people should be aware of? I wanna ask here.
Dr. Kelli: Yeah, I mean, I’m aware of them being categories in two different ways like I said, I don't necessarily specialize in sex offenders but we know that there's like situational or opportunistic offenders which they will offend against anybody either sex, anytime an opportunity arises and the ones that are more prolific and sort of predatory would be the preferential child molestees. So, preferential will use the grooming techniques that I just discussed that they will hunt and recruit and groom their victims so they like, a situation will take any opportunity, a preferential will create the opportunity. So, these are the ones that have the highest number of victims.
Michael: So, one of the things and I always want to be cautious to for lack of better term scare the shit out of people and so, I want to quick context here for (a) what can people be doing to be aware of those individuals in their family or neighborhoods or community or schools, churches and then if they find this is happening what do they do about it?
Dr. Kelli: Well, I think honestly the best thing that people can do is educate themselves about the grooming techniques, right? And kind of be watching for them, so, if something seems too good to be true it probably is, I mean let's be honest we're all selfish people, we don't typically give things away for free and certainly not for long periods of time. Like, I might do freeze couple free sessions with somebody but I'm not gonna do it for ten years or whatever. And also, just paying attention to their own guts, if their guts tell them that something's wrong chances are there is something wrong, in young children they might say, I don't like that person or I don't wanna be alone with that person or I don't want you to go to work mommy, that kind of thing. So, if young children are saying that, adults need to pay attention, you know ask a few more probing questions, why honey? Why don't you like that person or what games do you play that you don't like you know kind thing rather than just saying you need to get along with Johnny or whatever, right?
Yeah, that kind of thing in older teens or school age children I would say you know it could be the child that's being bullied at school because sometimes children who are abused turn into the odd kid because they're so dysregulated or they lack boundaries, that kind of thing or they can't pay attention in class because they haven't slept in days because they're having nightmares that night or maybe being abused at night, that kind of thing, so just watch out for these kids that kinda stand outside the crowd, the one that's being picked on or maybe even the school the class clown like you know, could be victimized, right? Because oftentimes when children are falling behind for whatever reason they will use humor to deflect from those facts and stuff. I'm watching out for things like that like in older kids, I would say watch out for drastic changes in behavior. Like in my book I thought there's a boy who said like you know I used to go to church with grandma all the time and then all of a sudden he's got really dark interests and like you know drugs, alcohol, pornography, dark poetry, heavy music, drastic changes, so kids with the chip on their shoulder like perpetually angry sudden changes in their desire to be in a relationship with you and just be careful not to talk things like that but that up as like you know always just turning into a teenager because they will go a few changes but they're not typically sudden and stream, so watching out for things like that.
Michael: Yeah, I think that's really practical too because I'm like as you're saying this in real time, I'm going back like yep, check that box, that box that box, that box all these experiences that I had that should have what I would consider to be like signs for because of you know, you see deeper information, asking for help, things of that nature that we're rightly ignored. I will say this, I hope to believe that we live in a bit of a different world than we did in the eighties but I still want to always try to inform people about what to look out for. One are the things as we kinda switch gears here, I'm very curious about so with working and studying and understanding so many of these experiences for men, talk to me about kind of what that journey is for men to actually first come for lack of better terms because I don't know how to phrase it like bring it to light and I'd talk about the experience of that and how men can find support or if you're someone who knows a man who has had one of these experiences how you can help support them?
Dr. Kelli: Well, there are different agencies in the United States and Canada that support male survivors specifically and I do think starting there is a nice reference point because a lot of them will have links to psychologists or therapists who say that they specialize in male survivor issues so, I think that's important to and I always advocate to psychologists like if you wanna work in this area, advertise that you do because for me that's huge like, I get male survivors contacting me because of my areas of expertise and I think what can we do in society to help men be more prepared, we need to talk about this, we need to make it safe for boys and men to come forward, right? We need to normalize this, for voice and men who have felt that they're not allowed to come forward in the past, we need to you know let them know that we believe you, we will hear you, we will listen and we will not mock you we will not shame you for having been a victim when you were a little boy, right? I think the biggest thing is just like educating people, educating parents, educating spouses about you know symptom, signs, that kind of thing just making it safe to have these deep, deep discussions.
Michael: And in creating that safety when somebody I think one of the biggest struggles that I had personally was just getting that place of recognizing like there's not an alonness to it, right? You go, look at statistics, I mean you see some statistics sets of one and five, one and six, I would argue it's probably higher, is there anything that you have seen to feel can gruent across the people that you've been able to work with, that are signs that or I guess tools I would say that one could use in the healing journey to start progressing forward?
Dr. Kelli: Signs that they could use?
Michael: Any kind of signs or tools or resources like, when they going through this process?
Dr. Kelli: Well, I do recommend finding a train trauma therapist, right? Because I mean when you're talking about sexual abuse, we're talking about like traumatic experiences so, I do recommend finding somebody that is trained in this and you know if you are in a community where there isn't somebody listed that's trained in this, get them to read book for example like, make them educate themselves if you're gonna work with me, I need you to know about these types of issues, right? So, you know my book is designed to support male survivors to validate their realities, to help them make sense of what they went through, that's the biggest feedback I get is that your book helped me make sense of what I already went through. Michael, I'm curious about your own experience so like one of the reasons that a lot of the men said that in my research said that they didn't come forward it was because they kinda tested the waters a little bit to see if it was safe and it hadn't felt safe. I'm curious if that was your experience at all?
Michael: Yeah, I mean absolutely and you know being in that situation and sitting down and telling my mother this and basically the rub bottle being you can't do that because if you do, we're gonna lose these things and growing up in homelessness, as growing up a massive poverty mean the majority of our food came from new church, clothes came from goodwill or our electricity our was often paid by tithes from the church.
So, you know you're talking about this enmeshment into it in a way that was if I were to do that, if I were to bring this to public knowledge we'd be ostracize that's keeping up afloat, that's the thing that when I came to realize that to be true it actually that's when I started going into these depths and I could literally like paint this out, step by step was going suddenly I was more violent, now I mean tons of circumstances involved in that but ultimately I believe less so like fear of pain or punishment or anything like that but more of the fear of like if you don't do this our family will stop.
Dr. Kelli: What a burden to put on a child, right? I mean you have to stay silent that we can eat but again that is very typical societal response to male abuse that you know you're already in that role of protecting and providing for the family somehow it was very common in my research that they didn't talk about it because it would either blow up the family or mom would be, dad would go to jail and who's gonna support the family and you know go reputation in the community, he's a pastor, right? We just can't have this happen in our house but yours sounds very extreme that you have to stay quiet because that’s our food literally.
Michael: Yeah, and the thing that I've come to discover in this it was not until I was in a men's group therapy where I shared this, where I've really started to be able to progress forward, right? And you know looking at and understanding the narrative and society even being one of the few men publicly talking about something like this, I know that far more people are impacted by it, and I know a big reason why I wanted to have you come on and share your expertise but the experiences of these men because I recognize and see that’s so detrimental and see the impact of it in relationships and mental, emotional, sexual, physical aspects of what it is to be you. And I've been in this process of healing and I think it will always be a part of it like getting closer and deeper into understanding who I am kind of looking at the causation and correlation of my behaviors that has been able like tighter curves moments go, oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense that experience back then and then now reframing it and being able to ultimately take control over the narrative. Do you find that what the people that the men you work with that holds true for them as well?
Dr. Kelli: Absolutely, I mean there's of lot of things that can happen like you just describe like, I suspect part of your experience was maybe even initially not knowing you know the full impact of the abuse, right? Like when you're a little boy you know something bad has happened and you didn't like it but as you turn into your teenage and adolescence and teenage years you start to understand it more as sexual abuse and your sexual identity is called the question. So, I mean that's also a big reason why I let a boys and men stay silent too is because you know initially, they don't understand it, they don't understand the impact of it and then when they do start to understand the impact of it, they don't wanna be labeled, they're already feeling alone enough like, why did he pick me? Why did this happen? And then you know now, I've got a circle of friends the last thing I wanna do is oat myself as a victim when everybody else is talking about all the extra paids and adventures they're on, here I am like struggling to discuss what I went through. So, I think it's really common too that like what you said you went into a group and went up getting support and then coming forward.
Michael: Yeah, and that was very much the case. You know, I think about I basically just stuff it down, right? I said, oh this is just who I am, it's signed not a big deal and then what happens is you recognized like oh, holy shit, that's just destroying all of my life and it wasn't just all the traumatic experiences that I’ve had. But I think that one of the things that I struggled with the most was just pointing to what you just said, it felt like there was gonna be so much shame and guilt and judgment along with telling the truth about it because that when I'd been groomed into experience.
Dr. Kelli: Yeah, well possibly no one would, I mean your mom sounds like she did believe you but she told you how to stay quiet, other times boys are told like that I'm sure that didn't happen or just like why you making oblige that kind thing, I mean I would like to think in today's day and age that is not more anywhere near as comments that may have been in the past simply because of ignorance people didn't understand that boys and could be abused. Well the other thing that reminded me you asked me like what are some of the reasons why men don't come forward? Memory loss, these like you said, I minimized it in my own mind well, I've had several a few of my participants worked really, really, really, really hard to pretend that it didn't happen, some of them through the use of alcohol actually managed to block the memories of their own abuse for years.
Michael: Yeah. I have friends and even people that I have coached over the years that when they stepped into sobriety like that came back, that's one of the first things I always advise anyone when they're stepping into this healing journey is like get sober because even though it sucks, you're gonna discover things that you're gonna be able to acknowledge that will become in turn the very things that are gonna set you free from what's heading you.
Dr. Kelli: Absolutely. I love that word freedom, right? Like, I mean that's sort of the goal that I wanted to help men in their books or maybe I should say that for the end you told me where you're gonna ask for the end but I like to think of helping men like be transformed into what held them back and to the life that God created them to have, kinda of thing, right? Helping them to reach their full potential.
Michael: I would love for you to give some practical tools here for people listening right now especially geared towards the men listening right now, like great, I hear this, I got it like, I feel like this has been a part of my experience but like alright, I'll go to therapy, I'll do the things but is there anything that I can be doing that I could apply to my life maybe even right now that I can start to move forward around?
Dr. Kelli: Well, I mean, I suggest starting with therapist, starting with group, getting the support you need, doing the reading that's out there my book is one of those examples there's other books as well. You know, getting the support, getting the help that you need and then you know being open about it right because shame hides in the dark and victims don't have anything to be ashamed about it's an offender that needs to be ashamed.
Michael: Yeah, I love that you said that and you're so spot on because you know what I recognized that one point was like oh, shit this isn't actually my fault and I think that's probably going back to that word free that I use that was one of the most freeing moments in my life because I recognize the truth about not having to be culpable, right? And I think that one of the things people suffer through is this idea that it is they're responsible they, their thought. Well, one of the questions I'm really curious about here and I love the title of your book Men too: Unspoken Truths, what other unspoken truths have we not touch base on that you think are incredibly important to this conversation?
Dr. Kelli: Well, I mean that was the whole basis of my research was you know, why are men not coming forward? So, there’s lots and lots of reasons like you know guilt, shame, fear. Here's one that people used to believe and I don't know I think it's still fairly common that if you were victimized there's a chance you're gonna become an offender, in fact a strong chance well that's a lie, right? Like research shows that less than ten percent of victims will go on to become offenders however the lie is often perpetuated by offenders because when they get caught the first thing that they say, I was victimized, please have sympathy for me, please I know what this boy went through because I went through it too. Well, there's research that shows that seventy percent of sex offenders like psychopathic sex offenders would say that they were abused when they were a young boy themselves, then when you threaten them with a poly that number drops to thirty percent and that's without even doing the polygraph just threatening with the polygraph, they self-disclosed, okay, it wasn't true, all the way down from seventy to thirty percent. So, let's keep that in perspective if we actually did the polygraph which lot them would pass unfortunately really but I don't believe those statistics are near what they're claiming. So, that's one of the hidden truths I think that's not covered in my book but it is one reason that a lot of boys and men keep quiet because this lie, this myth that if you you're gonna become an offender, you gotta protect your children from them, right? And that's actually part of whale let end up coming into therapy when they get to the age where they're having their own children, they become a afraid that they might be in an offender, they might become an offender because of course they have to care for their own children, their children's genitals are exposed to them so, they're terrified can I accidentally fall into this? No, you're not going to this, but many men, they end up put problems in their marriage because they refused to help to care for their own children because they were scared of this.
Michael: Wow that's fascinating and as someone who does not have children, I've never thought about that before and if you're in that partnership I can imagine how difficult it may be to try to navigate that and not only as a partner but as a man trying to go through that and have those kinds of thoughts. And to your point about I've heard that so many times that people have abused because they were abused and maybe it goes into that adage of hurt people hurt people but you know I would hope that and clearly, it's not the case. For folks who are kind of wrapping their head around this for the first time are there any other like misnomer about sexual abuse that maybe you could debunk or demystify for us?
Dr. Kelli: Well, I think you already debunked to few them for me like this idea that it was your fault, that you wanted it, that you it that kind of thing, right? Like I said before offenders will work really, really, really, really hard to confuse their victims, so it works. You know that the myth if they picked you, you must be pay or you must have invited it or you must have enjoyed it because your body responded that way. Well, favorably to the abuse like you got an or ejaculate.
Spinal cord research shows us that even you know that there two separate systems; the central nervous system is I can't explain it, I'm sorry, I’m not gonna do it justice but the body can respond even when it's not a willing participant let's just leave it about. And that's true for women too it's just not near as obvious in a woman, right?
Michael: Yeah, I mean that's a really great point.
Dr. Kelli: And offenders get the opportunity to use it against a man because it's so obvious isn't a woman it's not so obvious.
Michael: Yeah, and it's not and I think that's one of the really interesting points about it is. Your body it's autonomic, it's a part of the human system and it immediately turns into this other place where and I'm not a scientist either so, I won't dive into it but is research point to the fact like yeah, that's a part of the experience unfortunately and you hear many people have been molested and rape survivor speak to this and I think unfortunately it's just part of one of the reactions that the human body natively halves under these circumstances.
Dr. Kelli: Yeah, I mean even in the sympathetic nervous system a man can get an interaction because there's lots of evidence that men who have gone to war when they're in the middle of combat will get interaction. So, you know that like this idea that you were willing participant and again keep in mind every child needs an attention, so if you did happen to like your offender because they worked really, really really, really hard to make you like him and when you started liking him you had no idea that his intentions were not honest and honorable so, you know, that would be one thing, I would say like don't blame yourself for being abused or for not having stopped the abuse sooner, right? Like all every child need affection and attention and if their abuser happens to be their primary source of that it's very hard to stop that relationship.
Michael: Yeah, and it is especially as a child because like the most unfortunate part of it is like you don't actually have control and I think one of the things that I've experienced in my own self that’s took me a long time to heal from was like not beating myself up about not having the strength to deal with, right? And I think that when men can come together and when people can recognize as a whole like you know again coming back to my point that children are not culpable for these things then we start to see this massive shift I believe. Now of course I’m not scientist and I'm not researcher but I’m gonna guess from my own personal experience that holds true.
Dr. Kelli: Absolutely right. I always tell my clients don't judge yourself as if you knew then what you know now, right? So, I mean it's so easy to do that, it’s so easy to say, why was this was stupid? If you actually go back to that you know like actually, I remember mom and dad were fighting a lot back fan and this guy was like you know was a nice to get away from the house or in your case maybe he took out the fancy restaurants or gave you gifts that your mom could never afford to give you. And of course, every child wants those things and deserve those things but you know like I mean it sounds to me like you would've have been the perfect target because you had a lot of needs and so did your mother.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And that's why coming to the realization of not beating myself up, not being culpable for it, doing the work healing, growing, changing, reading the books, showing up, taking care of myself has dramatically changed my life for the better, and I think it's always a process. You know, I try to teach people as often as possible know this is a forever process because there will always be the next trigger that always be the next thing but if you continue to show up and leverage the tools and make meaning of the experiences and honestly for me what's probably been most important is trying to re associate all the experiences of my life like on the backside of this you can still have an amazing life and you don't even have to share it publicly, I realized like me sharing this publicly is for some people probably the first time they're even bringing awareness to this kind of conversation and I don't think men or anyone for that matter need to share it but I am saying that it is here it does exist and to go and share it within a safe space with therapist it will change your life forever.
Dr. Kelli: Absolutely. I do agree that it's a lifelong journey I think it probably would be for women but it's maybe not as much of a struggle but women have so much support readily available, I mean you can go into any city and any sexual salt centers is used to dealing with women and I'm most of them are well accustomed to dealing with men now but that's only in the last ten fifteen years. I mean, any woman is can look anywhere for support but you know a man has to be kinda careful because there's still a lot of people that don't understand that men can be victimized and there's still a lot of people like, I say that are still buying into those biases that have existed for a lifetime before.
The other thing I just wanted to say Michael was like you said like it's a lifetime process well and you know obviously abuse happens in a lot of different context so, when the things that I tried to do in my book was say you know for example if you were abused in a familiar situation and if you went through what we call quantification where you were made to be the parent to other maybe even to your abuser, right? Like, one of my research participants his father put him in the role of being his mom's date, lover her everything and you know so, he would benefit from reading these five books that I gave as listings in my book to read or if you're struggling in your adult life with attachment issues because you don't trust, here's a good book to read. So, that's one of the kind of things I tried to do on my book with say like, I'm not an expert in all of these areas but here's the expert in that area you might wanna go and here's the expert in that area you might wanna go check out so there really are resources out there, it's just a matter of finding them.
Michael: Yeah, and I love that you included those resources because I've always tried to do the same thing because the one thing that I know is there's just so much information, there's experts everywhere and you do have to seek it. And I think that's what the more difficult parts about it is people don't recognize the agency that they have to take in this process.
Dr. Kelli: You also have to be careful who you follow because I mean one of the things that I've learned is a psychologist that anybody can call themselves a counselor whether they got credentials to do it or not like I thought clients come in to see me and it's like they tell me what they did with their last therapist and I just shake my head and then it goes be research and find out what their last therapist training was and there isn't any. So, it's really scary that you know anybody can call themselves and experts. So, doing a little bit of homework and finding a few people that you trust and then taking their word on who they say is credible kinda thing might be helpful too so, I say just being careful and finding those groups, those supports, listening to your podcast, like you have different guests on that they get to hear, okay, this guy sounds credible, this guy's got the expertise in this area, I might research him a bit more.
Michael: Yeah. It's interesting you say that too is because when I first found my therapist to deal with this specifically, I actually went to psychology.com, created a spreadsheet and call like twenty-five different therapists and ask all a series of questions that were very pointed because I knew I didn't know and understand whether or not they knew more than me to help me with the thing I'm trying to do, I recommend that tool. Kelly, my friend this has been an amazing conversation before I ask you my last question can you tell a little bit more about the book and where people can find you?
Dr. Kelli: Yeah. I mean it's amazon Barnes and nobles, chapters, indigo Walmart, it's available on a lot of venues now, my website is kellipalfy.com and there's links to where you can buy my book there if you're interested.
Michael: We'll put all the links in the show notes for the listeners and I highly recommend that you check out the book again, it's called Men Too: The Unspoken Truth About Male Sexual Abuse. Kelly, my friend my last question for you what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Dr. Kelli: Yeah. Honestly, I think that word that I use earlier that transformed. A lot of people that I've worked with have also turned to their faith and it's like going from a place of being able to being broken and being feeling like unworthy and unloved and transitioning into a place where you can now help other people heal the things that they have struggles with. I think this word transformation comes to my mind where you can you know reintegrate back into society and help others, if possible, with the things that you struggled with. I think like, I said I mean I always told my clients I can help he can heal. So, I do encourage people just get to help that's out there; there is help.
Michael: Yeah, beautifully said my friend and thank you so much for being here.
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Men Too Unspoken Truths About Male Sexual Abuse
About me: I am a registered psychologist who specializes in working with adult male survivors of sexual abuse. Prior to becoming a psychologist I was an RCMP officer who worked in the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit part of the Behavioral Sciences Unit of the RCMP. My unique background and experience investigating sex crimes committed against children led me into this work. In 2003/04 I was trained and considered to be the expert. I was humbled to learn that boys and men are victims too. Since no one was discussing what was already taking place, I recognized the gross under-reporting of the heinous crimes that are far too often committed on boys and men . In 2011 retired from my policing position, medically due to PTSD from bullying and began my Ph.D.
Reflecting back, I see that being in a position of power and feeling helpless to stop what was happening to me, helped me to establish a strong passion to help the boys and men who were also often powerless to stop or even discuss their abuse. So, I conducted my doctoral research examining why so few boys and men were actually reporting their sexual abuse, despite it’s prevalence. The results were varied, complex and multi-faceted. In 2016, I completed my Ph. D in Counselling Psychology. I then wrote a psycho-educational book: Men Too: Unspoken Truths About Male Sexual Abuse, which is designed to both support male survivors and educate the public. It is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/drkellipalfy
I've had fantastic reviews about my book including these sample comments:
“You put words to what I did not previously understand”
“Your book just arrived and you have nailed it within the first few pages”.
“It was like you followed me around my whole life; you made sense of what I experienced.”
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss male sexual abuse and the issues associated to under-reporting. Help me bring this important issue to light!