Andrew Bhatti, 33, was only nine years old when he was sexually abused by his Big Brother from the Langley Big Brothers Association. The abuse continued until the age of 14. Bhatti is now an activist for male sexual abuse and a patient at the B.C. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (BCSMSSA), the only one of its kind in B.C.
The BCSMSSA supports boys and men who have been sexually abused at any time in their lives by providing victim services, group and individual therapy. For years, they’ve struggled for government grants, often being rejected because they do not fit specific criteria. Many of these grants specify victims must be women or young girls, overlooking thousands of men and young boys that suffer the same abuse. Although they receive three grants yearly from the B.C. Ministry of Justice, Vancouver Coastal Health and Mental Health and Addictions, these funds only cover 50 percent of ongoing costs, including therapists, almost four thousand dollars a month in rent and all costs associated with continuous projects. The society also pays for patients that want help but can’t afford treatment.
“Out of ignorance, many people assume that males aren’t as vulnerable or as likely to get abused in comparison to women. Aside from our facility, there are virtually no resources for men that are ready to receive help,” says the BCSMSSA founder and executive organizer, Don Wright.
They have faced countless financial hardships since opening. The society’s main goal is to raise two hundred thousand dollars over the next six months to provide additional treatment and services and to expand their facilities. This requires a substantial amount of money and support, two things they don’t receive enough of.
“Lack of awareness has led to a lack of funding and has prevented male survivors from coming out for fear that they won’t be supported. There is also a stigma that is often attached,” says Wright.
If the society could no longer operate, Bhatti says he would feel isolated, suicidal and most likely resort to using drugs again. Prior to treatment, he was a heroin user for 14 years. Since starting treatment, he has been clean for seven years and is the father of a six year old boy.
“I have been in treatment on and off for the past six years and the way it has changed my life is significant,” says Bhatti.
Bhatti’s personal goal is to give back to the place that helped him turn his life around by raising twenty-five thousand dollars through a Ride for a Reason fundraiser on June 27. Cyclists will bike from Vancouver to Vernon in a movement aimed at garnering donations and shedding light on male sexual abuse.
Wright is currently in the process of applying for a grant from the B.C. Gaming branch in order to provide individual therapy to incarcerated male survivors. Both men will continue to raise awareness and look for support so young boys and men that have experienced sexual abuse do not have to suffer in silence.
Group therapy sessions offered by BCSMSSA
Mondays, Jan. 10–Mar. 28
Call 604-682-6482 or email
Victim services and individual therapy also offered. Visit www.bc-malesurvivors.com
for more information.