By Gary Pleece, Interim CEO Male Survivors Partnership (MSP)

Here’s How The Story (Never) Ends…

How MSP will shape the research agenda into sexual violence against males.

Hi, I’m Gary, the CEO of Male Survivors Partnership (MSP) and a survivor of sexual violence in childhood. Thanks for reading this blog …

When I did a journalism course in my 20s, I was told to ‘tell the whole story’ within the first sentence to keep people reading. Of course, the first sentence in this blog isn’t the whole story, indeed, not even part of it, but what it will hopefully do is let you know who I am and why my experiences are relevant to me performing the CEO role, which I think is a key detail.

This blog is, indeed, about stories; the need for male survivors to tell their stories in to raise public awareness about the prevalence and impact of male sexual violence so that we can influence government to invest in appropriate services that help prevent male sexual violence; or support those already affected. Specialist male support services are currently under threat, so it’s important that we dip our collective quills in the ink and get scribbling to tell our stories - immediately - so we can protect the services that have transformed support for thousands of male survivors.

I’ve been the Interim CEO for MSP since November 1st 2022 and full-time from December 5th and it’s clear to me already that a lot of work needs to be done to get the issue of male sexual violence onto the agenda of the government - and treated with the seriousness and respect it deserves.

One of the ways we’re going to be able to meet our aims to see real change for male survivors is by ‘telling the stories’ of male survivors and finding out what they want and need through rigorous research.

Gender Specific Support

We know that many male survivors do seek support from pan-gender, specialist support agencies, which is great, the more agencies that provide gender-specific support in line with the MSP quality standards, improves access to support for male survivors. However, our experience and research also demonstrates that substantial numbers of survivors don’t believe pan-gender services meet their needs; they want access to gender-specific support, male only local support agencies, or national services dedicated to the needs of male survivors.

Failure to give males the choice of accessing gender specific support services will result in fewer male victims/survivors seeking support which will have a negative impact on public health and will further reinforce the perception that the needs of male survivors are less important than those of females.

The key words in the above are ‘experience and research.’ There isn’t enough research about male sexual violence that can inform policy and practice; and there aren’t enough male survivor voices being heard to inform the powers that be that men aren’t getting the support and help they need and want. We have some, but it’s just not enough. That’s why MSP will be ‘champions of research’ for male survivors and the services that support them so we can change the landscape for the better.

Research, Research, Research …

MSP is looking to commission rigorous research that will help inform a national male survivor strategy that will help reduce the prevalence of male sexual violence in England and Wales and transform support for the multitude of men and boys already affected. Our research will provide new insights into the prevalence of male sexual violence in England and Wales, the help seeking behaviors of male survivors and how that influences the support they need and provide us with the evidence we need to influence national policy and practice.

Our board contains two research experts who will help us design, deliver, and disseminate research that, informs and advances the needs of male survivors.

In the last 6-months we have commissioned two pieces of research which will be published in February 2023. First, a Literature Review, led by Mike Hartill, a board member of MSP, a tabletop review of all research into male sexual violence published in the UK. The second research piece into Men’s Unwanted Sexual Experiences, (MUSE), a project that worked with male survivors in the Southeast, London and the Northeast, using a combination of methods, art therapy being one, to understand the barriers males face when disclosing and finding the support and help they need.

Both pieces of research are critical in our ambition to secure evidence-based insights that will influence government policy and practice to improve support for male survivors in England and Wales. And we’re not stopping there. Our new operational business plan has research, as well as membership development and prevention, at the heart of its agenda. Ongoing, it will be crucial in our development as a male membership organisation.

Without the evidence that research brings, the government and policy makers just ‘don’t know’ the full story and won’t fund services accordingly…and that’s why this story will never end - at

least until we give them the evidence that we know exists out there; indeed, the evidence that I know exists from my own personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual violence.

Gary Pleece

Interim CEO Male Survivors Partnership (MSP)

MSP is the UK’s only membership organisation for male sexual abuse service providers. Visit our website here and join us for free today to join our mission to get male survivors the support and respect they deserve.