The boy who was the victim, now the man who climbs new heights

Catriona McHardy and I were really excited to have activist Jordan Masciangelo include an essay about his journey into recovery in the collection, Making Out Like a Virgin. His essay, My Twenty-Four Carat Self, is a beautifully written, moving story of a component of his recovery beyond childhood sexual trauma. His new project is with MenHealing, Beyond Survival: Kilimanjaro Expedition Challenge, and we hope you’ll be inspired to support his efforts to raise awareness not just in North America but beyond. ~Cathy Plourde, Co-Editor, Making Out Like a Virgin: Sex, Desire & Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

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Ready to conquer the Tough Mudder obstacle race (GameFace Media – Vero Beach, Florida, 2016)

CATHY PLOURDE: Jordan, first let me say your work in Making Out Like a Virgin was really powerful. Your story of how you moved into your own–your own body, your own life, your own possibilities–lets the reader appreciate how far you’ve come in dealing with childhood abuse.

JORDAN MASCIANGELO: Thank you! The response we have been getting from some of the reviews have been so positive and affirming; it really turns a new page in this field.

CP: How long have you been active in the work to draw attention to the trauma boys and men experience?

JM: Over 10 years now, actually! In my early 20s, I was asked to share my story with an audience and I hesitantly agreed. At the time, the Ontario Provincial Police were beginning to address the huge gap in services and education surrounding male sexual victimization. I ended up partnering with them as a conference speaker and we very quickly had requests from all over the country to bring the conference to other communities.

CP: Those conferences were quite revolutionary for their time, although there is still so far to go on awareness of male victimization and survivor support.

JM:  It felt like I was a part of the tipping point for this movement of awareness and that reinforced my commitment to outreach work. The government of Canada presented us with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for our continuing efforts to better the country. Over the years, I have had some really amazing opportunities to partner with so many – Malesurvivor.org, The Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, All Children Matter, End Child Prostitution & Trafficking Canada, and right now, of course, MenHealing.

CP: Being public with your story–which is not what all survivors care to do–has been empowering and has opened a lot of doors for you. At the same time, the act of telling your survivor story, again and again and again, is a difficult one. What keeps you going to do you do the work that you do? What inspires you?

JM: I am passionate about the successes recovery can bring to a person. I have experienced and witnessed it first hand. I would not be where I am today without the countless people who helped me out of my dark places and I believe that it is my obligation to pay that kindness forward to other male survivors of sexual trauma who may be searching for that little glimpse of hope to help push them through their own recovery. When they discover their own way, that is an inspiration.

The survivor community fuels me, but I find inspiration in so many things, people, and places that I’ve stopped keeping track. Sure, the world can be (and often is) a nasty place, but when you take a good, hard look at this planet and the people in it, it is impossible not be inspired by all the awesome that transpires here.

CP:  You wrote about how travel and experiencing the world helped you in your recovery. Is your passion for adventure how you found the idea for your project, Beyond Survival: Kilimanjaro Expedition Challenge?

JM: To be completely honest, this idea was born out of frustration. I think it can be quite easy to fall into what I call a recovery rut. Many people, agencies, and organizations dealing with male survivors have now discovered what works – help men out of isolation, help them confront their past, and then give them a semblance of a life back – all of which is fantastic, needed, and important. But then what…? Surviving isn’t living. It’s not OK to be just OK. For me, the status quo just isn’t cutting it.

The strength, abilities, and courage sexual abuse survivors possess can move far beyond the couch in a therapist’s office. I want to give male survivors something new and exciting to root for, to be a part of, to see themselves maybe doing one day. Recovery isn’t all doom and gloom. As cliche as it may sound, anything is possible – even climbing one of the highest mountains on the planet.

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Suiting up to dive with Great White Sharks (Photo Jordan Masciangelo  via GOPRO- Gansbaai, South Africa, 2017)

CP: You stated goals on the project page for Beyond Survival, primarily to raise funds for the Weekend of Recovery Scholarship Fund which helps men with financial hardships have the opportunity to attend healing retreats. But it sounds like your most important goal is to inspire survivors to do more.

JM:  Most survivors of sexual abuse want something different, something new, something positive. But all those wonderful things never “just happen.” We need to make them happen. That is the “do” part. It’s important to push ourselves. It’s important to be bold.

I am a firm believer that experience is the missing puzzle piece in recovery. We can talk until we’re blue in the face–but those problems and issues will remain until we do something about it. This “doing” can start small, maybe changing a little something each day–like my route to work or my regular spot for lunch. Even small, insignificant-seeming “challenges” will add up, and confidence will grow. By consistently doing a little more than I think I’m capable of, I not only see a change in my life but in those around me. This inspires people, and I’m helping others just by helping myself. And once I’ve got that down, realizing my dreams – whatever they may be – becomes a whole lot easier.

CP: The power of action is unparalleled!  And, it’s evident from all the work you’ve done speaking across North America (and on Oprah!), and also in writing for the MOLV anthology, that the power of the word is important as well.

JM: It was an incredible and cathartic experience writing My Twenty-Four Carat Self. For years, so much of my recovery was focused on my past and how to manage and overcome it; being involved with Making Out Like a Virgin really allowed me to refocus, tell a new story, and dig into the now. The themes of the book perfectly aligned with what direction I wanted my own outreach work to head. The sexual trauma survivor community is, by nature, not always pretty scene so we need those injections of positivity.

CP: Thank you, Jordan, for this, and for all that you do for the cause, and our conversation will undoubtedly inspire people to support you in this project. But before you go, what are you reading now?

JAM:  The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. I’m a sucker for unusual true crime. It’s the unbelievable true story of a young man who willfully disappeared into the forests of Maine alone, eventually becoming the stuff of urban legends and folklore until he was discovered and arrested for theft some 27 years later by an investigator that wouldn’t let the legend go.

CP: The North Pond Hermit! My family rented a vacation house up there last summer! Everyone’s still talking about him.

JM: I like the story because it encourages a contemplative look inward at my own life and what I think is important to live fulfilled, while I meditate on what would drive a man to choose to live in such isolation. Fascinating read!

To learn more about Jordan’s project, go to the MenHealing page and look for the Kilimanjaro Expedition Challenge project page: www.menhealing.org/Kilimanjaro. For media and speaking inquiries, email Jordan (dot) Masciangelo at his Gmail address.

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Closing in on the summit of Volcan Villarrica (Sabina Peacock – Pucon, Chile, 2015)
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