We are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and supporting male victims of childhood sexual abuse. Our main focus is geared toward the recovery of men and teen guys who have been sexually victimized (primiarly, but not exclusively, in childhood). We also seek to support friends, family, and loved ones of male survivors, and provide information relevant to professionals.
Larry Conrad is a retired university academic who earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1981. He has held professorships at the American University of Beirut, the Wellcome Institute (London), University College London, and the University of Hamburg in Germany.
He is the author or editor of more than 200 academic books and articles in English, French, and German, and has served as editor or contributor for numerous encyclopedias published in the United States and various European countries. A leading advocate of international collaboration, he has lectured at universities and conferences worldwide and has held sabbaticals and professional fellowships from universities and foundations in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Russia, Israel, and Japan. He has recently received several awards for his work with at-risk youth and young male survivors in Pennsylvania.
His current work focuses on at-risk youth and childhood trauma. He is the former website administrator of MaleSurvivor, a major online resource for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and has led or participated in various government and NGO programs to raise professional and public awareness of issues relating to this issue. He has recently published Secret Doors (2018), a workbook for male survivors (available here), and soon to be published is Beating the Odds, an anthology of autobiographical essays by male survivors on topics relating to childhood abuse and recovery. He is also engaged in a long-term study of male survivor memoirs worldwide.
Chris Sims graduated in 2017 from Penn State University with an M.A. in Clinical Psychology. He obtained his first master’s degree, M.S. in Psychological Science, from Shippensburg University in 2015. He is currently a professional therapist working in Pennsylvania.
In his professional experience he has provided therapeutic services to children, adolescents, and adults for various mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma. He has also conducted research on various topics, such as PTSD (Complex PTSD), substance abuse among student athletes, and the effectiveness of CBT therapies for children and adolescents with anxiety and depression. During his clinical internship at the Hershey Medical Center, he authored a workbook for clinicians on how to help teens overcome anxiety in group therapy. He is keenly interested in personality theory as well as research on topics relevant to male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Chris actively pursues his hobbies of art and design. He is interested in fine arts, but his current focus is designing works for the Phoenix Foundation. His recent projects include interior and exterior design for Secret Doors and Beating the Odds, and design of the Phoenix Foundation website.
Our Phoenix Foundation takes its name from and bases its mission on the ancient myth of the phoenix, a fantastic bird that seems to perish into a heap of ashes, but then rises again in a triumphant blaze of energy. Many cultures have told their own versions of the story and have used it to convey important messages. A recent take on the myth in Western culture is one many of you know well – that of the Harry Potter books. In the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling, the phoenix can bear enormous burdens and its tears can cure even the worst cases of poisoning. Its song strikes fear into the hearts of the corrupt, but encourages the pure in heart to find the courage they need to achieve great things.
Our colorful phoenix, designed by Chris Sims and named by Larry Conrad, is our reminder to all survivors not only that recovery is possible, but that it can change the course of your life. The sexual abuse of an innocent defenseless child is a terrible crime, and the harm it causes can be catastrophic. But it isn’t “soul murder.”
The term “soul murder” goes back centuries, with various meanings along the way (as in vampires, for example). In the 1970s the psychiatrists Morton Schatzman (1973) and then Leonard Shengold (1974 and after) used it in the titles of articles and books about child abuse to highlight the severe consequences of abuse, though not to claim that victims’ lives were reduced to irretrievable ruin. In fact, their work highlights cases of remarkable recovery.
Nevertheless, these days “soul murder” is often used to imply that recovery from sexual abuse is impossible. It suggests that no matter what a survivor does, he will never be more than a shadow – a caricature – of the boy or man he otherwise could have been. It discourages guys who are considering disclosure, and when a survivor faces new and unexpected challenges or feels it’s all too much, it tempts him to give up or wonder if recovery just isn’t possible for him. It can lead him to credit such discouraging ideas as “it was a long time ago,” “get over it,” or “it’s time to man up and move on.” It holds us back from acknowledging the possibility that even though there is still work to be done, there are ways in which we are already thriving.
The simple truth is that recovery isn’t an impossible task. It’s a path on which any guy can achieve results he once thought would be impossible, or would never have dreamed of at all. No matter how discouraged or ravaged you feel, no matter what was done to you, a way forward is there for you.
Others will appear who will assist, encourage, and support you: a therapist, for example, a spiritual advisor, a mentor, a solid friend, an understanding partner, a circle of brother survivors. But they are not the ones who will provide you with the strength and courage you need. You already have that strength and courage. Recovery is all about learning to acknowledge these resources, trust them, and believe in them, and then using your own unique gifts to move forward in ways and at a pace that work for you.
The heap of ashes is not where we’re doomed to remain. Strength and courage – let the color and power of the phoenix logo remind you that we’ve all got what it takes.