Talking to men about sexual violence

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) – At the age of three or four Vanessa McNeal says she was sexually abused. Then at 15, it happened again.

“I know that my story isn’t rare but my outcome is,” McNeal said.

The Davenport native travels the county sharing her story and screening films she has been a part of or helped create. Thursday night, July 12, McNeal returned to Davenport to screen her film “The Voiceless” at the Figge Art Museum.

“’The Voiceless” is an internationally recognized documentary about male survivors of sexual violence, so one in six men will experience sexual violence before age 18, and I think because of the culture and just like the things that I talk about men really aren’t’ given attention to this issue so I wanted to bring that to the forefront,” McNeal said.

McNeal believes culture has played a significant role in guilt felt by male victims of sexual assault.

“I think we tell men that they have to be strong, that they can’t cry, they can’t get hurt, and those messages really end up hurting them because a lot of them are like maybe I’m not manly enough, maybe I’m not strong enough, and that’s not true,” McNeal said.

This is why she believes it’s important to talk to everyone about sexual violence and help people understand the horror does not discriminate.

“It doesn’t care what your gender is, what your race is, what your socioeconomic status is, so it’s so important really just to let everybody know that no one is immune from this,” McNeal said.

And although it can be tough, McNeal encourages have these conversations with kids too.

“Know that kids know way more than we think that they know and if they don’t hear about it from you, they’re gonna hear about it from the kids at school and the internet,” McNeal said. “So it’s just important that knowing how prevalent sexual violence is, you want to have that conversation before it happens to them or before someone else tells them about.”

McNeal is currently working on another documentary film called “Gridshock.” The film, set to be released in 2019, focuses on human trafficking in Iowa.

Read more: About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline

Need help? Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.