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WATCH NOW: Callen Harty, male survivor of childhood sexual abuse, to be speaker for Women and Children's Horizons program

Childhood sexual abuse is not something that just happens to little girls.

According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one in four males have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes.

To raise awareness and help men seek help, Women and Children’s Horizons has invited Callen Harty, a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse, to present an online program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Playwright, author and sexual abuse advocate, Harty, 63, will present “No Longer a Hidden Survivor: The Unspoken Truths of Male Sexual Abuse” via Facebook Live.

Harty’s presentation will discuss the importance of helping boys and men come to terms with abuse and will include time for questions and answers from viewers.

The presentation is one of several being offered by Women and Children’s Horizons in April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Harty’s perspective will provide a valuable male voice on the issue of childhood sexual assault, say WCH staff.

Krista Mouck discusses the April 21 online presentation by Callen Harty for Women and Children's Horizons.

“Because of our name — Women and Children’s Horizons — people don’t realize we deal with men’s issues,” notes WCH sexual assault counselor Krista Mouck. “We counsel women but also children (boys and girls) who may have suffered abuse.”

WCH staff chose Harty after encountering him as a speaker in Madison during WCH advocate training a few years ago, Mouck said.

Harty had been on the schedule to speak during Sexual Assault Awareness Month last year at Kenosha Creative Space but the event, as all in-person events last spring, was cancelled due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Mouck said.

Started at age 9

A resident of Monona with a day job as “in customer service and billing,” Harty’s own story began when he was a about 9 years old.

For several years he was abused by his older brother and tried telling his mother. When she was dismissive about it, Harty kept it to himself.

“Growing up in the 1960s people didn’t talk about these things or know how to handle it,” he said in a recent phone interview.

“I lived my entire childhood and was well into adulthood before I realized these things happened to other men too,” he said.

As an adult Harty used writing to process the events of his life, but also struggled with alcohol abuse.

“A big shift came when I had a major heart attack in 2008; I began questioning everything,” he said.

Road to recovery

As he worked his own recovery, Harty began helping others through public speaking and advocacy. His work includes the blog, “A Single Bluebird,” a play, “Invisible Boy” and a memoir of his survival and recovery from childhood sexual abuse, “Empty Playground: A Survivor’s Story.”

In 2013 he began hosting an annual conference featuring speakers and survivor advocates in Madison called Paths to Healing.

He won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism and in 2016 was named Courage Award winner by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

During the pandemic Harty has worked his full-time day job and continues his writing and photography. This week’s WCH presentation is his first during this time, he said.

While Harty says he prefers in-person presentations to allow for the kind of personal sharing that often takes place, he anticipates that the online program will also make an impact.

“I always hope that when people hear someone else share their story, they may recognize themselves and begin that process of healing.

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Not long ago the number of men who reported they had been sexually abused in childhood was one in every six. Today the CDC puts that number at…

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