Child molesters have a way of becoming your best friend, said Glen Kulik, who was repeatedly sexually abused at age 10 by a friend’s uncle. Then, at the first sign of your distress over what they want to do to you, he added, “they turn from your best friend to a monster.”

Kulik expands on these memories and their long-term effects in the documentary “Boyhood Shadows: I Swore I’d Never Tell,” screened by APA during the Annual Convention. The film features testimonials from more than a dozen male victims of childhood sexual abuse, three of whom — Kulik, Kim Allyn and Allen Martin — spoke at the screening, which was led by psychologist Stuart Fischoff, PhD. The men urged psychologists to continue to help men who come forward with stories of abuse and to educate teachers about the warning signs of abuse, such as unexplained aggression
and weight loss.

Kulik, who told no one about the abuse until his 20s, struggled for years with homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction to dull his pain and the guilt he experienced for not helping a friend who was also a victim.

Kulik, now married, a father and head of a sober-living facility in Los Angeles, opens up in the movie about how therapy and speaking up have put him on a path toward healing.

Allyn, a Santa Cruz County, Calif., sheriff’s deputy who was abused by a Catholic priest beginning at age 8, shares the painful memory of telling his father about the abuse only to have his father dismiss it as a child’s confusion.

“Parents, listen to your kids,” he said.

Psychologist Judith B. Chapman, PhD, who has worked with survivors of sexual abuse, provides commentary in the film, available on DVD from Landmark Media at www.landmarkmedia.com. An expanded version of the movie features additional commentary by mental health professionals. The documentary also presents research statistics on child sexual abuse from the U.S. Department of Justice and other sources. Victims of sexual abuse and assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and four times more likely to consider suicide than the general population. Perhaps even more disheartening, the typical sex offender molests an average of 117 children during his lifetime, according to previous data from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Filmmakers Terri DeBono and Steve Rosen developed the movie after creating a 30-second public service announcement for the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center in California, which sought to publicize its therapy group for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The group, which is featured in the documentary, is one of only about 40 such groups in the country.

During the panel discussion, Rosen reminded the audience that while there is intense stigma surrounding childhood abuse, such stigma is not impossible to change. It’s worth noting, he said, that public education over the last 15 years has created an environment of acceptance for women with breast cancer — one that’s allowed them to talk openly about their diagnosis.

“We’re hoping with this film there will be a similar opening up” among abuse survivors, Rosen said.

For more information on the documentary, visit Boyhood Shadows Project.