In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I got the opportunity to interview O’Brien Dennis, a Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) and rape survivor residing in New York. Now an advocate, O’Brien uses his experiences to teach and inspire other male sexual abuse survivors to have a voice.
Born and raised on the Island of Jamaica, Dennis reveals his story of sexual abuse and rape in his powerful autobiography, The Cries of Men.
“I decided to go public with my story after my therapist suggested I started bringing and sharing my journal with her during our sessions, however I did receive a lot of backlash from the Jamaican community after the initial book was published. I got a lot of threats and I eventually decided to leave Jamaica and come to the States.”
Although The Cries of Men raises the topic of awareness towards sexual abuse from the voices of young Jamaican men, and the traumatic effects it can have, O’Brien admits to the struggles he faced in the Jamaican community with going public with his story.
Dennis found inspiration to start The O’Brien Dennis Initiative, an organization that caters to men who are victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), sexual violence, and also men who are victims of sexual harassment within the workplace, when he realized that sexual abuse cases towards males were ultimately being overlooked.
“Men often are ashamed to speak out because of the correlation in homosexuality and male sexual abuse, so they end up going to other outlets such as sex, alcohol or drugs to cope.”
Through his organization, he makes it his mission to empower male victims of sexual violence, and further educate his community about the effects of male sexual assault.
“Since I survived and am able to tell my story, it is my responsibility to educate and give back.”
Dennis believes that through his trauma he found purpose and grace.
“I am thankful and grateful for the experiences because it has defined me as the person that I am today.”
O’Brien Dennis is currently the Executive Director of the O’Brien Dennis Foundation a not-for-profit located in New York. He will be featured on Iyana Vanzant: Fix My Life on Oprah’s OWN network to continue to share his story. Get connected with Dennis via his website or Instagram @loveonthewire.
Valerie Ceasar is an undergraduate student at Clayton State University majoring in Healthcare Management. She is originally from Atlanta, Georgia.
Image courtesy of Michael Letterlough, Jr.