Where do I go to tell my story?

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“There’s a nation of men who were abused as little boys, who are walking around and are hurting,” says Letitia Shelton. 

Shelton is the author of Disruptive Voices of Pacific Men, an idea birthed during the COVID-19 pandemic after talks with a group of Fijians in North Queensland, Australia.

“I shared about disrupting the silence on issues with women [and] a man stood up at the end [of my talk] saying, ‘I used to abuse women … Where do I share my story?’ 

“About a week later, I ran into Anthony, a Cook Islander guy. I shared with him the idea [of the book] and he said to me, ‘My grandfather was an abuser, my father was an abuser, and I was an abuser’. 

“All his kids were taken off him and he’s been to prison. Yet, he has turned his life around. He said, ‘I want to share my story. Where do I share that?’ So, I realised I needed to give men a story.”

The new publication uncovers topics about men that are hardly addressed.

“We certainly don’t talk about these things. So this book is an attempt to shed light, saying, yep, men suffer as well, and not just from abuse,” Shelton said. 

She says some names mentioned in the book have been changed as they are not prepared to fully come out yet.

Speaking at its official launch last week, Jeremaia Merekula of Lifeline Fiji, said: “For too long, many in our communities have been silenced by the stigma and shame surrounding mental health, domestic violence, and addiction.” 

“One issue that has come to the forefront in recent years is the proliferation of pornography in our society. It is deeply concerning to learn that Fiji is ranked in the top ten countries for pornography viewership. 

“We also rank top in the world with other issues as well. Our percentage rates in HIV have increased tremendously over the years.

“If we look into suicide in Fiji, from January to June last year, we lost around 40 people to suicide. This year, from January to June, we have lost around 52 people to suicide. 41 of the 52 reported cases of suicide, were men, and that is an alarming number. 

“So the question is, why men? Why are men on the top chain of everything? Why are men succumbing to this ‘normal’ behaviour? Do we have safe spaces? Our churches, youth groups, women’s clubs, men’s clubs, are they safe spaces? 

Merekula says the new book is an important step.

“By engaging men in conversations about mental health, addiction, and healthy sexuality, we can build stronger, more resilient communities that support the well-being of all members. 

“[Let’s] start addressing the problem. If you don’t address it now, your kids, your friends, your families, will hear it and talk about it from somewhere else.”