Two local documentary producers want you to face a tough topic: the sexual abuse of boys. Their film Boyhood Shadows started as a small local project, and this week it makes its national premiere on PBS (KQED).
It all started in a discreet house located in Monterey where the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center hosts its men’s support group for childhood sexual abuse survivors. Over the years, the size of the group as has ebbed and flowed to the point the that right now, it’s not active. Crisis Center Executive Director Clare Mounteer says it’s often hard to get male survivors to come forward. “I think there’s still a lot of socialization for men that tells them if you have a problem, you need to handle it yourself. You don’t share; that’s not being manly,” said Mounteer. That’s why six years ago, the men in the group wanted to reach out and let other survivors know they’re not alone. So with the help of local documentary company, Mac and Ava Motion Pictures, they produced a public service announcement. “The family members of one of the men in the group saw it and thought, there’s more to this. There needs to be more. There needs to something bigger to get out to the community. And they actually helped finance the project.” said Mounteer.
Terri DeBono and Steven Rosen of Mac and Ava Motions Pictures agreed and began work on the documentary titled Boyhood Shadows. They wanted to get people to face the uncomfortable reality that one out of every six boys is molested and the abuser is often someone the victim knows. “The problem is it’s a subject that really people don’t want to talk about. And because they don’t want to talk about it, it gets worse, and worse and worse as time goes on, and you know secrecy is what makes it possible for these predators to find their way to children,” said Rosen, Boyhood Shadows Director and Cinematographer.
Through the men’s support group, they met several of the survivors who appear in the documentary, including Glenn Kulik who takes on a central role in the film. Early on, he answers a question asked of so many survivors. Why didn’t he tell anyone when he was being abused by the uncle of a childhood friend? “Well the answer to that question. It’s the same one anyone would tell you. It’s because you didn’t want anyone to know,” said Kulik. Boyhood Shadows chronicles the ups and downs of Kulik’s life as he works to heal. In 2009 he testified before the California legislature, along with other survivors from the documentary, including San Francisco News Anchor Allen Martin. They unsuccessfully pushed for the elimination of state’s statute of limitations on sexual assaults. It remains at ten years. Reached by phone, Martin hasn’t given up. “We’ve always, always felt that it’s possible, the timing just has to be right, and I think financially the state is in a better situation, and possibly it could come back before the legislature. We certainly hope it would,” said Martin. He says he feels empowered every time he speaks about being abused as a child, both by a church deacon and an upper classman in high school. “I’m much better off than when I was trying to suppress all the memories. That was tearing me up. If one person sees the documentary and is helped by it, what a tremendous, tremendous change that can be for their life,” said Martin.
For producers Terri DeBono and Steve Rosen, they hope the documentary will encourage people not to ignore cries for help. “That’s a very easy thing for parents to do, especially when they are frustrated with a kid who is acting out, and causing problems in so many other ways. They just assume everything about the kid is to get attention. And a lot of time the attention the people they are crying for isn’t the kind of attention the parents think. They are looking to be saved from a bad situation,” said Rosen.
Boyhood Shadows is on Wednesday, June 26th at 10:00pm on KQED. Starting in July it will air on other PBS stations across the nation.