[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Max Ciolek

Max Ciolek
Mitglied im Betroffenenrat

"The group members realise that they're not alone"

Self-help groups provide a safe place where victims of sexualised violence can talk to each other and give each other new hope. A conversation with Max Ciolek, who set up a self-help group for men.

About Max Ciolek
Max Ciolek has been a member of the Council of Victims and Survivors of the Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues since 2020. In that same year he set up a self-help group for male victims of sexualised violence. Max is a graphic designer and singer who has been involved in the cultural sector in Osnabrück for many years.

As someone who has suffered sexual violence, what does self-help mean for you, Mr Ciolek?

I have always felt how incredibly good it is for me to talk about sexualised violence. But before I set up the group in Osnabrück, I had not come across the topic of self-help. I dealt with my own history of abuse in waves. Two years ago, I realised that I could now give something back and do something about the issue. That's why, in 2020, I became a member of the Council of Victims and Survivors at the Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues, and in the same year I founded the self-help group for men.

In what way has your involvement with other victims helped you?/h4>

What helped me the most was being able to talk about it. After hearing other people's stories, I realised that I had already come a long way towards coping. I learnt that it's not about giving advice, but just about listening. Things happen when they can happen.

In our self-help group, men can show their weaknesses and are not laughed at, but are respected. That alone is an experience: I don't have to play the tough guy, I can be seen to be vulnerable.

Talk us through a session: What can one expect?

At the start of the session we usually flash a light as people come in. Everyone talks about how they are feeling right now and what's going through their minds. Then we ask if there is something that weighs particularly heavy on them and if they want to talk about it in detail. In our self-help group we're all equal, and we make decisions together. There is not one person who's in charge or has the chair. Because we all share similar experiences, the group members realise they're not alone. They suddenly see things in a different light and feel comfort and the strength to keep going.

What can self-help groups do, and what are their limits?

First of all, it is important to make it clear that a self-help group is not an alternative to therapy – even if it can achieve a great deal and provide support in addition to therapy. For a short time there was a person in our group who admitted that he had a problem with addiction. He soon realised himself that the self-help group was not the right place for him. But we would have talked to him about it if he hadn't.

In what way is a self-help group for men different from other groups?

Talking about their own feelings is still not something that comes easy for many men. I think that's why it's important to have a group just for men. It is a place where men can show their weaknesses and are not laughed at, but are respected. That alone is an experience: "I don't have to play the tough guy, I can be seen to be vulnerable". But that's something every participant has to decide for themselves.

How do I find a service that's right for me if I have experienced sexual abuse?

Many districts have self-help contact points that offer an overview of all the services in the area. People can now also find the right self-help group online quite easily. A good point of contact is the Sexual Abuse Help Portal, for example, or the lists of the Germany-wide NAKOS Information and Referral Centre.

Victims increasingly also talk to each other online. How would an online self-help group work?

Unlike, for example, with self-help groups for certain diseases, emotions play an important role when it comes to sexualised violence. It's all about putting your feelings into words. I think that's not as easy online. But I am dreaming of a platform where people get information and talk about their experiences. That's why I am currently in the process of setting up my own website aufzubauen. I believe that the whole of society must learn to talk about the issue of sexualised violence. Statistically, we all know a child affected by it and probably even a perpetrator.

Would you have any advice for other survivors looking to set up a self-help group?

I would encourage everyone to start a self-help group if there isn't one in your area. A self-help group does not need a leader who is particularly competent in this regard – really, anyone can do it. I would advise people to network right from the start. And that they take a little look around to see what's there already, and where there are people who do similar things. In my case, I got in touch with the Office for Self-Help and Voluntary Work in our district. It definitely makes sense to take advantage of all the help that's out there. Online, locally or using the "Starthilfe zum Aufbau von Selbsthilfegruppen" (Help for Setting Up a Self-Help Group)guide published by the NAKOS Referral Centre.

What encourages you when it comes to self-help?

The things I experience in the group encourage me. We now had our first meeting after a long break, and many people said: "It's so good to be back here and talking to you all". Even though we've only met five times, the group is already very important to me. Having the self-help group as a kind of home and safe place is something that I feel is very special.

Sie möchten mehr über das Thema Selbsthilfe erfahren? In der Rubrik „Wissenswertes“ finden Sie hilfreiche Informationen.

Mut zum Hören

Hier erzählt Max Ciolek, wann ihm der Missbrauch in seiner Kindheit und Jugend bewusst wurde und wie es ihm mit dieser Erkenntnis erging. Außerdem erfahren Sie, wieso und in welchem Rahmen er heute als Betroffener auch in der Öffentlichkeit über das Thema und seine Erfahrungen spricht und warum er eine Selbsthilfegruppe für betroffene Männer gegründet hat.

Geschichten, die Mut machen

Interview | Recht

Die Entwicklungen, die ich bei vielen Betroffenen beobachte, sind sehr ermutigend und motivierend. Teilweise können sie während des langen Prozesses wieder zu ihrem alten Ich finden.

Petra Ladenburger



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[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Petra Ladenburger
Interview | Betroffene

Der sexuelle Missbrauch durch eine Frau hat mich in meiner Männlichkeit extrem beschädigt. Damit stand ich über viele Jahre in Konflikt. Das war für mich echt brutal. Ich habe lange gebraucht, um beide Seiten auszusöhnen.

Nicolas Haaf

Mitglied im Betroffenenrat


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[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Nicolas Haaf
Interview | Beratung

Mut braucht es immer bei diesem sensiblen und persönlichen Thema. Dennoch bin ich überzeugt, dass Anrufen hilft. Es ist ein erster Schritt, ein erstes „Sich trauen“. Und alleine das macht alle weiteren Schritte oft sehr viel leichter.

Tanja von Bodelschwingh

Beraterin beim Hilfe-Telefon Sexueller Missbrauch


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[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Tanja von Bodelschwingh
Interview | Aufarbeitung

Wir wollen aus den Geschichten lernen. Das ist das zentrale Moment von Aufarbeitung: Der Blick zurück soll uns eine Basis geben, um für das Heute und für die Zukunft zu lernen.

Barbara Kavemann

Mitglied bei der Unabhängigen Kommission zur Aufarbeitung sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs


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[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Barbara Kavemann
Interview | Menschen mit Behinderungen

Gerade in akuten Krisensituationen hilft es enorm, sich Rat von außen zu suchen und nicht nur im eigenen Kreis zu bleiben. Wir schauen uns alles unabhängig an und können helfen, die Situation neutral einzuordnen.

Pia Witthöft

Leiterin Mutstelle, Lebenshilfe Berlin


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[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Pia Witthöft

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