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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A GAY MAN'S TALE OF SURVIVING SEXUAL ASSAULT





It happened so quickly. A trick I had driven home from
the bar. A perfect stranger. I met him because we both agreed to share a table at
the crowded club. He wasn’t attractive; in fact, he had no discernible features
at all. I remember he seemed nice, but most people were after six or seven
martinis. He was even friends with a cute lesbian couple who kept proclaiming
they thought I was ‘magical’. I was drunk, and he was persistent, so I took him
home.


When we arrived at my house, I
became concerned with my decision. Self-doubt began to wash through the sea of
alcohol in my bloodstream. I began asking myself questions. Who was this
person? What was his name? Do I even find him attractive? I didn’t know the
answers to any of these questions, and yet we were naked. The only thing I did
know was why I was so keen on getting drunk in order to be with men. A few
years ago I had been with a guy, 20 years my senior, who was HIV+ and lied to
me about it. It had devastated me and had caused me to abstain from sex for one
torturous year before I learned I was negative. Once I found that out, I
realized I was terrified of sex. So I gravitated to alcohol.


So in a moment of resolution,
shame, and self-loathing, I suggested we stop, get dressed, and go to the bar.


Then it happened.




I suppose he thought he could
overpower me. He couldn’t. It happened so quickly that the whole thing seemed
like a blur. I was screaming, my fists beating him in any place they could
contact. I remember screaming and kicking him out of the house. I immediately
broke-down the situation in my mind. It had barely lasted more than a few
seconds. This wasn’t anything big. It was a mistake. I wasn’t a victim and if I
acted like nothing happened, then nothing happened.


So that’s what I did. I
showered, changed clothes, and drove back out to the bar. Friends welcomed me
back, curious as to where I had gone. I explained that I had spilled a drink on
my shirt and needed to go home to change, and that was the story I told myself
for three years.


I didn’t know it then, but I
was using a text book coping mechanism for victims of rape. I was in denial.
Denial is a crazy feeling. It shape-shifts and tailors itself to whoever needs
to use it. In my case, I used ‘queer culture’ as denial. Being a man,
especially a gay man, meant that I was supposed to be fine with any type of
sex. You can’t rape the willing and men were always willing. So in a way, I
thought, I had kind of asked for it. One thing I knew for certain: nobody
needed to know about this.


I kept my silence for three
years. Depression and drug abuse led to seeing a psychiatrist, who put me on
anti-depressants after I told her I had thoughts of suicidal ideation. I never
mentioned the rape, as my denial had turned into repression, and as far as I
was concerned, I had never been raped at all.


It wasn’t until I began volunteering for RAINN (The
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) that things really began to change.
Being an ardent fan of Tori Amos I had always known about RAINN. I had many
friends (including my first boyfriend who had been raped by his mother’s
boyfriend as a child) whose lives had been damaged by sexual assault. It was
because of them (or so I thought) that I joined the RAINN Speaker’s Bureau and
I was met with a warm embrace. Other volunteers were especially excited that I
was a man, as it is harder to find male sexual survivors that are willing to
talk about their experiences.


One night I got an email from
the lead organizer, whose job was to assign press engagements for advocates
when the opportunity presented itself. She asked me, point blank, if I had ever
been sexually assaulted. The email filled me with indignant rage. How dare she
ask me such a personal question? Did I need to be a rape victim to be a rape
victim advocate? What bothered me more was that I was becoming inappropriately
angry at an entirely appropriate question. After days of stewing and
bitterness, it slowly dawned on me why I had reacted so strongly to the
question. Nobody in my life had ever known about the rape, so nobody had ever
asked me about it. Now I was confronted with the truth, I had no choice but to
admit to myself about why I hadn’t even so much as been on a date for three
years, why I connected shame with sexuality, and the real reason why I had
volunteered with RAINN. I was not only a sexual assault advocate; I was also a
survivor.


Working with RAINN has been an
incredible experience for me. I have been able to openly deal with my own
experiences in a way that has relieved so much emotional cancer that I kept
tucked in my heart for all those years. It has allowed me to say to other
people, especially men (gay or straight) that sexual assault is not exclusive
to the female sex. I can also attest that being silent about sexual assault is
something that will eventually destroy you. I was lucky that I made it through
my own self-imposed silence, but if I had had the foresight to use RAINN when
my assault happened, I know I would have been spared years of intense and
private pain. Silence is the enemy. Unlock the silence with your voice. I
promise you, in the end, you’ll be set free.


RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline
1.800.656.HOPE(4673). RAINN also has an online chat hotline, 24-hours a day,
7-days a week, at RAINN.org.


SOURCE: GAY DOT NET

LINKWITHIN

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