Content Warning: Sexualized assault.
Given the current political context and the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, I believe we are in a particular moment in history where the world is getting to see how pervasive sexual abuse is within our country.
I remember Donald Trump’s 2005 tape in which bragged about sexually assaulting women and I also remember hearing Rush Limbaugh say that “if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.” Since then, I have watched rape apologist discredit the those women who were sexually assaulted by Roy Moore and listened to people devalue women who had the courage to write #metoo. Often a part of this discourse is the justification that the length of time between the attack and them coming forward is indicative of their lies. However, I was sexually assaulted over 10 years ago and I still have not reported my attacker.
This is my #Metoo.
As a male sexual assault survivor, I wanted to offer my experience to hopefully shed light on why many sexual assault survivors do not come forward. As I write this, I am also sure that there are many reasons why sexual assault survivors do not come forward and I am offering mine not as a trope, but rather as personal reflection not the only perspective
I remember the incident as if it was yesterday. I remember the next morning waking up with a splitting headache. My attacker told me to get dressed. He took me to breakfast and told me that I could never tell anyone what happened. He said If I told anyone, I would ruin his marriage. He told me that he had desires but he could only fulfill them while on business trips. He too conflated what happened that night—sexual assault—with his other extramarital relations. What happened to me was not the same as his previous sexual encounters because I could not consent and in that moment I literally could not say no. The fear, the shock, and the disbelief was so disorienting that I could not coherently formulate a thought. As the sexual assault was happening, I remember floating over top of my body. I could see myself looking down at the back of my attacker as he lay on top of me. I was so distressed, I mentally could no longer stay in my body and I disassociated.
Day 1. When I woke up, he took me to breakfast and told me to never say a word. He told me that if I did disclose I would ruin his marriage and I would be blamed because I was gay and this is what I liked. I managed to catch the train back to school. It was a 40-minute train ride and I almost missed my stop because I was in a heavy daze. I could not think clearly. I kept forgetting where I was and where I was going. I arrived at the correct location because of muscle memory not because I was particularly cognizant of my surroundings.
Day 3. After making it to my apartment, I slept for three days. I missed classes and I missed meetings. Every time I attempted to get up, I remember that I started crying hysterically. I felt completely alone and did not know of any resources on campus to help me as a gay young man to address sexual assault.
Day 5: I managed to get out of bed, not on my own volition but because a friend of mine was worried and she had not seen me in class or at work for days. I confided in her what had happened the previous weekend and she supported me and shared that a mutual colleague also sexually assaulted her that same weekend. We grieved together, cried, and supported each other. She was the first to know and I believe this is what Tarana Burke meant when she created #Metoo. In that moment, we were two people, one man and one woman, who both experienced the sexual assault the same weekend.
Day 7: On day seven I had to pull myself back together by any means necessary. The only way at that time I knew how to do that was by binding that experience and partitioning it. I blocked the feelings, sensations, my feelings, and even the memories. The rationale was that if I even allowed myself to feel the full weight of what happened on that night I would crumble, fall to pieces, I would lose my job, fail out of school, and collapse. So, I made the decision to become numb.
Year 1: I mostly pulled myself back together. On occasion, I would become so tired and drained just with dealing with school and work, I sometimes would start crying randomly, particularly at the sight of someone who looked like him, the smell of a similar cologne that he wore that night, and sometimes just because I bottled up all of my feelings and they needed an escape. At this point, I had only told 3 close friends and they helped me make it through the year after the aftermath.
Year 2-5: I assumed that because I was no longer crying at the thought of him or the assault that I was fine. I thought I was good. I was no longer in danger of failing out of school, I graduated, and moved back home and found a good job. By this point I had severed all connections with him and his family. I felt ashamed. I felt like I had done something wrong whenever I saw my friend. A script kept playing in my head saying “if you tell, they will blame you” and every time I would almost muster the strength to act, I would become immobilized by those scripts looping in my head.
Year 6-8: At this point it had been almost 8 years since I saw my once friend. I followed her from afar on Facebook watching her fall in love, have a baby, and watch her grow into an amazing business minded woman. While I wanted to reach out to celebrate all she had accomplished, I could never go back to her because I would potentially see her father, my attacker. But, it was also at this time that I stopped blaming myself for what happened that night. I stopped replaying the crime scene over and over in my head. I started to feel like I could in fact start reexamining what happened without self-blame, shame, and guilt. Instead, I could go back to that moment and grieve that experience. I could go back to that place and affirm that part of me that stopped growing and living fiercely and freely because of that assault.
Year 9-Present: It has only been within the last few years that I have felt like I’ve achieved a modicum of healing. This year, I told my 4th friend about what happened to me way back then. I started to tear up as I shared it with her, but the difference was I was no longer hiding and pretending to be “tough” and a “strong man” who didn’t need support. Actually I did need support and it took me roughly 10 years to feel like I had the resources and emotional strength to face that sexual assault head on with no blame, shame, and guilt. Even 10 years out I am not all healed up. I am much better, but not quite there yet. I feel like it will take some more time before I feel that I genuinely and effectively dealt with all that pain, hurt, and trauma. Now I am committed to my healing and actively in therapy trying to get there unlike all those many years ago when the assault occurred.
I do not want people to think that because it took many years for some of the women to come forth that survivors of sexual assault, particularly those accusing Harvey Weinstein are somehow only doing it out of opportunism. Instead, I want people to consider this: maybe the act of sexual assault is so heinous, so humiliating, so degrading, and so very debilitating that it causes wounds so deep within our mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and sexual selves that it literally takes decades to heal.
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