Every once in a while something happens that just makes you pause and catch your breath and say to yourself, "Damn, what kind of world do we live in?".
That's exactly what happened after I read the following e-mail:
I've been reading all of the back issues of Oasis and when I found your first column, I had to stop. Last year I was raped just like you were and I'm having lots of really bad days, and I sometimes just don't want to live. . . "
He went on to tell me all of the details of his rape, and then he ended his e-mail by telling me that he's twelve.
Twenty-one years ago I went through the same thing as him, but for what it's worth it may as well have happened last week because the memory remains. Twenty-one years ago I felt the same sense of shame, fear, and dirtiness as he does, and to a certain degree I still feel that even today.
Most men have no idea what it's like for a male to have their dignity stripped from them in a violent act that rape is because there is so much denial that rape occurs among us, it seems to be the ultimate taboo next to gay men being professional athletes yet it still happens more than we'd care to believe. I'm not sure why this is the case, maybe it's because from day one guys are supposed to be so much stronger than their female counterparts, or maybe it's because nobody wants to accept that yes, males sometimes go after other males violently for sexual release?
I recall that when I finally told a family member about what had happened, I was in my early 20's and the response was, "Are you gay?" followed by "Why are you telling me now?". As if it doesn't still affect me.
Being raped permanently changed me. It took away something that can never be replaced-my innocence. Before that happened, I was just a little boy that had a sense of wonder and joy about the world, but after that day I became a scared little boy that took no joy in the world, one that saw others out to hurt me.
I became obsessed with sex, while I didn't know much about it at that age, it was easy enough to find things out. I was a good reader at age seven, and with a public library nearby I found the answers I needed, albeit with one eye watching out for the librarians. I also starting to experiment with some of the other boys in the neighborhood. In school I was getting in trouble on a regular basis for making lewd comments to girls and I had a habit of trying to look up their skirts. Yet in spite of everything I was doing, nobody ever seemed to get the idea that I had been sexually abused, it was probably something that had never even crossed their minds!
If you look at the way the media handles sexual abuse cases when a boy is the victim as opposed to a girl, it almost seems like when there's a boy involved the perpetrator is made out as a pervert, because it's "normal" for a man to try to have sex with a girl, but with a boy??? And in the case of the school teacher that had a sexual relationship with her student, how many people would say how the boy "got lucky" or "way to go kid!"? Most sex abusers are male, and there's the stigma attached to that when the victim is also male that never will go away. Why did he fight back harder? Why did he let that happen? He must have been queer to let him do that to him!
Those are the comments a male sexual abuse victim often hears, and that is totally undeserved, not to mention wrong. Those are also the same comments I've had to deal with. Why didn't I fight back harder? Well, put a welterweight boxer in the ring with a heavyweight and see what happens! Why did I let it happen? Well, let's see here I was jumped and thrown to the ground by someone that weighed almost three times as much as me. Was I a queer? I sure don't remember wearing a pink triangle that day!
People seem to be unable to comprehend that sexual abuse is often done by someone the victim knows, and chances are it's not a single occurrence but one repeated over and over, often for years. It's often done by a person much older who uses their position of power/authority to break down their victim's defenses. Maybe that's why so many alter boys were molested by their priests? Who's really going to believe a boy that claims a Man Of God molested him? Luckily, enough people did to at least stop some of the abuse, but chances are it's still going on.
I'm not sure how we can stop sexual abuse, but one thing that will certainly help is stronger sexual abuse prevention education. Sure most schools have "stranger danger" discussions, but what about the fact that most abuse is done by someone the child knows? I can understand how afraid people are of telling young kids this, but that's the reality of it, and until it's understood that anyone can be a molester the problem will only continue. Nobody seems to want to accept that parents and siblings and other relatives are often the perpetrators, because that's taboo in our society among most groups. The stereotype that only gays molest boys is another thing that needs to be erased; in truth most sex offenders are heterosexual. Try telling the Religious Right that!!!
If you are a victim of sexual abuse and it's still happening, YOU MUST KEEP TELLING PEOPLE UNTIL SOMEONE LISTENS!!! And if you are an adult that was abused as a child, it's never too late to get help. You can reclaim some of what you lost, and while you'll never be the same, at least you can get rid of that unbearable sense of shame and dirtiness.
Trevor, I hope you know there's many people on your side. You can count on me!
All the best,