When I first met Pat (not his real name) I would have never known that years later he would be sharing such a vulnerable experience in his with me. I also would have never guessed at the time that we this experience in common.
He was mostly a goofy guy who would pop up every now and then on social media to say hi, check in on my journey and offer words of encouragement. I don’t remember exactly when this happened but he was reflecting on one of the more vulnerable pieces I wrote (I think, because he would do this often after I shared a blog post). Most of what he said about that post was a blur until he said #MeToo.
My heart dropped to my belly.
There’s something that happens when as a survivor, I hear those words from another survivor.
Its the most heart piercing, most comforting feeling in the world.
I’m heartbroken that you’ve felt my deepest pain but I’m also relieved because all of sudden I don’t feel like the gutter.
There is a misconception that men cant be victims of sexual assault. Today I have the honor of interviewing Pat to share the experience and effects of sexual violence from the male perspective. This interview was done via online video but to protect his identity I have done my best to transcribe it.
[Nelao] For a while after my assault I was in denial as to what happened. When did you realize or acknowledge that what happened was actually what happened? When was your first realization that what happened was wrong?
[Pat]I do not recall when it started to feel wrong – always did – but I recall that one day when it was time for more, a feeling of great disgust welled up, I said an emphatic no and looked the other way. A lot from that day on is a blur.
You mentioned that you used to want to talk about the subject of rape and sexual assault often until you shared it with someone who said they understood what you were going through. Do you think that it’s important to survivors to share their stories?
Yeah. For all those years I did not know that is actually what I was looking for. I would speak to just anybody about it as soon as we had some kind of rapport going. I eventually even spoke to shrink types. One day I am speaking to a close friend and he relays his experience. Quite literally like a minute later I felt a veil lift. It was then it hit me that all I wanted was somebody who understood. Most people (bless their souls) felt the need to say something uplifting, encouraging or, worse yet, pity me. I am not sure what others who have been through this need, but if this is one of them, they should get it. It helped me a great deal.
You shared a perspective with me that you believe rape and sexual assault is a different for men as opposed to women? How so?
It seems to have a different impact on us. [I] have been at a party, passed out and came to to find some horny girl having her way with me, and be like “WTF, freaky girl” then pass out again, wake up again and perhaps even ask her “WTF was that?” but then that’s that. I had one of my first threesomes this way. Thereafter I would always say threesomes are overwhelming. I recall thinking “Hey, we did not agree to this” but not feeling violated. So I told this story the nth time and this one lady goes, “Um, that’s rape.” Word!?
It can be confusing, because in my younger days I thought the fact that I was hard (aroused) meant I somehow wanted to partake in the act. Somebody (a woman) then intimated to me that a man can be aroused against his will. That was an EYE OPENNER.
I have heard a few people recant similar experiences and for most of us we brushed it off but came away having made up our minds to a void a certain “freaky girl.”
There are a lot of people, especially in African communities, who reject the idea that men can be raped. What would you say to that?
Well it happens. Sometimes it is benign. Other times it is violent. Oftentimes, we do not realize it is what happened. It is for sure traumatic when it is done by other men. For the longest I thought rape was a case of uncontrollable arousal. How then could a man be raped? One day somebody told me “a man can be aroused against his will.” Imagine not knowing this.
One thing that you said that I deeply resonate with is that you are/were not looking for sympathy. What is it that you think survivors are looking in their quest to feel whole again?
This I also did not know from the onset that I did not want it. I would find out that when people felt sorry for me I would get frustrated and eventually I was put off by it. I think they are looking for remedy. Remedy and understanding.
How has this experience affected your life over all?
Its given me a great deal of cynicism. For a while it gave me this urge to burst the bubble I felt looked life through “pink glasses.” I think it even affected my socio-political disposition. I am pro-choice everything and oppose any action, law, rule, policy or individual/personal action, however small, that involves doing anything to anybody that goes against their free will. Don’t rape people. Do not tell people what they can’t do with their own bodies, do not take somebody’s scarf off even playfully. They chose to put it on. They shall take it off when they choose. I despise people who violate your personal space then attempt to brush it off by downplaying it then saying you should lighten up. Your body is sovereign territory.
I also struggle with feelings of hostility and resentment towards certain kinds of people, triggered by my experience.
How has this experience affected dating and relationships for you?
[Pat]I can’t date certain people. Certain acts bother me. They remind me of certain people. Certain physical features are an eternal turnoff. They remind me to those instances. It made me an attentive lover. For a while my deference was so extreme that I would not even initiate sex.
A thought and feeling that I battle most days is that ‘I’m crazy to feel how I feel sometimes’, ‘I’m damaged or broken in some way,’ ‘I’m unlovable’. Are these thoughts and feelings you experience?
We are crazy to feel how we feel. There is a “good reason why,” but (people think) we are crazy for it. It happened a long time ago but we carry it with us. From time to time I did not want people to love me, or felt pressure when they do, but for the most part it was not an issue. I am damaged and broken.
What would you say to male survivors of sexual violence?
I do not know what to say to them. I just tell them my story and hope it helps.
What would you say to women survivors of sexual violence?
I don’t feel I have anything useful to say. The first thing that comes to mind is to say sorry and that not all men are like that. I know that goes without saying and is moot, but it is what came to mind. I know a few victims who are very close to me and I harbor some dark thoughts towards their attackers.
How can partners of survivors make it easier to love, comfort and support their loved one?
I can only speak for men. Let him know you are there when he needs you but do not force him to talk about it. He shall talk about it when he talks about it. He may never want to talk about it. You being there is enough. This may sound silly, but do not pity him and do let him know he is still a man. Even the most secure, sensitive and benign of men like to feel manly to/for their lady partners. We are wired to pursue, provide, protect and satiate you.
How can we as survivors radically accept what has happened to us and still thrive and shine in spite of that?
Acknowledge that it happened and move on by following our heart. In my case it wanted me to talk to people until I found somebody who understood. Talk. Be open. Talk to people. Talk about whatever is on your heart or mind. Bottling stuff is counterproductive. You will find what you are looking for. The best stories have a tough beginning.
Thank you so much Pat for being open and vulnerable with us, allowing us to hear a perspective that is often not talk about. It was extremely enlightening for me and even though I’ve had a similar experience and am aware that all survivors stories are unique, I hardly hear this version of the story.
My biggest take away is the importance of owning and sharing your story but not allowing it to hold you hostage. In my own experience I’ve found that the more light I shine on my story and my shame, the less of a hold it has on me. By taking back my power through personal development, self care and take steps to live a holistically healthy and happy, I’ve made a commitment to myself that regardless of my past I can still live an abundant and magical life of my choosing.
How about you? What was your biggest take away from Pat’s story? I’d love to hear in the comments below!