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“Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.” - Mario Fernandez
November 14, 2014 was the day that my life was forever changed. Four years ago, I was sexually assaulted. I won't share the details with everyone, because you can go get your porn from somewhere else. I kept quiet about my assault for almost three years, and I internalized all of that trauma.
I kept all of that trauma, hurt, depression, anxiety and all of the emotions bottled up. I saw what the police did to my friends, I read about it in the campus newspaper, and I saw it on the news. The fact was, was that many women weren't believed when they came forward about being assaulted... So, why would the authorities believe me, a man? Why would they not laugh in my face or throw their toxic masculinity in my face? I could see it in my head how it would play out, I'd walk in and report him, I would go through the entire story multiple times to different people, and they would laugh in my face, "You're a big guy, how could you not fight back? You could've beat his ass and run away?" or "Well, that's what you get for being gay and having sex with other men? Are you sure you didn't want it?"
I kept quiet, I began drinking more, being more promiscuous because I was searching for a sexual connection that felt like it meant something, I looked into the mirror and I hated what I saw; both on the inside and the outside. The self-loathing took effect and I became an anorexic. At the worst of my eating disorder I was eating two chicken breasts a week, maybe a cup of Easy Mac if I felt faint, and I was extremely active. I now deal with a lot of health problems because of the damage I was doing to myself.
I had a friend confide in me about her sexual assault years later. She was the first person that I ever told about what had happened to me. By that time, I had been to therapy, and I had a pretty good handle on my eating disorder (I still deal with it daily), and it felt so good to finally get my darkest secret out into the open to someone that I knew I could trust. She has been one of the best resources in my recovery ever since. So thank you, Maggie. You know who you are, and you changed my world and showed me a little sunshine when all I could see was a sky full of clouds.
Flash forward three years from my assault and I went public with my story of being a survivor. I discussed it with family and friends so they wouldn't feel completely blindsided by this secret I had kept from all of them. I can say that my family and my friends have been my rock, they have been supportive and they have kept me sane. I never realized the freedom that I would feel in telling my story. I told my parents that it was easier to come out to them as gay, than for me to tell them I was a survivor of sexual assault.
When the #MeToo movement began, I found a community on social media of people that were sharing their stories, that were sharing their tips and tricks on how to just make it through the day when it felt like we couldn't get just one more breath in. But I began to realize that I felt as if I was one of the only men that was sharing my story, that was sharing my trauma and one of the only men that was standing up, and speaking out about my struggles. That didn't sit well with me.
It's a statistical FACT that women are much more likely to be a victim of sexual violence than men, but I don't believe that should discredit us and count us out of this conversation or the #MeToo movement. Don't get me wrong, I still very much felt a part of this community of survivors watching Aly Raisman share her story in the courtroom, or reading others stories online and on social media. But, it wasn't resonating 100 percent with me.
I have lived very transparently on my social media, and in my own life with my friends and people I meet because I believe that's the best way to be. I thought about it, and prayed about it for months and decided that I should share my story on social media. So I began to comment on people's posts, to share news articles and talk about a few details of my story. I began to see such a response to what people were reading, and then I realized: male survivors are being left out of this conversation, and that is not okay with me anymore.
So yes, #MeToo, 1,000 percent. I am a survivor of sexual assault, and I demand to sit at the table and share my story, to share my truth and my trauma, and I demand that other male survivors join me. Our trauma is just as severe, just as damaging, and just as difficult as our female survivors. Our visibility is important because there are a lot of other men who live in shame, who are terrified to admit that they have become victims and are survivors. Our visibility is more than important, it is imperative.
I know that this can make some people uncomfortable, but I know that being transparent can help enable other male survivors to be brave enough to share their truths too.
November 14th, 2014 does not define me, but searching and putting the sunshine back in my life has defined me. It's made me the person that I am today. I'm a survivor of sexual assault, and yes, I am a man. And I am more than okay with being transparent about that. I demand a seat at the #MeToo table, and if I am not given one, I will pull up my own chair and sit down.