From the editor: Special thanks to Eric for this honest, raw and powerful piece. It includes strong language which may be triggering .
I was raped. I think. No, not raped. Sexually abused. No, not that. Well, yes, that was at home and more subtle than the incident I’m talking about now. That was subtle abuse. There’s nothing subtle about it. And we are surrounded by it. My early years at home included violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and worst of all, neglect. All of that is part of this story. But the centerpiece of this story is a sexual assault that occurred outside of the home.
Was I raped? It depends on how you define that word. When applied to men, it evokes a specific kind of rape: prison rape. Prison rape is a boogeyman, a joke, a warning. This might happen to you if you are not enough of a man. My favorite trope is this: if you rape a child, you deserve to be raped in prison. Don’t pick up the soap, mate. Har har.
Everyone agrees, including the worst gangsters and homicidal maniacs among us, raping children is bad. That’s not true. What we agree on is that anally raping a child with a penis or other object deserves to be punished if caught. That kind of rape is rape, especially if there is bleeding. The many other ways of violating children are brushed aside, hidden, ignored, denied, and otherwise enabled and perpetuated. How can it be stopped?
Unfortunately, a large part of that burden rests on the shoulders of those of us who survived. This is one of my efforts in that regard.
Mind: “I can’t remember. I can’t be sure. Was it a dream? What’s the difference between a memory and a nightmare? Something happened. I blacked out. No, absolutely not. It can’t be true. That would not have been possible. I couldn’t have kept something like that a secret. I must be making it up. I want it to be true so people will feel sorry for me. But why should they be sorry for me if it isn’t true? It’s gone forever, so stop trying to figure it out. It doesn’t matter. Why am I stuck in the past? Why can’t I just let it go and “move on.” That’s not something anyone would forget. I’m definitely making it up. I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It wasn’t as bad as I think. It probably didn’t happen. Just stop fucking thinking about it. It can’t be true if I don’t remember it. If my mind shut down, if I blacked out, was unconscious, then it couldn’t be traumatic because I didn’t experience it. I will never know. I have to know. Let it go. I can’t let it go.”
Body: “Something happened to me. I am not in control of my body. I am not in my body. I feel dizzy. I feel nauseous. I’m shaking. I am afraid. I am afraid all the time. I am going to die. I am going to be killed. I am not safe. Please don’t touch me. Don’t hug me. I can’t sleep. I can’t stay awake. Please love me. Please touch me. Please fill this hole inside of me. Don’t look at me. I am not my body. I hate my body. This is not my body! I can’t look at myself. I can’t look at my penis. I do not have genitals. I am dirty. I need to take a shower. I need to clean myself. I do not have an anus. It doesn’t exist. Don’t ever let them see you naked. Sex is not safe. I need sex. I should not have sex. I should not masturbate. I need to masturbate. Should I cut it off? I’m exhausted all the time. I just want to sleep. I just want to die. Please don’t love me; I’m not deserving of it. Please don’t touch me. Don’t fucking hug me! Where am I?”
Was I raped? It depends on who you ask.
Do you have a story, a poem, a reflection to share? I’d welcome the opportunity to talk about it with you. Leave a message in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out the MenHealing upcoming events and opportunities as well as the ways you can support this important work. You will find links to all of this on the webpage.
Be well. Stay safe. Take good care.