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Stories from Survivors

This page is made of various stories from survivors who are a part of the We Are Not Powerless community. Males face a particularly unique set of circumstances following a sexual assault and we hope these stories remind you of the fact that sexual assault does happen to men, and you are not alone if you are a survivor. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it does not define who you are as a human being. As survivors, we are able to move on and to grow from our experience and use them to educate others, help dispel misconceptions surround sexual assault, and change the current social attitudes that may serve as barriers to disclosing that you are a survivor and effectively recovering.

Nick’s Story – Die Wende (The Change)

It has been nearly three years since I started on my journey of trauma recovery, and while it may have been difficult to initiate, it has carried me to incredible places and introduced me to inspiring people. Today I am filled with much hope and excitement by the progress I’ve made and I feel like I’ve been given a new life that is just beginning! The Gatehouse has been an amazing resource in my recovery, and the chance to meet other survivors of sexual trauma and grow together has been a beautiful experience that I wish more of us around the world could enjoy. In many ways, the pain of my sexual abuse has given me a hidden gift as it forced me to seek out help, re-examine my life, and seek out skills to help me grow as a healthy, empowered individual.

My family was also homophobic and while it was clear to me at an early age that I was gay, I knew I needed to keep it secret. Feeling lonely and unaccepted, I went online when I was 12 to find adults who would listen to me and act as role models. However, it didn’t take long before I was found by men who took advantage of me sexually. They often webcamed a fraction of their body or only opted to command me via their microphones. These men initially acted friendly and once they felt it was safe, demanded me to take off my clothes, show them “this” or say “that”. Any refusals on my part brought about threats and shaming. They understood my vulnerability and thus knew how to manipulate me.

All in all, the sexual abuse online lasted for six years and there were countless abusers. They had all kinds of excuses as to why they concealed their identities. These men would speak in detail about their fantasies and send me porn to illustrate what they wanted to do. What they “shared” with me was horrendous to say the least and I became extremely skilled at numbing my emotions and disassociating during our almost daily sessions. Given the homophobic I environment I lived in, the potential repercussions of coming forward about the online abuse appeared to be even more threatening than the abuse itself. This fear was reinforced when I was 14 and my dad found me on a gay support website. He and my mom became violent with me. Among other things, my mom held on to my hair and banged my head against a wall several times, screaming that she hoped I would “get AIDS” and that if I was a “faggot” she would “gladly help [me] kill [my]self.”

When I was 18, I had come out to my parents for a second time, and after several months of animosity, my mother felt that she would call a truce by making me sign a “contract” stipulating that she and my father would help pay for my school tuition only if I did not come out to anyone at university. It was an extremely humiliating and infuriating experience. I signed it, though I made it my mission on the first day of university to be extremely out and to get involved with LGBTQ activism.

Excited that I had finally gained some reprieve from home and moved away to anther city, I suppressed the legacy of my online sexual abuse. While I was quite involved in the local LGBTQ community, for no reason I could think of, I felt as though I was not worthy of relationships or respectful sexual experiences. I did not have any positive older male role models, gay or otherwise, and felt isolated. I was terrified and untrusting of adults and the fact that I would inevitably become one was a disturbing thought.

I was convinced that I was unlovable, unattractive, and unworthy of respect from other men. I could only sleep with closeted or partnered men who needed a body to quickly use and discard. I would disassociate and comply with my pre-programmed settings to play the role men wanted me to.

During my second year of university I was twice raped. In one of my many “automated” sexual encounters, I was intoxicated and violently raped by an older man. I recall being in pain and shaking as he gave me money for a taxi and sent me off saying: “you probably won’t remember this.” My second assault happened a few months later; my assailant was someone I knew from my first year of university. We had made it to my apartment after a night out and he became forceful, pinning me down on my bed and preventing me from pushing off his painful entries into my body. When he had finished, I stayed in the corner of my room and waited for his departure in the morning. I couldn’t bring myself to go to work the next day and was paralyzed on my bed. I called in sick, however my boss yelled at me as my colleagues had seen me out that night and told her that I was most likely hung over. How could I explain to her that I was raped? I then became so awfully aware of my lack of voice and my much larger history of victimization.

The following weeks and months were dominated by extreme anxiety. My mind was inundated with memories of my sexual exploitation online as a kid and I developed a severe sense of guilt and fear. I became afraid to stay in one place for too long; being in public spaces terrified me, as did being home alone. I hated how I had food in my fridge or a bed with warm sheets- I cried because I felt that I didn’t deserve them. My anxiety made juggling university and two jobs extremely difficult as everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed, were themselves enormous challenges.

One night I received a text from one of my best friends, Petra. She had recently moved into a new apartment by herself and asked me if I wanted to keep her company. I grabbed my bike and sped down the big hill through the centre of town, excited by the prospect of not spending one more night alone with my thoughts.  As happy as I was to see Petra, I also could not avoid the aura of honesty and truthfulness I felt around her. Now’s my chance!!  I began crying and shaking as I spoke about my sexual abuse for the first time. Petra remained calm and non-judgemental and made it clear to me that I should not be ashamed or made to feel guilty, for I was the one who was victimized. To have another human being relay those words of reassurance to me after finally letting out my secret was a moment of liberation. I felt, for the first time in a long while, safe and deserving of love. Petra gave me the gift of re-birth, like a baby out of the womb; I panicked yet finally took in my first gasp of air! I was still too afraid to leave her apartment, so I stayed with Petra for several days and helped her decorate her walls. Just as I helped her move into a new home, she helped me move into a new era in my life.

Having broken the silence, I was able to describe what was causing my crippling anxiety and flashbacks and seek help from professionals. I was assessed by a campus psychiatrist and diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Later, I was able to register as a Student with Disabilities and receive counselling on how to deal with my immediate panic attacks and PTSD symptoms.

One thing I found particularly troubling about my PTSD and sexual trauma was finding the words to explain what I was experiencing as well as to articulate my needs and wants. During this time I was busy intensively learning German and had spent a term abroad in Germany. My studies kept my mind occupied and gave me hope for the future which, during the height of my flashbacks and anxiety, seemed irrelevant to my life. Learning a new lexicon and language syntax occurred simultaneously as I was learning how to conceptualize my trauma. I learned new concepts and ways of seeing the world, which, like when learning a new language, were completely foreign to my brain earlier. I was building new pathways to better understand life and express myself with greater capacity.

The seeming intangibility of my sexual abuse made it difficult for me during my recovery to direct my anger at any specific individual. During the early stages of my trauma recovery, I directed my anger inwards and struggled with a crippling guilt. I had to work on reducing my guilt and self-anger, and re-direct that energy towards my recovery, taking control over my body and my life. Despite my strides, I hit another tough patch during my last year of university after I had returned to Canada from Germany. During that first semester back, I was living alone again and regularly encountered my two rapists on campus (one was a classmate and another was part of a panel interviewing me for a job with the student government). I was also feeling rejected by my family who, once they found out about my online sexual abuse, claimed to have always known it was going on but blamed me for it and blamed it for “causing” my sexuality.

What helped me at this time to overcome my feelings of grief and anger was reconnecting with my friends Petra, “the twins,” Kate, and Kennedy. Through my recovery I also met my friend Paul. He and I developed a ritual of getting together for coffee as we worked on our respective theses to chat about school, our hopes and dreams, and how we were progressing on our lives’ challenges. We’d spend entire weekends causing trouble and exploring our town. Paul’s voice and eyes communicate that he is fully in tuned to what I have to say and I feel incredibly connected to him. Our conversations always make me feel like I have journeyed somewhere and gained a bulk of wisdom along the way; his introspection and guidance have been key motivators in my recovery journey. I gained a true brother during a critical time in my life when I was re-defining my masculinity and identity, as well as my own agency in my recovery.  I am so proud of Paul for his own personal achievements and growth and I am proud to have him in my life.

Similarly, my other friends have been tremendous supports in my recovery journey. I am always amazed by their unconditional love and patience. Despite our physical distances, I feel close to them as though they have always been my siblings. My friends carry attributes I admire, and they have been great role models.  And it is this concept of “role models” that has been incredibly important in helping me re-structure my life. Like a swinging pendulum, they carry me from point A to point B during a critical period of time. In addition to my friends, one of my professors reached out to me in my first year and took me under her wing until my graduation date. She greatly helped me develop my passions and critical thinking skills, which have served me beyond academics and were key to my trauma recovery.

After graduating, Paul helped me find The Gatehouse as well as my therapist, Jim, who has been another wonderful role model in my recovery. The location where I see Jim has a spectacular view that changed my perspective of the city below, which is not unlike the new perspectives I’ve gained there of my life and recovery journey. At his place, one also finds the German words on the wall die Wende, which means “the turnabout” or “the rebound”, referring to the unification of the two Germanies; no other word could be more appropriate to describe my experience coming there!  Jim often works with trauma victims and is also the first gay male role model I’ve had in my life. One of my goals in recovery has been developing my sexual confidence and creating positive, re-affirming social-sexual experiences with other gay/bi men. Previously, I had always felt a barrier when in social-sexual environments; Jim and I are at a construction site and we’re drilling away at this barrier. I’m undergoing a second adolescence and under his guidance, I am feeling confident in my body and believing that I am worthy of respectful and positive social-sexual experiences.

A few months after leaving university, I decided to volunteer for and march in Toronto’s Pride Parade. I felt so proud to be a part of this event, however I also marched with a sense of pride that I was representing my incredible friends who have been there for me, have been such allies in my recovery and in the positive re-claiming and ownership of my body and sexual identity. I marched not only as a proud member of the LGBTQ community, but also as a friend proud of my allies.

Recovery is a long process occurring in stages and for some they may be compartmentalised. I take on one issue after I’ve finished with others, and while certain coping mechanisms may have been useful during one stage, they may need to be re-worked in another. If I avoid pushing myself and digging deeper to confront and tackle what encumbers me, then my life challenges will always seem debilitating. Part of my trauma recovery involved letting my flashbacks take their course and assigning them new meanings. Understanding my abuse has been vital in re-graining my voice, my sense of agency in my surroundings, and the belief that what I say, think, and feel deserves to be respected. This journey has changed me and I want to pursue a path in life that will contribute to helping other survivors of sexual trauma regain their voices.

Today I live in Germany and I am pursuing a new educational path and career which will allow me to work with male survivors of sexual abuse both in Europe and further afield.

Jose’s Story – Sleep(is)over

As for my own story, it started at an early age. The crazy thing is that it was someone who was younger than me, and I suspect it happened to them. I’ve never asked if it has, even though I see him multiple times a year mostly because I know I’m vulnerable around him. I remember this starting around the time of fifth grade or my first communion, it gets blurry, but somewhere along those lines. This guy I’m talking about is my cousin, who is only six months younger than me. We were in the same grade, and this is also around the time that they taught us about sexual education, which is how he got me to be his victim. I’m not sure how many times it happened, but it happened more than once between us, who knows if he has done it to others.

When we were younger, my brother and I never had bunk beds, we shared one giant king sized bed. My cousin came over to spend the night, and not once did I ever think it would end up being the end of my childhood. Once the whole family was ready to sleep, we all went into our own rooms, and closed the doors, like we usually did. It was my cousin, my brother, and I in one room with one bed. Once my cousin was sure that my brother and my parents were asleep, he eased himself towards me. He then asked me if he could practice all the things they taught him in the sexual education courses, and said that I could too. I never agreed and told him to scoot over. I even pushed my brother to be in between us, but my brother was dead asleep and didn’t even wake up when I moved him. My cousin never let that stop him, and came to the other-side that I was on. Once I finally felt that nothing would stop him I let him do everything he wanted. It hurt, I screamed in pain, my parents even shouted from their room for us to go to sleep. He pulled out and put his pants on, just in case they would come over, but they never did. What I can’t believe is that this all happened with my brother in the room, and my parents across the hall, everyone was so close, yet so far from me. I felt that I couldn’t do anything. I also remember that the following day, or two days after, my mother asked me about my underwear and if anything happened because there was blood all over them. I lied to her and told her that I bled while shitting. Now, keep in mind that this was the first of many times, so I remember this one more than any other times. One other time I remember, is when we were in a dark room full of kids playing Nintendo 64 and he had me under a blanket, for his pleasure.

All of this lasted from about the age of nine until I was sixteen. I’m glad that I was forced to tell my parents about it, but not glad that I had to do it the way I did. I like being an open book to everyone, so I had put on Facebook my sophomore year of high school that I was bisexual (after years that this all has happened, I have figured out that I’m not, though). Well, two of my friends at the time was at my place, to celebrate my brother’s 13th birthday, which makes it harder to forget the day, when one of them suddenly remembered what I had put on Facebook. She asked if she could show my brother, but I was never ready to come out to my immediate family, she went ahead and showed him without my approval. My brother bawled his eyes out ran up the stairs and told my parents what he saw, I had to kick them out from our house, well forever. My parents sat me down and asked me when I knew, and I thought this would be the perfect time to tell them about my cousin. I told them what had happened between us, and ended the story by telling them that this is why I like guys along with girls. Their reaction: is there something we can do to change your sexuality? Take you to a priest or (conversion) therapy? I never agreed to any of that, and a week later I just told them that I only admire other guy’s bodies, and not guys sexually. However, they took drastic measures to keep me “safe,” at least what they believe is right to protect me. Since my brother’s 13th birthday, we have not slept with our doors closed, and I can’t have people spend the night, I can’t be seen alone at a family gathering with the cousin that all this happened with, etc.

It’s pretty shitty that they cared more about my sexuality than the sexual assaults, but what can I do to change their mind on that?

Rick’s Story – I was raped by a 16-year-old…

I was 21 or 22 years old, I was living in Nashville TN. I was working for a Cookie and muffins store as the head baker. I had my own apartment, it was hard to make ends meet, and so when my brother got married to his second wife they moved in with me and her 3 teenage sons. The boys were 16, 17 & 19 years old. My brother’s wife was a bitch and I did not like her, she acted like I was a “nobody” when I was the one paying all of the bills. Not by my choice. They, (my brother included) accused me of stealing from them, when it was they that stole almost everything I owned. The boys stole my car, and I reported it stolen the last week I was in Nashville.

The youngest son was a bodybuilder and weighed 50 lbs. more than me. I was left alone with him one day while everyone was gone. For what? I don’t remember.  When everyone was gone he grabbed me, and forced me onto the couch. He sat on me, took off my pants, flipped me over, and raped me. There was nothing I could do, I felt so helpless and alone. I did not tell anyone for years because I was so embarrassed and I thought it was my fault. Two days later my parents came and got me, they took me back to their home. My mother, who was a very religious person and never swore, called my brother’s wife a bitch. I almost fell over from shock! I had told my parents what was going on except for the fact that I had been raped.

My brother and his wife and boys left me with a $2,000.00 phone bill and $1,000.00 in damages to the apartment. They left Nashville and it was 15 years later before we heard from my brother again. He had divorced her and was remarried. I still have hard feelings towards him to this day, because he has never even told me that he was sorry…

It took me years to stop blaming myself for what happened then. I realized he still had power over me and I needed to forgive him for myself to get better. I have never seen him again and have no clue where he is, nor do I want to. But, that part of my life is over, and it’s a part of who I have become today. I am a stronger and better person because of it.

Dominique’s Story – In Due Time

“Because I was ready to do twenty to life if I heard that statement again. To answer your question am I okay? I will be okay when other men, not just black men can stand with you and say I had been raped. Not worrying about what everyone is saying; how come you didn’t fight him or her? Or what type of clothes you were wearing and did you show enough skin. Ask me that question when men can come forward and not feel ashamed of being raped.”

This statement is part of a poem that I have recently wrote to tell my story and to finally become free of the hurt of that dreadful day. I was 16 or 17 at the time. This was before I came out to my family that I was gay. So I did what most teenagers did, suck people in the house, not knowing that this chilly cold day would change my life forever. I don’t remember his name because I met him online; there is no shame in that for me anymore. Everything was going good when he got there; but I noticed something was a little of and that he was either high, drunk, or a combination of both.

So the night went on and I became a little more relaxed so I thought because I overlooked being caught by my family. So we began to kiss and one thing led to another and slowly we began to get more physical. I enjoyed it at first and then I became scared and next thing you knew his grip became tighter and I was overtaken by his force. All I remember is saying no and stop; and trying to force him off. But it was too late, he raped me and then left.

I never saw him again after that day. I was scared, I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. So I hid it and buried as far as I could until I went to college and there was people in my life who had similar stories and I began to tell people every chance I got. It’s been 7 years since that time my life changed and I am doing the best I can to continue to tell my story to who wants to hear it. I finally was able to tell my family about that day. Nothing has changed, and I was finally able to get help.

So please if you have ever been sexually assaulted, don’t feel like you are alone….

Tom’s Story – With Gratitude for Surviving & Thriving

I grew up in a conservative & very dysfunctional family. My dad was a heavy drinker & my mom was depressed. My sister became schizophrenic, my brother is learning disabled & dyslexic , & I’m a survivor of abuse & addictions.

One of my earliest memories is as a toddler acting out with myself, not sure if I learned this on my own or was shown this by someone. I was discovered doing this & learned shame early. I started to hold back from going to the bathroom  when people were around constipating myself, it became a phobia known as parcopresis. I was a shy introverted boy who sucked his thumb. Afraid to look people in the eye.

The next incident that stands out is when I was around 9 or 10. I was taking a bath. An adult male entered the bathroom and reached into the water and fondled me. I giggled & squirmed and he did it again. Was it my dad? I’m not sure… I can’t see his face, just an adult male reaching in. A drink in his other hand. I feel my boundaries were erased then, which made me more vulnerable to further abuse.

 Next when I was 12, a high school kid befriended me and started initiating sex.  I was always the passive one. When he tried to enter me I screamed in pain. Luckily he stopped then. The next were two bullies around my age, 14 & 15. One stripped me of my clothes and threw them down a hill, outdoors. I had to  scramble down after them, while he  threw & kicked sticks and dirt down on me, I was in terror and traumatized. The other one forced me to service him orally using force & threats if I didn’t comply. He also tried to arrange for other kids to catch me doing this  to him further humiliating me.

After this was a gap of several years when drugs & alcohol took over my life, leading to several assaults as a young adult.

At 19 I went to a ‘gay’ counselor for help with my sexuality issues. I was gullible still and thought I could trust him. I was invited to his apartment to hang out with him and his roommates. He kept plying me with strong alcoholic drinks until I couldn’t even walk, and instead of being nice and calling a cab to get me home he decided to let me crash in his room, in his bed. Where he assaulted me. His roommates said & did nothing to prevent this from happening to me. I was messed up. & thought this meant I was his boyfriend now (he was 32) & I kept going back for more., me always on the bottom. For a long time after this I replayed the same scenario, going to bars getting really messed up, going home with a guy & just laying there passively. Sometimes it would hurt so bad, but I didn’t have the ability to say no or stop. I had no self-worth at all. The last assault was when I was around 27. A guy I met at a bar followed me home in his car. As soon as we got in the house he grabbed me & forced me to the floor, ripped my pants down & assaulted me. I just shut down completely. didn’t fight or resist. He let me up after a while, I numbly walked up the stairs with him behind me and he suddenly shoved me down on the stairs and ripped my clothes down & assaulted me again. I was in fear but again I shut down & went numb. I don’t remember what happened after this but he left the next morning.

Since this, a lot happened. I got clean & sober, I’m in a long term relationship, I’m getting therapy & trying to recover from symptoms of PTSD, fear, hypervigilance,  panic attacks, distrust, phobia of public restrooms, easily startled , etc.

My life is improving  slowly, one day at a time. I have good days, mediocre and bad days but I have to trust that it will keep getting better. I guess I’m in it for the long haul. Love to all my fellow survivors out there, you all rock! Peace.

Doug’s Story – One day can ruin your life, if you let it. I have.

03 August 2017

Can a horrific sexual event from your young childhood negatively dominate and affect your life’s destiny?

Without addressing it properly and early in life, it did for me.

At age seven, four young neighborhood teenagers, 12 -14 raped and defiled me. I never mentioned it to anyone until a VA mental health clinician asked me if I had ever been sexual abused. I was 54 and had only been released two weeks before, after spending ten days in a Psych ward at the Washington, D.C. VA for a possible drug overdose/suicide attempt. The movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” must have been filmed inside that Ward.

Psychology Today: Trauma: Childhood Sexual Abuse – Posted Mar 12, 2013

Sexual abuse can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Specific symptoms of sexual abuse:

  • Withdrawal and mistrust of adults
  • Suicidality
  • Difficulty relating to others in sexual or seductive ways
  • Unusual interest in avoidance of all things sexual or physical
  • Sleep problems, nightmares, fears of going to bed
  • Frequent accidents or self-injurious behaviors
  • Refusal to go to school, or to the doctor, or home
  • Secretiveness or unusual aggressiveness
  • Sexual components to drawings and games
  • Neurotic reactions (obsessions, compulsiveness, phobias)
  • Habit disorders (biting, rocking
  • Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Prostitution
  • Forcing sexual acts on other children
  • Extreme fear of being touched
  • Unwillingness to submit to physical examination

Studies have shown that children who experience sexual abuse tend to recover quicker and with better results if they have a supportive, caring adult (ideally a parent) consistently in their life.”

The day after the rape I laid over a low Dogwood tree branch in my parent’s front yard. I had my pants around my ankles. The front of my legs and hips hurt from be repeated pushing and scraping into the rough bark of the tree. The skin was raw. I believe I was trying to have an orgasm like the boys did inside me. While being raped I was tied to a large tree branch by my arms. We were up in an open air tree house across the street from my home but 25 yards into the woods. The four teenager took their turn inside me. Afterward they moved me to a weeded area between two large garages on the same street. Three of the teenagers pissed on me while I was face down in the dirt and my pants/briefs still around my ankles.

Three days after the rape my family move an hour and half away due to my Father’s company relocation. After six month in my new home town, a twelve year old boy befriend me. We both lived on the same block. For six months he would undress me, fondle me, take my childhood in his mouth and tried to force me to conduct oral sex on him.

At age fourteen I attended a six week waterside summer camp in East Hampton, Long Island called Camp Saint Regis run by the Catholic Church. Paul, the Rifle Range instructor/Army Vet befriend me and my friend. He would wake us up in the middle of the night to sneak out of our cabin to walk into the woods and along the water. He encouraged us to take off our clothes and skinny dip while he watched. After summer camp, Paul would call my house several times a months for nearly six months asking me to come out to his house in Long Island and stay with him for a weekend. He lived alone at the age of 41. My parents met him during Parents’ weekend at camp and were impressed by him. My Mom would constantly encourage me to take the train out to Long Island and stay with Paul. I never did.

Would you like to share your story?