I remember walking out of East College last year when I was first confronted with Take Back The Night. Intrigued by the crowd’s silence, illuminated only by the light emitted from their handheld candles, I decided to stick around and see what was going on. After a few moments of silence, a figure appeared from the darkness and walked up to the microphone. As she was trying to find the right words to express herself, I was captivated when I heard the following phrase: “I was raped.” What is this? What is going on? Those were my initial reactions; I was stunned to hear the revelations of my peers. One after another, students would speak, telling their own stories or those of a close friend. By the end of that night in the spring of 2010, I realized I was not alone.
I too was raped. I was in second grade when a 17- or 18-year-old teenager sexually molested me. He was my babysitter’s son, a high school student whom I only vaguely remember. All I can recall is that by the time Sesame Street ended at 11 a.m., I experienced something that no child should ever go through in his or her life. It was a series of unfortunate events that led me to that state. After my mom and I caught my father cheating, my parents separated. With little financial resources after the separation, my mom had to pull in a second job in order to pay the bills. Unable to be there for me and with no siblings around, my mom decided to find a babysitter. Not knowing who would watch over me, she trusted just about anyone who claimed the Christian faith, believing that their moral compass would always point due north. When she found a neighbor to rely on, my mom trusted that she would keep an eye on me. My mother never realized that for a number of hours over a series of weeks, my babysitter would leave me alone with her son. My mother never realized that I would be a victim of sexual assault.
I have talked about my experience to some friends. It is always difficult to speak about it because to me it seems as though I’m in this all by myself, with no good way of presenting what happened in my past without it appearing to be burdensome to the listener. When I came across Take Back The Night this past Tuesday, I felt the power of the crowd and the support they gave to everyone who bravely spoke that night. I, however, was not one of the speakers. I was scared, scared because I am a straight Latino male. In my community, a “real man” is macho. He is not weak, he does not cry and he is not gay. If a real man does any of that, he is automatically joked about as a joto. I consciously believe that all of these attributes of what makes a “real man” are a load of crap. In spite of that, Take Back The Night has made me realize that no matter how conscious I may be about my personal beliefs, these societal norms that are found in my culture are nevertheless embedded in my way of being. I was scared last year, and this past Tuesday I was scared again. I was scared because, despite my experience, I believed in the assumption that guys don’t get sexually assaulted, that they cannot relate because they are always the perpetrators and never the victims. I was scared that for once in my life I would succumb to my emotions when I confronted my past. I have never cried when I’ve confessed my experience to friends. When I’ve revealed my past, I’ve come off as being emotionally flat; I’ve either tried to force a chuckle or do anything to not reveal the sense of weakness that I feel inside. Never in my life have I felt as empathetic as on Tuesday night. I wanted to cry, yet I could barely shed a tear. Even as I write this piece, I cannot express any sentiment that compares to the ones witnessed in Goodrich that night.
These difficulties that arise within me are tough to explain. Being a male rape victim, the confessional experience makes it even more difficult than I could have ever imagined, seeing that nearly everyone who was brave enough to go up to the microphone and speak was not male. However, when a sole male stood up and told his story, I realized, yet again, that I am not alone. It is because of that moment that I felt compelled to write this piece. His bravery helped me find the will to push forth the message to the entire campus that men can be victims too. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in 33 American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Although a minority in relation to women, there is still a substantial number who have been affected by such assaults. I did not know the figures prior to being at Williams. I would like to thank the members of the Rape and Sexual Assault Network for creating an atmosphere of awareness about these daunting experiences here on campus. As a community, it is important for us to be able to communicate about these incidents that some may think do not happen to our friends at home or here at school. It does happen and it is a difficult realization to come to terms with. By the time many of you read this, I will still be struggling with the effects of my experience and how it is seen and understood within the identities I affiliate myself with. It is not an easy path, but at the very least I am grateful to be part of a community with close friends who make that path a bit easier every day. If there are any male victims out there, remember, you are not alone.