Being a man and a survivor of sexual assault, I’m not sure how I fit into the #Metoo phenomena.
While story after story emerges from women who were harassed or worse, sexually assaulted, everyone should be aware there are men who also have suffered such abuse. Too often they are in the margins, waiting to be recognized as persons with something to contribute to this national dialogue. I have a seat at that table. Dare I ask, could this awakening sweeping America use a few good men?
It was the fall of 1994 when I was raped by my platoon sergeant while serving in the U.S. Army stationed at then Fort Lewis. I reported the incident to my chain of command, and the assault was investigated. Charges were brought forward that resulted in a court martial hearing, ending with the sergeant’s conviction, jail time and dishonorable discharge. For him, it was over. For me, it was the start of a long journey to recovery.
Resources for survivors of sexual trauma were weak at best in those days, so I was eventually discharged (honorably) and sent home. I tried to forget what had happened. I spent years trying everything in my power to run from the fact I was a male who had been sexually assaulted by another man. I traveled the world in search of a cure for what was broken inside me only to land right back here; in Seattle, just a few miles away from where it all started. My wife encouraged me to seek help through the V.A., and after an arduous process I was granted benefits and started the treatments I so badly needed.
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Nowadays, I have mixed feelings about what is happening across our nation. I am elated to see the fall of so many sexual deviants; however, being a survivor myself, I’m not sure how I fit in due to my gender. Most of the conversation is focused on female survivors of sexual trauma.
I applaud that. I understand it, but as far as the male community is concerned, there are not enough men who have come forward and acknowledged that they are survivors to form an alliance. Therefore, those of us who do exist — we sit and watch. I sometimes feel like I’m some sort of guest of a much larger movement.
As profoundly grateful as I am for the strides women are making to bring sexual harassment and trauma out into the open, I feel awkward. Every time I am accepted into a treatment program for chronic PTSD or sleep disturbances, I feel like I am accepting something that is not rightfully mine to accept.
I’ve attended therapy faithfully for years now, but it’s still hard to live life fully after sexual trauma, especially if that trauma resulted in having to leave the very organization you felt like you were born to be a part of.
Yet each morning comes with the promise of a new day; so, I roll myself out of bed and start that new day hoping something, anything, will happen to restore my hope.
I read the papers each morning and find hope in each step women take for us. It’s been a long time coming. Yet I hope with each new day that people don’t overlook or forget the need to stamp out sexual trauma and harassment in the workplace — for everybody.
Sexual trauma is experienced by women and men. I can’t help but think that given the momentum the movement has gained, the movement could embrace men who also have been assaulted or who have suffered at the hands of others. I believe when all of us who are survivors of sexual trauma are represented, we may be able to come up with something that will help change the world forever. So, if you’re a good man who may have something to contribute, stand up, now.