He is 6'3" with dark curls circling his head. I think he has broken free from his marble pedastal in Ancient Greece to walk amongst us mere mortals. His sholders and biceps make him look like a modern day Ken doll. He is standing patiently toward the back of the two dozen students who have circled me after my pre-prom assembly. I notice him mostly because he looked like a college senior, rather than a high school student. The principal is handing out passes to arrive late to the next class in the back of the auditorium by the exit door. I have been keeping track in my head of each story I have heard for the last 12 minutes. I'm up to fourteen already. There have been descriptions of situations that happened over break, on a cruise, by a cousin, on a college overnight visit for a sports team recruiting session, and more.
Finally, it is just "Apollo" in front of me. He looks to the side of my head. Not at me, but alongside my face as if he is gazing at a sunset on the water's edge. Even his face looks darker as light fades. He says his parents went away for the weekend. They go away a lot. He got a text from a guy who said he had a whole bottle of vodka, and there's a party across town. He said he'd pick him up and take him there. Now there is a long pause. He stops looking past me, and shifts his eyes to the ground. His shoulders shrink and rotate forward. His voice is lower, softer. He says, "I should not have gotten in the car. I never made it to the party."
He doesn't say he was raped, but he doesn't have to. I know what he is trying to say. Like most victims, the full sentence, "I was raped," is one we resist speaking at all. The label is too grotesque to add to our conscience.
There are many others. At MIT, he says it happened when he was eight years old in front of the television set, and it was his uncle. At a Catholic high school, he says his girlfriend says he's not much of a man if he won't sleep with her. At an Ivy League College, he says there were two of them who ganged up on him, and they threatened to out him if he ever told anyone. In California, he says his girlfriend is threatening to tell everyone he's gay if they don't have sex. In New Jersey, he said it was his senior year of high school, and he went "down the shore" with his friends. He said that he remembers going to the bar, and leaving the bar with a girl he just met. Four and a half hours later he woke up in a random hotel room. His favorite shirt was gone. His belt was gone and his shorts were around his knees. He said he was very glad that he didn't remember the four and a half hours, but the STD he got is a constant reminder. He thinks they put roofies in his drink at the bar.
Research indicates that as many as one in six men are raped, sexually abused, or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. We often default to putting the pronoun "she" in place of "victim." I am certain that we need to hear from male victims as part of the solution to the problem of rape. Why? Because many rapists were once victims and only about 1 in 100 male victims ever report. Rape was originally a property crime. The property was the sexual access to women, especially their virginity. The rights were given to their fathers or husbands. It is time that we think of rape as a crime of not making sure that we have effective, freely given consent for a sexual activity. It is entirely possible for anyone to be abused by someone who wields power unjustly.
Take Back The Night events were originally organized by women and mostly for women. Today, Take Back The Night calls upon all of us, regardless of gender; to stand together to end rape and to support ALL who have been victimized.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Take Back the Night in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text "loveis" to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.