I have been raped.
Too much, too soon? No other words will suffice. My memory is my only proof.
Since the tipping-point exposé of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, an avalanche of sexual abuse accusations, some decades old, are cascading across headlines. The Roy Moore story has grabbed the spotlight as a glaring example of the division within America because he is a man of God with our president’s endorsement. This rabidly religious Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, a judge twice removed from the bench, has been charged with allegations ranging from creepy behavior to sexual assault. His reprehensible behaviors against teenage girls have not deterred him from a war on Washington, the media, anyone and anything that does not embody evangelical Christian morals.
One of Moore’s nine accusers is a woman now in her fifties who was a 14-year-old girl at the time of his sexual abuse. I read that during those encounters she felt she “couldn’t wait for it to be over.”
And suddenly, I had the same feeling.
An almost-four-decade-old memory played back in movie-like clarity: the early 80s, New York’s notorious St. Marks Baths, struggling, adamantly saying no to a tall and cute, dark haired young man throwing me down on a divan in a dark alcove, overpowering me, forcing himself inside me, holding my head so my cries were muffled. Lying on my stomach, I realized fighting would be more damaging, so I relaxed and couldn’t wait for “it” to be over.
When “it” was over—thankfully, a short time—I whispered timidly, “I said no.” The guy chuckled, smacked my ass, and said, “You loved it.” I replied, “No, I didn’t.”
I found my party pal and told him what happened. He sneered, “You can’t rape the willing.” I should have ended that friendship then and there. For days, I was sore and bleeding. It was about the time I became HIV positive, and I wonder if my seroconversion began that night with that man. It’s a moot question no answer will satisfy.
Afterwards, I reasoned I was responsible for choosing that situation, and felt, not that I got what I deserved, but that I had little excuse to complain, and certainly no one to complain to. Besides, I did not want to admit what happened. Real men don’t get raped, a gross stigma of weakness. If I’d been a strong, straight man, this never would have happened.
I was in my late 20s; gay sexuality was exploding in the New York gay mecca. My nascent definition of manhood and issues of masculinity and body image contributed to a feeling—because I was proven helpless—that I was not even a good enough, butch enough gay man. High self-esteem was not my strong suit. Not a complete wimp, I was angry someone would take awful advantage of me in what was supposed to be a fun scene. I was angry, feeling horribly betrayed by a member of my own, special, wonderful tribe.
I don’t remember telling a soul about my rape. After almost four decades of disconnection, I knew I needed to reconnect to this revelation.
One morning, I sat still and quiet. I separated my mind from my environment with as much detachment as I could and viewed the movie-memory. I consciously and deliberately witnessed myself living that experience: the surprise, fear, helplessness, failed struggle, vulnerability, forced surrender, pain, depression, anger, loneliness, weakness, embarrassment, shame. I became overwhelmed with sadness for the Rick in his twenties, so young and passionate and hopeful. He was full of the promise, wonder and discovery New York offered, of being gay, the ecstasy of dancing, the fun and laughter with great friends. I failed him. I could not protect him from a horrible violation, yet because of that Rick’s resilience and courage, he did not let that horrible violation deter him from the joys life offered.
With love and compassion, I apologized to my Rick for not acknowledging what he went through alone these past 37 years. I honored him for the tough little f*cker he was then. And is today. Memory is all the proof I need.
Yet memory, and its potential fallibility, is often a weapon of attack by sexual abusers.
From the White House lawn, our president defended Moore: “[He] denies it. Forty years is a long time.” Poof! Fake news. Moore is innocent.
That America rewarded Donald Trump, a repeat sexual abuser, with our highest elected office is old news. Naysayers may neigh all they like, but facts and indisputable truths—not fake news—condemn the man with his own words, credible accusers, video and audio recordings. Despite lying and absurd denials, he knows it; every citizen knows it; the world knows it.
When our golfing president endorses an habitual and predatory sexual pervert like Moore, he gives sexual abuse the presidential seal of approval. That stamp of authenticity represents specifically his office and metaphorically our nation. Resonating worldwide, his views on the issue grant supporters license to think and act likewise. Trump’s three points defending Moore (and himself)—denial by the accused, the lengthy time before accusers came forward, and implied lying (specifically in Trump’s case)—are typical tactics used to discredit the abused.
Proof is often only memory, a memory that never escapes forever and demands disclosure and closure. After the Weinstein scandal, 50s and 60s film star Gina Lollobrigida, now 90, announced on Italian TV she was sexually molested at 19—a seven-decade memory admitted for the first time.
Those who choose to report abuses years later can suffer stigma again, exacerbating an already complicated and emotional experience: mocked, shamed, ostracized, mistrusted. The victim is blamed again, and the culprit escapes unscathed.
Many victims just want to be heard. The catharsis of revealing pain can create a spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical healing. Shared with others, individuals have the chance to rediscover their shared humanity.
Let us hope the good citizens of Alabama find their humanity and defeat Roy Moore, and indirectly our Sexual Abuser in Chief.
Alabamians should know these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control: Under-reported abuses are legion. Nearly one in five women and one in 71 men reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives. Before they turn 18, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused. Sexual abusers of children are 96 percent male. At the time of their first rape or victimization, 12.3 percent of women were age 10 or younger, 27.8 percent of men were age 10 or younger, and 30 percent of women were between the ages of 11 and 17. Violent sexual assault percentages were much higher for youth and adults identifying as LGBTQ. Averaging age 12, 325,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation each year. Annually, rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime—$127 billion.
Polls indicate Moore might still win. Why? Because his tribe has hunkered down to defend their hero against a lying, liberal media. Because what’s so bad about what he did; as a supporter said, Joseph had Mary and she was a teenager. Because good Christians must save this country from evil. Because there is a bigger picture at stake: more conservative judges, overturning Roe v. Wade, destroying same-sex marriage.
What can be done to combat sexual abuse in our country? (I have ideas, but they involve prods.) There must be ways for anyone harassed and abused to report grievances without threat of retaliation, to have access to equal pay and career opportunities that avoid rapacious mentors in the workplace. Exposure to appropriate and inappropriate behaviors could begin in kindergarten. For the holidays, The Girl Scouts issued guidelines that discourage automatically hugging adults as a way to set boundaries. On 9News Next, Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper recommended procedures that are “quick, safe, and equitable.”
As a former human resources director, I began sexual harassment training in the mid-90s, now ubiquitous in the professional world. Congress’s recent declaration to begin this training seems 20 years too late, like training foxes how to guard the hen house. Other than awareness, instruction yields questionable change-of-attitude effectiveness. As legal defense, it protects employees, but more importantly, their employers. I’ve fired dishwashers and executives for failure to adhere to clearly outlined policies.
Someday, I’d love to say to Trump, “You’re fired!”
Despite knowing Trump was a sexual abuser to a despicable degree, America hired him. The day after the president’s inauguration, millions of women worldwide echoed Michelle Obama’s outrage: “Enough!”
The Women’s March on Washington mushroomed into a people’s march on the world, a protest of his sexually abusive behaviors, but also of the women’s rights he threatens: access to health care, birth control, equal pay.
If anyone doubts the president’s denigration of women’s issues, try finding “The Rape and Sexual Assault Renewed Call to Action Report” on the White House website. You won’t. It was pulled in August and, like missing links to LGBTQ and climate change issues, has no support from the president.
Sexual harassment headlines are not new. In 1991, Anita Hill testified before an all-white, male Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual abuse. She recently criticized former Vice President Joe Biden, who chaired that committee, for his failure at the time “to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women’s equality.” The president who submitted Thomas’s name? George H. W. Bush, recently accused of groping teenage girls.
“The wheels of justice grind slowly, but exceedingly fine, and pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).” Trump, Moore, Thomas, all sexual predators, one can hope will fall hard—including mine, if he’s even alive.
My rape—words I never thought I’d write—never seemed important enough to give it power over living my life. I do not fool myself that this unearthed memory, buried for decades, may hold unknown hurts that require the bright light of clarity. For now, I feel surprisingly relieved. I do not diminish my experience nor overinflate my understanding of violent sexual abuse and rape. It happened. It was unfortunate. I moved on. Millions do, but with deep, long-lasting damage. I was lucky.
Lucky today to be healthy, relatively happy, blessed with great love from a partner, family, and friends. I’ve thought about their possible reactions (my partner knows): embarrassment, awkward engagement, avoidance, concern. Before deciding to tell my tale, those were my reactions. It will be interesting.
I owe Leigh Corfman, who courageously declared “Enough!” and reclaimed herself when she was a frightened 14-year-old girl in Alabama. The safety of our country’s children depends on more victims exiting the closet of sexual abuse. The cumulative strength can confront the issue and hopefully effect change, so other victims can courageously declare: Me Too.