Men can’t be raped. The phrase, “I was raped” is not to be uttered either by men, or more importantly, by little boys. For some odd reason, it is believed that men cannot be taken sexually against our will. That a man cannot force himself inside us, even at the age of six when we are defenseless.
So years later when we finally say the words: I. Was. Raped. We are bombarded with a flurry of “Whys.” Why did you let it happen? Why didn’t you say anything? And of course the infamous, Why didn’t you fight back? And every time someone asks “Why?” it buries us farther in shame. The same shame that kept us quiet for so long. Soon we begin to believe that it really was our fault, that somehow we let these men inside our bodies. That we let them defile our young, innocent selves with their callused hands and sweaty bodies.
Locked behind this cage of shame and fear, we continue to grow on the outside. Yet inside we remain the frightened child of when it all began. Though the sexual abuse only lasts for two years, it creates a lifetime of effects. We do not get to leave these things behind. Because the memories of pain are permanently etched into our psyche.
At any moment you can be triggered. Boom. You’re no longer a 21-year-old graduate student, but instead you’re back to being seven years old. You’re exposed on a striped comforter. Tape covers your mouth, a single tear carves its path down your cheek, and you try with all your might to disassociate yourself from reality. That’s how killers are made, they say. By separating yourself from reality. But you don’t escape it, because when you look at your reflection in the mirror even 14 years later, you’re still ashamed of what you see.
But most of us do not become murderers. In fact we have the potential to be extremely successful. We learned how to be resilient, how to be strong, how to endure at a young age. But still it takes its toll. The emotional trauma manifests itself in red ink across the wrist and white pills in orange bottles. We are shoved into dark rooms and urged to tell a stranger our darkest, most private feelings. This is how we are told to heal; this is what is deemed socially acceptable.
Because when people look at us, they don’t see us for who we are. To them we are men who have been taught the ropes of masculinity. We do not talk about feelings. We do not open up to other men, because when we tried that we were punished. Our sexuality was placed into question, and we got called faggots and homos—words that are spewed with toxic hatred for not conforming to masculine norms.
And doomed we become to walk a road of failed friendships and relationships. The path is scattered with misunderstandings from family and loved ones. Yet for some reason, the tiniest light continues to glow in the darkness, a hope that one day our inner child will be at peace, because someone somewhere will choose to love him.
So we rise, every damn day, with all our might. We fight against depression, anxiety, and the idea that it never happened. We’ve already been fighting, for 14 years I have fought, and I know I will have to fight until I am buried in a grave that I did not dig for myself.