Content warning: This article contains personal accounts and descriptions of sexual violence and its effects.
Recently, there's been an explosion of articles about rape in videogames, both the depiction of the act and how the word gets used in slang. This one's going to be different. You're not going to read the words "rape culture" in this editorial, though it's been discussed in-depth elsewhere. Also, since I'm male, I'm not going to address sexism and gender issues because I have no interest in speaking on behalf of women like Patricia Hernandez , Susan Arendt , and Cara Ellison , who are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. In fact, when writing here, I represent myself and myself alone.
I've seen a lot of comments on these articles suggesting that blowback about rape is part of some sort of "feminist agenda." This bothered me for a number of reasons, the first being that I think the "feminist agenda" can be summed up by the phrase "we would really like it if you treated us like people." The second fact is that I, as a rape victim, identified with a lot of the parties feeling upset about these topics, and I think there's been a disconnect. See, this isn't about feminists being offended, this is about how the ill-use of sensitive topics can hurt people.
Despite all the articles, I have yet to see one that helps people understand, in detail, why this is such a personal topic for people who have had rape in their past. Perhaps it's our fault for not taking you there, for just assuming you'd care about something that for you is an abstract idea, but for us is a painful reality.
I don't blame anyone for not wanting to discuss that aspect. None of these are pleasant reminiscences. Writing this article took two weeks of stalling, restarting, and insomnia. When I can sleep, the nightmares pour in fast and dense. I've gained four pounds. The fact that I haven't thrown up has been a victory. The first time I wrote about my abuse, I found myself dry-heaving over the toilet every half hour.
Believe me, I didn't want to be the one to do this, but it has to be said. Someone has to open their psyche and take you down the mineshaft, straight to the bedrock, to show you the things that live there. Fair warning: This isn't going to be pretty. If you want to turn back, this is your last chance.
It happened when I was seven. I'll spare you the gory details. Let's just say I know the exact sound a child's arm makes when it breaks after he's thrown on a bed -- it's two muffled snaps, one right after the other like a revolver being cocked. Let's just say I try not to think about the sobs and screaming that came after that. Let's just say that I never think about what came after the sobs and screaming, because when I do, I look up to find myself four bourbons deep.
I didn't tell anyone what happened until four years later. By then, the fear had eaten me.
In the Eighties and early Nineties, AIDS was all over the TV. AIDS is an epidemic, said the TV. AIDS is a death sentence, said the TV, AIDS is something gay men carry around with them like black plague. The sensationalism got to me. I was convinced that because I was raped by a man, I had AIDS. A fairly religious child, I used to pray until three in the morning that I wouldn't die in my sleep. Moments of happiness from my childhood were always undercut by the belief that I was terminally ill. Whenever my parents told me they were proud of me for winning a trophy or acting in a play, I would lie in bed that night and cry, imagining my mother grieving over my casket. Everything I did to be a good son only made my coming mortality more tragic. I had recurring nightmares about being cryogenically frozen until a cure was invented, and awaking to find everyone I knew dead.
I told my parents what had happened far too late to catch the guy who did it. Far too late to save his son, who had to grow up in that household, and whose snapping arm bones still echo in my subconscious. Far too late for any kind of psychological help to keep my violation from becoming the dominant event of my upbringing.