Hi, my name is Mike. When I was 15, I was molested in an exercise room at a house party.
I knew my abuser. He had been a friend of mine for a few years, and was roughly the same age as me. Toward the tail end of a drunken reunion with our friend group, he saw me hooking up with another male friend of ours. I wasn’t exactly into it, but I figured a little experimentation never hurt anybody. Human sexuality is fluid, right?
He grabbed me by the hand and pulled me off into a side room in the basement. It was a makeshift gym. I can still remember the way the elliptical looked in the dim light as my anxiety began to rise.
He showed me his and pulled out mine. I was practically frozen when he started heading downward.
He stopped after the third time I told him to stop. We went back to our friends and I just kept it to myself. I don’t remember much about that night, but I’ll never forget the cold, sinking feeling I felt on the train ride home the next morning.
Maybe it was because we were both stupid drunk, and nobody can handle their liquor at that age. Maybe it was because he had seen me kissing my friend, and took my experimentation for consent. Or maybe he just saw a vulnerable kid and decided to take advantage.
But the reason doesn’t matter. I was raped, and I’m only just beginning to come to terms with that after half a decade of denial.
This is still hard for me to talk about, and even harder to write about. But after seeing countless people come forward to share far more harrowing experiences of sexual assault in addition to mine, I understood how the strength of one silence breaker could help countless others.
I kept my trauma to myself for years. Even when I thought about it I shoved away words like “molested,” “abused” and “raped.” The girls that Larry Nassar assaulted, they were abused. Anthony Rapp, he was abused. Rose McGowan, she was abused.
I just had a weird night. It was different. It must have been different.
I ran with that thought for years, choosing to suffer in silence and deny that I was even suffering. The trauma of that night followed me throughout my turbulent adolescence, corroding nearly every relationship I tried to develop. To this day, I freak out if somebody I don’t know well touches me.
Did it ruin my life? No. But boy did it hurt.
Things started to change around a year ago. After five years of silence, I heard a friend of mine talk about being molested as a child in front of a room full of people.
His honesty astonished me, and then the thought came: ‘Oh my God, I can identify with that.’
I shared what happened to me after he finished. Speaking up was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My voice trembled, I broke out in sweat and I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. But after it was done, a few people told me they identified with my experience. Oddly enough, I felt a little better.
I never identified with the #MeToo movement, even as I became more and more comfortable speaking out about my own experience. But I started getting emotional when I saw people like Aly Raisman tell their stories to the world. I know the guilt and the shame she spoke about; I felt them myself for years.
The #MeToo movement wasn’t necessarily fought for me, but I owe every silence breaker an unpayable debt of gratitude. They made me realize consent is a black and white issue, that there are no excuses for mitigating the fact that I was molested. Their bravery made me realize that maybe – just maybe – I have a part to play here too.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d like to think my story can help people who sectioned their sexual trauma off into a grey area to be repressed and forgotten. I’m sure I’m not the only straight, white, cis male with this particular skeleton in his closet.
This isn’t about crucifying my abuser. He was a sick kid, struggling with his own sexuality in a repressive household, and I’d like to think I’ve forgiven him for what he did to me.
This is about making it clear, as it was made clear to me, that rape is rape. Compare all you want, make as many excuses as I made or more, but there is a whole army of people out there just like me – men who feel ashamed, people who think their abuse doesn’t count because they were “weak.”
If putting my story out there makes even one more person come to grips with their abuse, then my suffering wasn’t in vain. So please, if you can identify with me at all, know that you are not the only one.
It happened to me too.