Category Archives: sexual assault

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: A Guy’s Experience

By Sara Kleine, 17, Contributor

April 20, 2018

The first time David, 19, of Jersey City, NJ, was sexually assaulted, he was a high school student minding his own business on a train. A man sat down next to him, showed him nude photos of himself and started touching him inappropriately. A year later, while a senior in high school, David was raped. The following year, while David was traveling abroad, a man sexually assaulted him. David had been having a rough time dealing with his identity as a gay male and blamed himself. “Because I was engaging in sexual behavior, I immediately thought I was at least partially at fault,” he says. After lots of reflection and therapy, he now states with confidence, “If you’ve been assaulted, it’s not your fault.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We recognize this month as a time to have conversations about sexual assault, to educate ourselves and others about how to give and ask for consent and to support survivors of sexual assault. Because sexual assault is such a traumatic event, survivors often need support that can help them heal and regain self-esteem.

Sexual assault had a huge impact on David’s self-worth. “None of my first sexual encounters— consensual or not—were good and that fed into longstanding fears and shame about my sexuality,” he says. As a result, David reflects, “These experiences shook my confidence…and they have also affected the ways with which I handle relationships and sex.”

As a male survivor of sexual assault, David is not alone. According to information from the U.S. Department of Justice and cited by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there are, on average, 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault annually in the United States, and one out of every 10 of these victims is male., a website designed to support male survivors of sexual assault and abuse, reports that at least one in six men experience “unwanted sexual experiences” before the age of 18. Despite the significant number of guys who face sexual assault, David has observed that the narrative around it tends to center around women and girls’ experiences. While he recognizes the importance of these stories, David notes that “LGBT+ survivors and men are often shut out.” One important way to support these survivors is to include them in the discussion and validate their stories as much as those of cisgender women and heterosexual people.

Reaching out for support was very difficult for David. He didn’t start going to therapy until he had a breakdown. Now two years into therapy, David is learning that despite the way his experiences colored his view of himself and his relationships, there are plenty of people out there who “respect you, your body and your wants.” Through self-reflection, therapy and support, David has recognized that “fear and guilt, whether well-placed or not, are powerful. But self-forgiveness and inner peace is more powerful. And that’s what I’m working towards.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) or visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

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Gymnasts Say #MeToo and Are Finally Heard

By Ashley Fowler, 18, Staff Writer

February 9, 2018

#MeToo, originally coined by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, has become a rallying call to discuss and prevent sexual assault in many fields, including athletics. Recently in the news were the trials of Larry Nassar, a doctor who worked for U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University for decades. Nassar pled guilty to federal charges of child pornography and state charges of criminal sexual conduct. In one of the trials regarding his extensive sexual abuse of female gymnasts, some of whom went on to the Olympics, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave the floor to over 150 victims to speak about their assault by Nassar.

This wasn’t the first time someone spoke up publicly against Nassar. The story first broke in 2016, when Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who is now a lawyer and coach, told The Indianapolis Star that Nassar had molested her. When Denhollander initially filed a police complaint, she was concerned she wouldn’t be listened to—and rightly so, as both she and other gymnasts who had spoken up about the issue previously were not believed or listened to.

It’s not new that people doubt sexual assault accusations. In this case, some of the doubt came from the fact that parents were sometimes present during Nassar’s exams, and given his esteemed reputation as one of the best gymnastic doctors, Nassar was trusted. He made his young patients think he was on their side, and families thought they were lucky to get to see him. One woman recalls that when she tried to discuss her assault, she was told it was a medical procedure and not abuse. The fact that victims are so often questioned or not believed is a main reason why they may not come forward.

What should we take from this story? First, as Judge Aquilina did, we should acknowledge the tremendous courage it takes to come forward after enduring sexual assault. We should listen when people come forward rather than being dismissive of them. Further, one of the great things about the #MeToo movement is that it has showcased the power of people when they come together. One can only hope that survivors of sexual assault will feel less alone and like people will believe them if they come forward.

Are you or someone you know experiencing sexual abuse? Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).

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When #MeToo Brings Down Your Stars

Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement has repeatedly demanded justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault. With good reason, you hear about it everywhere: on awards shows, radio, the front page of BuzzFeed. I’ve crossed my fingers some nights, praying that no one I’ve chosen to support with my admiration and hard-earned cash is actually a creep. After all, there’s practically a new headline every week about some celebrity being accused of or confessing to sexual misconduct. Some of these celebrities include James Franco, Matt Lauer and, “Cry Baby” singer and former The Voice contestant, Melanie Martinez.

Martinez’s story doesn’t just stand out to me because I went to one of her concerts two years ago, but also because it’s one of the only widely reported headlines involving a young, upcoming female celebrity allegedly sexually assaulting another female. Timothy Heller, a former friend of Martinez’s, wrote on Twitter that Martinez repeatedly made sexual advances toward her, despite Heller refusing them numerous times. Heller claimed that eventually, Martinez sexually assaulted her. Since the story was posted online, Martinez has made two public statements denying the accusations, saying, “She never said no to what we chose to do together.” More recently, Martinez released a new song entitled “Piggyback,” which appears to throw heavy shade at Heller.

The fan reaction has been mixed. Some made the “#melaniemartinezisover” tag trend in mere hours. Others have remained loyal “Cry Babies” by trying to find any evidence of Martinez’s innocence. The rest have either kept quiet or still don’t know where they stand. I’m in the latter group. After all, there’s no confirmed truth. We weren’t in the room where it happened; no one knows the whole story except them. I had liked Melanie Martinez since she released “Cry Baby” and even bought a cassette version of the album. But Heller’s story is so terrible; it makes me feel ashamed I was ever a fan in the first place.

As more stories come to light, it’s important to remind ourselves that some of these celebrities are truly adored and idolized. Most of us have that one celebrity we love endlessly, and for some, that might have been Martinez. Instead of rubbing it in fans’ faces that they supported a potential rapist, try to be respectful. This is a funeral; they may be mourning the bright image they once had of that person.

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Girl Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” Empathizes With Survivors of Sexual Assault

By Jordan Chester, seventeen, Staff Author

October 26, 2015