God, all I want now, is a massive line of coke, so that I don’t have to feel this. I need to tell this story. I knew it would be hard – but this… it takes me right back to that night, when I was 22.
I lie down on the bed, scarcely breathing, willing what I have just seen to not be real; hoping like hell that I made a mistake. In the dark, I fight back tears – it’s very clear to me that I should leave, but I’ve got nowhere to go; this is the choice I made, and I must deal with it; deal with HIM, out there…the man I love… f^%&ing some stranger.
No time to think after that. The door opens and they both come in, and they are both on top of me. The stranger roughly forces my boxers off, spreads my legs with his powerful frame, and…
Fast forward to 2014.
My life is full of clichés. Like: ‘Life Starts At 40’ or things about ‘fresh starts’. Or ‘Be careful what you wish for’…
When I was much younger, I wanted to be a model. I wanted to be that highly paid topless guy, staring out at you from a poster, advertising some or other meaningless brand.
Well, I got my wish, sort of. But instead of a vapid, shallow brand advertisement, I am a topless, unpaid model who is staring out from a poster for a much worthier, meaningful cause: Rape Crisis’ Speak Out campaign.
So, I got my wish, but what I went through to achieve it shouldn’t be wished on even your worst enemy. More clichés… yeah… I know. Let me try make that one the last one.
My name is Dave Luis, and I am a rape survivor. A male rape survivor. There are more of us than you’d think. And I guess that’s part of the reason I’m telling you my story – I read somewhere that “shame dies on exposure”. I am telling my story, so that other men who have been raped will hopefully be able to find their own voices, and will be able to kill their shame.
It’s taken me 18 years.
When I was raped, way back in 1996, I didn’t think it was rape. In fact, when I told the story to a friend in December 2012, I described it as a “very adult situation between my boyfriend, a stranger and I that I didn’t enjoy”.
After I was finished telling her about this experience “I didn’t enjoy”, she remained quiet and then said: “But Dave, that sounds like rape.”
I didn’t think of it as rape because men don’t get raped, right?
That’s just one of a plethora of rape myths. Here’s a whole load more, that you can educate yourself about.
I was quite shocked to discover how many of these I believed, to varying degrees.
But let’s go back, all the way back, to that night, in 1996.
I had just started dating A*. We’ll keep his name hidden and agree that I am protecting the guilty, right? I had spent every night since I met him, staying at his new home. Essentially, we met, fell for each other and I stayed.
For 14 months. Even after he and his friend raped me.
Late on the third night after we met, a Saturday, I got home from my shift at my family’s restaurant. A* was saying goodbye to the last of his guests who had joined him for a housewarming. I didn’t really know them, so I went and took a shower and went to bed.
Half an hour later, I woke from a doze.
A* still hadn’t come to bed, so I went to look for him. I walked through a darkened house, wondering what was taking so long for him to come through. It was quiet. Except, there was someone outside on the porch. In the dark. I opened the door and stepped out, and saw A* and some stranger, on the bench having sex.
Shocked, I quietly went back inside, hoping they hadn’t heard me. Why didn’t I shout out “What the hell are you doing?”?
I wish I had.
Back in our room, I lay down on the bed, scarcely breathing, willing what I had just seen to not be real; hoping like hell that I made a mistake.
In the dark, I fought back tears. I thought: “I should leave”, but I had nowhere to go. I thought: “This is the choice I made”, so I thought I had to stay and deal with it.
Before I could think of anything else, the door opened and they both came in and got on top of me. The stranger forced my boxers off, spread my legs with his powerful frame and forced himself in me.
I was in a lot of pain but I didn’t say anything, I didn’t know how. Everything had been so sudden, such a blur, and because A* brought this man into our bedroom and they were both so much older than I was; I thought: “Maybe this is what happens and I must just take this, because this is the life I chose, living with A* against my family’s wishes.”
I had chosen A* over them, in a huge fight, and I didn’t know that they would take me back. I had chosen.
So this thing that was happening, these drunken men forcing themselves on me was part of my new life. And I must just lie back and take it. The stranger and A* took turns; forcing themselves into me, repeatedly, until my discomfort broke through A*’s drunken haze, and he realised I was “not having a great time”. He pulled the stranger off me and I curled up, pretending to go to sleep.
That was the only time in the 14 months we were together that I was forcefully penetrated. But he was emotionally abusive and I’d been broken into his lifestyle.
The party drugs I had been toying with became the only way I could numb the fear of losing A*, and the feelings of worthless disgust I had.
Sex and drugs. It’s not the party that Hollywood makes it out to be.
Fast forward to 2012.
I had started addiction recovery and had been clean for six months when I had that discussion with my friend about ‘that night’ I ‘didn’t enjoy’.
When she first used the word “rape” I reacted against it. But over the next few days, those words pounded at me, in the dark, as I slept; in the quiet as I worked.
It was rape.
I was never given a choice. They took from me sex that I wasn’t ready to give. They overpowered me and used me.
What followed that realisation was an outpouring of rage and anger that had been building for 18 years, held at bay with line after line of cocaine.
Finally, the dam burst.
Finally, in that flood of tears and anger, I was set free.
Together with my sponsor, friends and family, I have unwrapped this awful story. Given it the light of day; exposed it; so that I can find peace, and meaning in life. And gain control over my addiction.
I wanted to confront A*, after all these years; and scream at him, and hurt him, like he hurt me. All I could think of, at first, was vengeance and retribution. I wanted that bastard to pay. I wanted him to feel that pain, both physical and spiritual.
I wanted him to pay.
But if I was to find any serenity, any peace at all – I was going to have to forgive A*.
I started working on it. Sessions with my sponsor. Meditation. Writing it out.
For me, forgiveness is not a one-off event. The rage comes, and the hate makes regular visits. And when it does, so does the craving for cocaine, to kill that emotion. Forgiveness is a constant exercise.
So tonight, as I write this, I accept the rage that telling this story brings, and the craving for cocaine that follows. And then I forgive all over again.
Rape happens. Rape happened to me. But I am not a victim.
I am a survivor.
© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.