Sexual harassment is a hot topic today. It’s something I’ve been hearing and reading about for the last several weeks. However, when it happened to me, I began to understand what it means to be in shock, feel embarrassed, and ashamed, and to beat yourself up for someone else’s bad behavior.
Living in my building for over 12 years has been one of the best experiences and my building has been one of the best places I’ve lived. I’ve been friendly with everyone and was proud to call it home. However, sadly a recent encounter wiped away my feelings of home and safety in an instant.
I’m still in shock because I cannot believe a neighbor’s husband thought it would be okay to be welcomed into my home and then take my kindness as weakness. I am in turmoil over an allegedly straight man feeling it was okay to make advances on me, pull his pants down, and attempt to touch me in my private area repeatedly after I said “NO!” several times.
Gay men experience this form of harassment a lot more than we want to believe. “It’s a very taboo subject,” said Alex Winter, an actor, and director who said he was sexually abused as a pre-teen child actor. “I don’t know of any boys in any pocket of the entertainment industry that do not encounter some form of predatory behavior… It’s really not a safe environment.”
Hollywood is currently under fire, but it’s not just Hollywood that’s no longer safe, it’s happening in our backyards. As a gay man, I never imagined I would experience this form of harassment. It’s a scary thing, and especially in my case because it happened in my apartment, the place I called home.
My recent experience and encounter is a painful reminder that gay men, young and old, can be particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and that men wield their power to abuse both women and men.
Like Iyanla Vanzant always says, “Let’s call a thing a thing.” I can report this issue, but if I do; it then becomes my word against his. Plus, in a world where people already have twisted ideas and opinions of gay men, him changing the story saying I made a sexual advance towards him, I feel a majority of people would believe him over me.
On top of that, I love where I live; reporting the incident to the authorities only magnifies the situation and my feelings of home and safety become even more diminished. It’s why so many people who have been victims of sexual harassment choose not to say anything or report the incident. I am sad because I am a man who believes in right from wrong.
I welcomed someone into my home I’ve been neighborly with for roughly 10 years and I am in turmoil over the fact he would violate me in this way. He put me in an extremely uncomfortable situation and made me feel unsafe in my own home.
This interaction lasted for 3 1/2 hours because I wanted him to leave, but I was frightened that if I reacted negatively, with anger or agitation, that he would create a negative campaign against me in the apartment building, with his wife, or with the authorities. It’s horrible to be harassed like this and it’s awful when I have to accept it as his word against mine.
More people, gay and straight, are coming forward with their stories and I am gravely sad, that I have to say, “me too.” The unwarranted shame, powerlessness, and inability to blow the whistle, and being sexually assaulted is the worst thing that could have happened to me. I know this feeling of hopelessness will pass, but at this moment in time the feelings seem impossible to overcome.
According to the Human Rights Campaign website, “as a community, LGBTQ people face higher rates of poverty, stigma, and marginalization, which put us at greater risk for sexual assault. We also face higher rates of hate-motivated violence, which can often take the form of sexual assault.” 40 percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21 percent of heterosexual men. Yet, as a community, we rarely talk about how sexual violence affects us or what our community’s unique needs are when it comes to preventing sexual assault and supporting and caring for survivors of sexual violence.
For LGBTQ survivors of sexual assault, their identities – and the discrimination they face surrounding those identities – often make them hesitant to seek help from police, hospitals, shelters or rape crisis centers, the very resources that are supposed to help them.
If someone discloses to you that they have been sexually assaulted, remember to believe them, reassure them that it wasn’t their fault, keep their disclosure confidential (unless the situation requires mandatory reporting), and never pressure them for more information than they want to share.
Originally, I was not going put this out into the world, but I did nothing wrong and I cannot allow this person to take my power away. I have to the ability to report the incident but believe sharing my story has greater potential to make a difference.