Louis’ story: Why did I blame myself after I was raped?
My name’s Louis. Louis who was the first openly gay School Captain of my Catholic high school, I was voted upon graduation ‘Most likely to be rich and famous’. I’m Louis from the large, loving family who’ve always supported me. I’m Louis who on a whim travelled on my own to Bali for my first trip overseas for a month to teach English to children in Ubud. I’m Louis who’s been asked the question “How do you smile so much, all the time?” more times than I could count.
I’m Louis, a victim of rape.
Soon I’ll have my final checkup back at the clinic, giving one third and final verification that I don’t have HIV. I have to say at 20 that’s not a sentence I ever thought I would have to say or write or even think, none of this is really. There’s been a lot of that though so far, a lot that I hadn’t previously fathomed would ever become a part of my story.
I’ll never forget walking out of the sexual health clinic past the waiting room and seeing at least six solemn faces of mostly young, clearly homosexual men and suddenly witnessing the reality of a side of our community that I was always aware of but never thought applied to me.
I’ll never forget sitting on a park bench the next day and calling my mother. It was getting dark, I was looking at the traffic lights and the cars passing through them nearby when I tried but couldn’t bring myself to actually say the words out loud.
I’ll never forget hearing her say to me: “You were raped.”
I’ll never forget the look on my sister-in-law’s face when two weeks later she was picking me up from the kitchen floor when I was crying uncontrollably. I don’t remember beginning to cry, I just remember washing dishes and the next moment there she was with her arms around me sitting on the tiles.
I’ll never forget the first night I spent alone in the house after it had happened and the quiet sense of terror that I ignored until sunrise, but that no matter how much Gwen Stefani I played I inevitably couldn’t escape.
I’ll never forget feeling like a piece of me had been taken. That I had become less complete than I was before.
The words “You didn’t deserve this” are ones that I’ve now come to know quite well, and honestly while with everything I know and everything I’ve learned through this experience tells me that these words are of course truth, these are still words I struggle with.
Ultimately I’m a very lucky human being, I’ve lived a life of opportunity, have travelled and have people who I love ready to support me, as I would for them all around me. I made a series of decisions the night it happened that lead me to the single most traumatic event of my entire life. A series of decisions that really aren’t that uncommon for a lot of people my age, but a series of decisions that ultimately I’ve paid for.
Again though, I continue to be lucky, if there’s anything that I’ve come to realise through all of this it’s that one night of seemingly standard, alcohol-infused behaviour could ultimately be the difference between life and death. I am still alive, I’m now physically unharmed and I’ve been able to go on with my life. There are many people who sadly haven’t had this luxury, have been or continue to be violently assaulted and have had a lot more taken from them than their dignity.
So before I write anything more, I want to be clear that I am grateful to be here and don’t for a second forget that this all could have been much, much worse.
For me it’s all a very familiar tale, picked a guy up in a bar, went back to his without really knowing where I was and things became progressively darker from there. What could have been a funny one night stand story just happened to end up being an ongoing source of many sleepless nights. The details themselves are still quite painful and on a lot of levels extremely humiliating to share but essentially I was in the wrong place with the wrong person, in the wrong state of mind and the word ‘no’ was repeatedly ignored until all 170 centimetres, 62 kilograms of me was left without a choice and I was overpowered.
48 hours later I was sitting across from a nurse who has now reserved a place in my memory as one of the most incredible, personable and funny people I’ve ever met, with tears running down my face I said words that have haunted me since the moment they crept into my mind and out of my mouth,
“I hate that I let myself become a stereotype. I’m just another statistic.”
This is a concept I’ve had to come to terms with before this point. I’m a relatively slim built, feminine gay man who’s been dying his hair since he was 14 and cried far more than any person should when I saw Lana Del Rey live for the first time in concert. I have always said if I could be more masculine then believe me I would have figured out how to do so effectively a long time ago but the reality is I could walk into a room and fifty metres away I have no doubt a blind man could lean over to the guy next to him and say, “I know which team he bats for.”
I’ve always been an advocate for being proud of who you are, stereotype or not, but it was sitting in that sterilised room that screamed of a hospital scene in Days of our Lives, with a stack of papers piled in front of me that had my name and the words ‘SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE’ right next to each other that I felt ashamed. I felt like I was every cautionary tale from that spurts from the hateful mouth of every bigot you see in modern day media. I felt like I had let my community down, that through my own choices I had contributed to archaic imagery that has so damaged the LGBT community of promiscuity, a dancefloor and liquor.
In those moments I felt ashamed and disgusted in myself not only because of what, at the time, I felt like I had invited to happen to me, but because I have always advocated that I want to live a life that is mine, my own choices, my own dreams. This meant that if I was happy but my characteristics or way of speaking were considered stereotypical without my trying to then so be it, but it had never been my intention to live in a way where I allowed myself to become a stereotype that continued to feed into negative and generalised misconceptions. I was raised by people who are open-minded and loving and good, I had a blessed childhood full of memories that still put me in tears of laughter, even now in early adulthood as my parents are divorced they are respectful and genuinely good to one another and all my siblings and I love my stepfather.
Sitting in that hospital, I felt like none of that mattered anymore because I was just another statistic. Everything I had ever worked for as Louis, as an individual, all the aspects of my life that had nothing to do with my sexuality were all suddenly moot because I had let myself become another number that lobby groups could use in their studies or promiscuity and sexual abuse amongst gay men.
Basically I felt like I had let myself down, I had let my family down and I had let my community down.
Today, months later, in the late hours of a particularly dark day of mine wherein I struggled yet again with my sense of self-worth to the point where I even went as far as questioning those closest to me as to why and how they could love me I want to say for myself, and potentially to others if this ever gets read:
I was wrong. Wrong to feel like I let the community down. Wrong to blame myself.
It was my mother’s words this evening that are the latest to resonate with me, I was crying and blaming myself again for my share in the whole affair and she said to me:
“Are you kidding me? If this was one of your sisters would you tell her it was her fault? Would you let others tell her that?”
And she’s right. No matter what the circumstances were leading to it, no matter the choices made by her, if anyone did to any of my sisters what was done to me I would never for a second tell them it was their fault, because if you say no, whether it’s verbal, or it’s with your actions, black and white, plain and simple:
It is not your fault.
This then got me thinking about how I would respond if one of my friends, or a partner told me this had happened to them, how I would then respond, and then comparing how all of these people have reacted when I’ve shared with them my story.
In my fear of being another statistic that casts a negative shadow over the LGBT community I completely forget what really I should have been focusing on to help get me through and that is what our community is built on.
The ongoing battle for rights within the LGBT community, especially in Australia is still being fought and still prevalent within society because we are a people that fight together, fight for one another, we support each other’s rights to love and to live as freely and openly as anyone else. It’s a community that celebrates difference and diversity and embraces all of those who embrace the cause of open mindedness and freedom. Every person I know who is a part of our community or in support of our community that I’ve spoken to about my incident has met me with support, with understanding, without judgement, even in moments I’ve felt that I deserved it.
I am more than a statistic, and if you’re reading this and you’ve been through anything like I have then I want you to know that you are more than a statistic too.
I’m not done healing yet, there is definitely still work to be done. I’m seeking counselling because I feel as though I’m ready to really talk about it and face what I need to, to build a positive future. I’m writing this, not because I’m looking for attention, or because I think I have unheard of insight into the issue but because I think that sharing about such an issue is maybe an important step within all those dealing with something like this to know that it is OK to share within our community and that you will be met with more love and acceptance than judgement.
I’m not a finished story and that’s exactly why I wanted to write this, because sometimes it’s not about reflecting on something when it’s a part of your past, but instead it’s about living it and sharing it as best you can while it’s happening.
You are still you. You’re more than your choices, and you’re definitely, completely, certainly more than someone else’s. We as members of the LGBT community are fighting as a collective but we are still individuals with varying hardships and specific circumstances that we may battle with on our own but know that when it comes to sexual assault you don’t have to battle alone.
There is support, there is care, there are people you can speak to, people who will listen.
There are people who exist who disgustingly and unfortunately will take what they want in life without considering the consequences or ongoing ramifications of their actions, but these are not the only people in the world, not by a long shot, and these are not the people who anyone should let define their sense of self-worth.
I am still Louis. The Louis who spent most of today crying, but also the Louis who is taking another volunteer trip to South East Asia early next year to teach more English. I’m still Louis who gets emotionally involved in Agatha Christie novels and still doesn’t quite get the hype with Game of Thrones (sorry).
I’m Louis with work to be done, with some love in myself still yet to be rediscovered but I am still me.
Not a statistic, not a stereotype, I’m a part of a community where love and acceptance is the foundation and reminding ourselves of this is important.
I am a victim but I am so much more: I am me.