Dave Luis is one of the survivors who volunteered to be a part of the Rape Crisis Don’t Hide, Speak Out campaign. As a rape survivor he feels passionately about the issue of male rape and the importance of creating awareness and overcoming the stigma that keeps many men silent. Dave also writes his own blog about his journey of recovery after rape and healing from addiction.
Why did you decide to get involved with Rape Crisis’s Don’t Hide, Speak Out campaign?
I have only recently come to terms with what happened to me 18 years ago and as part of my healing journey, I have been writing a very public blog about my recovery from addiction that was in a very big way fueled by my rape. In telling my story of recovery from drug addiction, it’s now become crucial to unpack and tell the story of my rape and how I am healing from that. I want to inspire more men who have been raped to come forward, and start their own process of recovery.
There is a belief that rape only happens to women; what do you have to say about this?
“Men don’t get raped”. Yes. That was my view for many years too, as I tried to force myself to believe that what happened was nothing more than a very adult situation gone wrong. Beyond the stigma of “rape only happening to women” there is a secondary stigma, that “rape is part of the gay lifestyle” – both of these are wildly inaccurate. In my group recovery meetings there are many tales of sexual abuse against young boys and men. It’s a fact: rape happens to men. Often. And we are taught by our abusers and certain societal views that these are just sexual games, that it’s all part of growing up. NO! When 21-year old man like me is held down and forcibly raped by his partner and a friend, that is no game, and it is certainly no myth. Sadly, it is also not a rare occurrence.
When did your healing process begin? Why did you choose to speak out?
It was in a casual conversation a year ago where I mentioned that my partner had brought strangers into our bedroom, and how on the very first time this happened it was a very painfully unpleasant situation. My friend stopped the conversation and said “Dave – what happened to you was rape!” It took days to sink in, and what followed was months of intense anger, shame, and counselling – many tears were shed. Through phenomenal support and guidance, I realised that for years I had been harboring such vile hatred and anger that affected my life in very bad ways.
Thanks to my support group, I came to realise that anger and thoughts of revenge and retribution kept me as a victim. I started writing on my blog about the rape and one night, when I was ready, I wrote to my ex-partner and confronted him about the rape. I unpacked the events of that night and said clearly “What happened that night was rape. I am putting that damage down here, tonight.” And then I gave myself the most important gift of my life: I forgave him. It was the only way to leave the anger and sense of revenge behind. It’s not all plain sailing and a bed of roses now – I still have moments where the rage returns and it takes effort to work at forgiveness. But I work at it. Not for his sake, but for mine. I never want to go back to being that angry, hateful victim, ever again.
What is your message to men who have been victims of rape?
The first person you need support from, is yourself. Find a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say the words “I am a rape SURVIVOR!” and know that there is NO SHAME in being strong enough to say that you were hurt and that now you are healing. And then stand up each and every day, and work at forgiving yourself first – and slowly you will find your way back to life.