Category: Columns

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I am a victim of sexual assault.

Seeing those words on the screen of my laptop still causes my hands to tremble and it’s been over 30 years since my innocence was taken. It’s the height of irony that a person widely known for sharing virtually every aspect of his life on the radio has managed to keep this one secret buried so deep.

This might be the point where you ask me why I haven’t come forward sooner. It’s a question I heard the President of the United States ask over the last week with regard to a woman that has accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexually assaulting her while the two were still in high school. But this isn’t a political opinion piece. The opinion shared by the President is one that I have heard echoed throughout the years whenever a prominent sexual abuse/assault case comes forward after being kept secret for such a long period of time.

Let me start at the beginning. Over 33 years ago I was molested by a person familiar to my family. I wasn’t restrained or held against my will. I wouldn’t even say that I was forced against my will. But I was coerced into performing a sexual act with a male much older than I was when I was just a boy who couldn’t possibly understand what I was doing. I was deceived. I didn’t know any better and I went along with this man’s devious plot. It only happened one time. But that one incident is an albatross that’s been around my neck for the last 30-plus years.

Over 20 years ago, I was engaged to a woman named Victoria. During a conversation one night, I broke down in tears while telling her of the abuse I suffered at the hands of a man familiar to my family. It was the first time I had told anyone what had happened to me over a decade earlier. There I was, sobbing like a little boy. I had been brought back to that day and that moment where this young man had violated me. In the days that followed, I would share my story with a select few people in my family. I chose to protect my parents from this awful experience. The way I viewed it, there was nothing they could do for me now. I was an adult and I was out on my own.

But it was more complicated than that. Many will ask why I am being vague in describing my abuser. Why have I gone the route of keeping him nameless? The reasoning on my end is simple. The number of lives that would be destroyed by this revelation is too large for me to bear. It isn’t just this man’s life that would be ruined. It would be the lives of his family and extended family. I wouldn’t be able to live with that consequences for the sake of outing this person that so badly damaged my life. Why should his family have to suffer for his selfishness? For as many times in my life as I have lacked the discipline to hold back, this is the one instance where I still have the ability to do so. A select few people know who my attacker is. I have asked them to keep my secret. Hopefully, they will honor that request.

Over the last decade, I thought of sharing my story publicly. I thought of outing my abuser. I thought of writing to him to tell him all the pain he had caused me throughout the course of my life because of one selfish decision he made so many years ago. But for all the times I considered coming forward with my experience, I ultimately opted for the choice of silence. Might I confront the man who did this to me at some point? Perhaps. There is no statute of limitations that restricts me from talking to the police tomorrow if I wanted to. But again, at what cost would that action come? Right now, just one life has been forever altered by this experience. Why have more that are so adversely burdened because of one person’s actions? Still, it is something I consider every now and then.

7 years ago I heard the story of Jerry Sandusky molesting boys in showers while a coach at Penn State University. It made me physically nauseous. I would go on the radio and discuss the story with my audience. And each time I shared the story, it was like recounting my own sexual assault to an audience of tens of thousands. The pain was unbearable. I remember breaking down in tears to my partner and telling him of the pain I was in. But what could I do? There never felt like a proper time to share this experience with anybody outside of a handful of people.

When people ask why somebody doesn’t come forward, it shows a lack of understanding towards those who have endured something so incomprehensible. How many people can even go to that dark place? And if you haven’t been in there, a proper perspective is impossible to come up with. Who would have believed me as a young boy if I had spoken up and said this person forced me to do something that I really didn’t want to do? As I started to get older, I wondered if perhaps I had wanted it to happen. Maybe it was my fault? Heck, I figured out that I was gay when I was 23, after years of dating women and even getting engaged to one. Maybe this experience I had as a child was just a part of my “sexual discovery”. So many potential rationalizations. Join them up with the reasons listed in the paragraphs before and it gave me so many reasons not to speak up.

So why speak out now? Again, the answer is simple. I either start unloading some of this experience in the present or risk self-destructing in the very near future. I can feel myself coming apart at the seams as the chorus of the #MeToo Movement grows louder each day. While that movement addresses sexual harassment and assault related to the workplace, I feel a kinship with those who have openly shared their experiences of sexual trauma at the hands of somebody in a position of power or authority. My assault didn’t come in the workplace. But it still came at the hands of somebody who should have known better. It came at the hands of somebody who took advantage of his position as somebody who was older than me.

Another reason I’m speaking out now is guilt. As we grow older, we expand upon the simplistic ways in which we process traumatic incidents in our lives. I certainly know that my thoughts crystalized a bit more as I processed what took place on that day so many years ago. I constantly came back to one thought that still haunts me now. Did my silence enable my abuser to do others, what he had done to me? What are the chances that I was the only boy who this man violated? Did he do it to others? I’ll probably never know.

I’m not here to allege that I was sexually assaulted as a young boy. I’m here to tell you that I was sexually assaulted as a young boy. It isn’t imagined. I’m not mistaken as to who perpetrated this crime upon me. While I don’t remember the exact day on the calendar (in terms of when this took place), I can walk you to the spot where it happened. I remember the violation that vividly. Its mark has been burned indelibly into my being. It will never disappear.

Let me finish with a message to the man who has caused me this great pain. If my accuser should happen to read this, I want him to know something. You took something from me that I will never be able to have back. You stole my innocence. Beyond that, you’ve stolen over 33 years of my life in some way, shape or form by forcing me to relive my trauma again and again. I hope that in telling this story I can start to reclaim some of what has been lost at your hands and actions. I am a survivor of sexual assault. My wounds run deep. Rather than question why I’ve chosen to remain silent for so long, instead ask yourself what is occurring in our society that forces one to stay silent for such an interminable period.

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On June 26th 2015, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling that essentially recognized same-sex couples as equal to heterosexual couples in the eyes of the law. No more DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). No more civil unions which essentially made gays equal but different in the eyes of our federal government. Equality had arrived for the gay community. But that ruling certainly didn’t end the struggle for the LGBT community in this country. However, if you’ve watched the first two debates of the Presidential race stretch run, you’d think we had equal rights with zero discriminatory issues for the last 100 years.

Two debates have been held over the last 8 days. In those two debates, not one issue has been raised that is relevant to the LGBTQ community and the struggles we still face in the year 2016. When the first debate passed and I saw a few murmurs of discontent among my friends in the community, I shrugged it off. “Calm down.” I thought to myself. “We have three presidential debates and one debate between the Vice-Presidential candidates.” With the VP debate held on Tuesday night in Virginia, I felt pretty confident that we’d see some sort of reference to the LGBT community. Especially given the stances taken by staunch social conservative Mike Pence. And while a little bit of religion was injected into the debate in the latter stages, with the topic of abortion being mentioned, yet again the LGBT issue was left untouched by debate moderator Elaine Quijano. With that said, I thought she controlled the conversation and handled the management of the candidates pretty well.

Ultimately, the fact that we are halfway through the debate schedule without a single mention of an LGBT issue is disconcerting. Meanwhile, we’ve heard about Miss Universe contestants, stamina of candidates and Rosie O’Donnell. Granted, only one of those issues was raised by a moderator. But in the case of the VP debate on Tuesday night, it’s inconceivable to me that you can go 90 minutes with Indiana Governor Mike Pence sitting just feet away from you, and not ask a single question regarding his stance on homosexuality or protections for those in the LGBT community. Keep in mind that both Pence and Senator Tim Kaine are just a heartbeat away from the Presidency come January. Doesn’t their views on LGBT issues matter? Doesn’t the views of the candidate they are running with matter? Apparently not enough to warrant a single question or mention in two debates.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence has quite the track record when it comes to opposing the LGBT community. Start with the fact that he ran a conservative think tank that put out anti-gay articles. This is the same Mike Pence that was okay with using HIV/AIDS monies to fund conversion therapy. Yeah, the old conversion therapy advocate. “We’ll just push the gay out of you if we talk to you enough.” Frankly, an hour in a room alone with Mike Pence could be enough to wish me adapting a heterosexual life. Remember the Indiana Religious Liberty Bill? Yep. That’s loaded with anti-gay rhetoric too. Back in 2014, he tried to ban same-sex marriage. That didn’t go so well for him. Mike Pence on gays in the military? Nope. Not under his watch. Despite all of these “knowns” as it relates to a man that is one heartbeat away from being the leader of the free world, not a single question on Tuesday not was raised that would force him to address his stance on these issues.
So that leaves two debates for the moderators to raise the topics like those being confronted by the trans community in North Carolina. 21 states have some form of religious freedom acts which essentially embrace the idea of discriminating against the LGBT community under the guise of protecting religious expression. In case anybody forgot, June 12th, 2016 saw a massacre in Orlando that took the lives of those in the LGBT community along with those that support the community. This idea that seems to be embraced within the “debate moderator world” that LGBT issues aren’t important enough to be addressed is perplexing to me. That takes me to the next Presidential Debate in Nevada on Sunday night.

The moderators for the 2nd debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz. If anybody could understand the sensitivities involved with neglecting the topic of LGBT civil rights it would be the openly-gay Cooper. After first seeming to avoid gay topics after coming out (probably out of concern for being viewed as having bias on the issue), Cooper has become more comfortable in addressing LGBT concerns. Just look on YouTube for his interview with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi where he held her feet to the fire for her stance against gay-marriage. After the Orlando shootings, you would have thought Bondi was the biggest champion for LGBT rights. Cooper had no problem dragging her onto the carpet to face her past views. Will Cooper be the one to address the Rainbow elephant in the room on Sunday night? Maybe he leaves it to Raddatz to tackle. Either way, we’re just two debates away from voters having to decide whom to vote for. And for the LGBT community, the avoidance of LGBT-related questions hasn’t made their choice any clearer.

Listen to The Intersection Podcast with Jason Page. Available on iTunes and Google Play. You can also find Jason on Twitter @TheBackPage. You can also find the latest episodes HERE.

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If I could ever give you reason to get your next pet through a shelter, Duky would be it.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy blew through the city. A few days after the storm had passed, a woman in our neighborhood in Brooklyn had found a dog chained to the fence in front of her house. She was looking for the owner and was preparing to take the dog to a shelter.

Knowing the difficulty many dogs have once being placed into a shelter, I impulsively told the woman that I would take the mutt sitting in  the backseat of her car. He looked positively terrified. At the time, I already owned a dog. So I planned to take in this abandoned mutt as a foster in the hopes of finding him a home. I would have no such luck. The dog had a ratty blue collar on his neck with the letters DUKY written in black marker. So I called him Duky. He was covered in fleas and had a damaged ear with scratches on it.

Duky just hours after I took him in

Duky just hours after I took him in

After taking Duky to a local vet back in Connecticut and getting him a full work-up, we learned his problems were far worse. His ears had been damaged by mites so terribly that the vet thought he might have permanent hearing loss. Luckily he didn’t have any permanent damage. I once tried to find this dog a home. Somebody in my apartment building took the dog but gave him back within a couple of days. He had bad separation anxiety that was simply too much for most dog lovers to handle.if left alone, Duky would bark for hours on end and look for things to destroy. I once again took him back.

Duky was mine. It was meant to be. My cross to bear if you will. 3 1/2 years later, I have become as inseparable to Duky as he is to me. There isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do to keep him happy and secure in the idea that he would never be abandoned again.

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I write this in the hopes that you will choose to adopt your next dog. The pet population is simply too large and there are not enough homes for all the animals in shelters today. Please consider adopting before looking for a breeder or a pet store for your next pet. It will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.