I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want your sympathy. I really don’t want to be even writing this.

But: it’s important.

I was young. I was working a lot of night shifts, often alone or with few people in the building.

He was a coworker. He was pretty, kinda muscular, always well-dressed; he seemed smart, he worked in technical support. I didn’t really know him. I needed to go to the cell phone shop for … something. I don’t remember why I was going there. He said he was headed the same way. He offered me a ride. He was attractive. I might have flirted with him; I’m not sure. I’m sure I was obviously enough smitten.

He had to make a “quick stop” at his house on the way. I went inside with him. He handed me a soda. I saw him pop the tab — I didn’t see what he put into it. He did something on his computer for a minute; asked me some vague general questions, where was I from, and such.

It worked fast, whatever it was.

I was paralysed, essentially. The memories are broken apart. I was in and out of consciousness, and even today I’m not sure in what order things happened.

He pinned my hands at first and shoved me down, threw me around. He hurt me, bruised me, left marks on my body. He left the room, and came back, and did it again. He was terrifying, but beautiful. He was rough, cruel. He was saying things to me — “talking dirty.” I remember the words. I won’t repeat them, but I remember how he said “faggot” and the tone he used on the word “boy.” He used feminine terms to describe me, abusively misogynistic language. I don’t think I could speak. I remember trying to scream. I remember choking on him, and threw up a little.

Despite all that, my body reacted physically. It didn’t mean I wanted it, or enjoyed it; despite the pain, despite (or perhaps because of) whatever drug he’d put into my system, the animal lower brain still responded; reflexes responded, my body responded, while my brain was barely able to fathom what was happening. I was horrified by that, almost more than what he had done; that my anatomy betrayed me, that maybe it was my fault; maybe he thought it was all right if he could do that “for” me.

It wasn’t all right. It wasn’t my fault.

He didn’t use any protection. I would later learn he’d told someone I know that he was living with HIV.

I don’t remember him moving me back into his car. I may have been unconscious. Eventually he dropped me, groggy, back in the parking lot of our office. He was clean and dressed. The sun was rising; it had been a whole night. He stopped to talk to someone who was on their way in, about something work-related. I was hurt, sweaty, stained, sticky, dishevelled; I didn’t want anyone to see me; I drove off — in hindsight, stupidly, still fazed. I drove to the beach and cleaned up in the changing room and showers, found a clean shirt from my car. I didn’t find all the bruises yet, then. I didn’t cry; I rushed to wash myself, set myself to rights, quickly. There wasn’t a real mirror and I hurried, hoping nobody else would wander in.

My underwear and shirt went into a trash barrel. I later threw away the jeans; I’d bled into them through my boxers, not enough that anyone would ever notice, but I knew.

I didn’t get medical attention that day. I slept; I was dehydrated, and nauseous, and had a headache. I thought maybe I’d led him on. Maybe he could see how attracted to him I was — I certainly had been, and hadn’t been shy about showing it casually.

He certainly didn’t act like he’d done anything wrong. He didn’t act like he hated me, or wanted to hurt me. I was conflicted. I didn’t understand why someone so incredibly hot would do something like that; I was inexperienced and naïve, and I thought maybe I got hurt so badly because I hadn’t done my part right.

If I had been more experienced, I thought, if I’d ever been around the bases in that way, maybe I could have enjoyed it without hurting myself.

I actually thought of it that way — that I’d hurt myself, by not working with him.

The thing that changed my mind was when I realized we’d never even kissed; nothing he’d done was with me. He had done it to me. How could I have possibly reacted otherwise, drugged up and all but paralysed? I remembered him there in the parking lot, dropping me off, smiling — and remembered him saying something like “we should do this again.” I never wanted to see him again.

I saw a poster for a rape hotline. I called them. The woman on the phone yelled at me for wasting her time. They didn’t help men. Men are their enemy. Swishy little gay boys with platinum perms are their enemy. She hung up on me. I cried. That was the first time I’d been able to cry about it. I couldn’t stop, just sat there with the phone in my hand, crying; fell asleep sitting like that.

I felt completely alone, and stupid, and worthless. I worried that this was going to happen again; I jumped when doors opened.

It was about a week later before I saw a doctor. I was still in pain. The nurse was dismissive, but the doctor was empathetic. She drew blood samples herself to send off for STI tests. The HIV tests back then were still not very accurate; I had to get retested every two months for a year. I had only minor physical injuries that healed mostly on their own; she gave me some ointment or other. I was “lucky.”

She recommended that I go to the sheriffs. I did. The desk sergeant wouldn’t take my report. He said that, since I was gay, they wouldn’t ever get any indictment. He didn’t ask if I were gay — he didn’t have to. Besides, there wasn’t any evidence that I hadn’t consented, he said. “If you look gay enough,” he was telling me, “it’s OK to rape you.”

They tell women not to dress too sexy or they’ll be victims. They tell men, if you look gay enough, it’s automatically “consent.” Perhaps in the minds of potential jurors that was “true.” They never charged him.

My attacker was still working at that company. I couldn’t handle it. I went in to quit my job, and the owner/manager asked me why, offered me a raise, and berated me for being such a “pussy” that I couldn’t “get over it” and keep working in the same office as him. I left in tears. I never got my last paycheck.

I was afraid of men; and I was self-destructive in some ways.

I finally sought counselling. I buried it, I healed over the scars of it, and I do not talk about it, to almost anyone, ever.

It’s not the only time I’ve been assaulted, but it was the first, it was the worst, and it still hurts to think about it.

That was 20 years ago and I still do not want talk about it.

Now it’s there. Please don’t tell me you’re sorry, please don’t ever mention this to me, really. I know better, now. I know I had nothing to be ashamed-of; I know it wasn’t my fault; I even think I mostly did the right things afterwards, although I probably should have gone to the ER that morning. It hurts, it burns in my head, and no amount of knowing and healing ever makes you feel totally clean.

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