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There's a Reason Many Gay, Bi Men Don't Report Sexual Violence


Even when Tyler Curry did, the system cared more about protecting his abuser than him.

I will never know how hard it is for women to report sexual abuse but given that the system is set up to privilege maleness, I imagine it is much harder than it was for me. I will never know how hard it is for young men of color to report sexual abuse, but given that the system is set up to privilege whiteness, I imagine it is much harder than it was for me. For me -- a white, cisgender male -- reporting my sexual abuse as a child was the single most difficult thing I've ever done.

When I was 8 years old, my neighborhood friend's father repeatedly molested me over the course of six months. I vividly remember the details of his den, where it would happen, and the video games he used to lure me there. His name is Rick, and he still lives in the small suburban town where it happened.

For almost two years, I kept the abuse a secret. I was confused, angry, and disgusted with myself. My mother recalls seeing something change in me during that time. I had never been one to hold secrets in, and now I was forced to carry such a dirty one around with me. It started to take its toll.

It was an ordinary Sunday at home with my family when we began watching a made-for-TV movie that turned out to be about a priest who molested a boy. Once the content registered with me, I sat frozen in front of the screen. With my mom beside me, I started crying uncontrollably before pointing to the screen and whispering to her that my friend's dad did the same thing to me. The rest is a little bit of a blur, but the police were called, charges were filed, and I slept well for the first time in a long while.

However, here is where the story takes an insidious turn: Years later, my mom told me that at first my father questioned whether to even call the police. She said he was "worried about ruining that man's life." Thankfully, my mother insisted and shrugged off my father's concerns about the man who hurt her child. But she didn't expect to receive a similar plea from the authorities.

"Two weeks after charges were filed, the City of Bedford detective called me and told me how remorseful our neighbor was," my mother recalled. "He told me that [Rick] wanted to come over and speak to us. I told him that under no circumstances was he to approach Tyler or us. The detective continued talking, almost pleading his case.... I told the detective that the charges stood."

This was a clear foreshadowing of how the system would treat me and my abuser. When it came time to give my testimony, I sat with my father and a very large, gruff, and masculine detective. They both were getting visibly frustrated with me because I wasn't using explicit, sexual language to detail situations, body parts, and so on. I will never forget how humiliating that process was, yet I still wish I would have used more graphic language in order for my abuser to get a harsher sentence. In the end, he was charged with and convicted of Indecency and Fondling, didn't spend a single night in jail, and was given two years of probation. The result was, I believe, a resounding example of our very white, very male justice system that protects its own.

I tried to forget about it, which I mostly succeeded at doing. Mostly. Then: Hello, Judge Kavanaugh.

I did not wait two years to report my abuser because I felt as if it was my fault. I knew it wasn't, even though my abuser tried to brainwash me into believing I would be the one who would get "in trouble." The fact was I knew I was more feminine than I "should" be, and I was terrified of people having another reason to call me a freak. I think he knew this too, and targeted me because of it. If there is anything that I have learned about myself from experience, it is that my resistance to being silenced is a hell of a lot stronger than my fear of being judged.

Sexual predators rely on the fact that most sexual abuse victims are too afraid of the shame and embarrassment that comes with reporting. Conservative white men seem to know the system is built for them and that entitles them to do what they want without consequences. This unspoken understanding rattles through the halls of our justice system -- from the lower courts, like the small Southern court where my case was heard, all the way up north to the Supreme Court where Justice Clarence Thomas still sits with impunity. This is why it's so important that we talk about our experiences and refuse to be silenced.

This is no coming out story. I feel no shame about my experience nor do I allow it to have influence over the person I am or want to be. This is just another essay about the inevitable doubt and downplaying of sexual abuse -- particularly when charges are leveled against white men -- that happens far too often in our patriarchal justice system. Time's up.

Tylercurry_by-cody-scott-kinsfather-copyx100Contributing editor TYLER CURRY-MCGRATH is also editor at large at Plus, author of A Peacock Among Pigeons, and a gay man living with HIV. (@IamTylerCurry) Photo by Cody Scott Kinsfather.

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