One Author’s Powerful Essay Offers Hope To Men Who Are Victims Of Childhood Sexual Assault

"I spent more energy running from it than I did living."

Trigger Warning: This post discusses issues of sexual assault and suicide.

Sexual assault is often looked upon as solely a women's issue. However, it's an issue that men face as well, though due to societal and cultural norms, it is often swept under the rug. With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it's important that we look at all aspects and victims of sexual assault. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author recently did just that, writing a personal narrative essay for The New Yorker in which he dealt with his own childhood sexual assault and also openly discussed the trauma it caused in the aftermath. 


In the essay, titled "The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma," Junot Díaz relays the turmoil resulted from the traumatic experience. "Yes, it happened to me," he writes near the essay's beginning. "I was raped when I was eight years old. By a grownup that I truly trusted."

He then goes on to detail the effect it had on his childhood, including him becoming withdrawn from both his family life and school. "More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living," he writes at one point. "I was confused about why I didn't fight, why I had an erection while I was being raped, what I did to deserve it. And always I was afraid — afraid that the rape had 'ruined' me; afraid that I would be 'found out'; afraid afraid afraid."

Rather than face the trauma head on, he attempted to bury the experience. However, he eventually found that it manifested in other ways, including bouts of depression, suicidal thoughts, reckless behavior, and his inability to maintain healthy romantic relationships. 

After reaching a breaking point, Díaz thankfully sought out a therapist at the behest of friends. "I stumbled upon a great therapist," he says at one point. "She had dealt with people like me before, and she dedicated herself to my healing. It took years — hard, backbreaking years — but she picked up what there was of me." He eventually found that the very act he'd been avoiding — confronting the incident and his feelings about it — is ultimately what saved him from himself. 

Díaz ends the essay by honestly admitting to readers that he sometimes retreats behind his "mask," but his confronting the issue has helped him to finally reclaim a small part of himself he thought he lost. 

He also continued the dialogue on his Facebook page. After thanking those who read his essay and sent kind messages on the social network, he spoke specifically to those who might still be dealing with their own experience. "I wish to place here some resources that helped me on this long difficult journey. If you have additional ones please add them," he wrote. "I've received messages from many people who are suffering the terrible aftershocks of similar traumas. I am very sorry that it happened to you. Please know you are not alone. Please know there is help." 

He accompanied the post with links to nonprofits 1in6, RAINN, and the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, each of which aims to help those who have gone through experiences similar to that of Díaz.

(H/T: The New Yorker)


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