I’ll be 37 in August. I’m a cosmetologist, and I work at a spa in Tucson. I’m originally from upstate Pennsylvania. I’m the youngest of three children. There was a boy, girl and then ten years between my sister and I. We moved here about 13 years ago, and I went to beauty school here.
It happened when I was 19. For years, I thought this happened when I was 21. It was only after getting through it, because I kind of put it in sequence and went on. It happened, I survived. It was just one of those bad things that happen to good people type of things, and on I went. It was later when I started having flashbacks and became aware that I was sometimes unable to feel. I would blank off, and I realized I had all the classic post-traumatic symptoms. My counselor said, “Do you have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?” It was so evident. Out of about 12 things on this check sheet, I had 10 of them. It was a relief to know what it was, but the torture is what scarred me because I didn’t know if he was going to kill me.
What happened was I was on the street in Philadelphia, and I decided to survive any way that I could. I met some hustlers from Rittenhouse Square. I thought, well, it’s like getting yourself a place to live and not be where you’re at because there were other problems besides this. I was an incest survivor, and I had been molested by someone else. By the time I hit Philly, I was primed and ready to go to have something like this happen. It would set me back. I already had feelings of worthlessness. Going through a situation like this, it just justified every bad, ugly thing I could have felt about myself.
I decided I was going to hustle. The first one was this old man. It was $10 or $15 for him to blow me, and I think I faked an orgasm. The second one was this person. So I had a very short career as a prostitute, which I still feel shame about. The impulse is to say edit that out, but I was there, and I have to live up to that. I now understand what I was doing when I was there, but it’s still something I have to work through myself and remember who I am now and what I’ve become. I went to his place, and he, well, it was exaggerated date rape. He was supposed to perform fellatio on me, and instead, he choked me. It when on from two in the morning till seven. It was hours. I don’t remember if he was doing any drugs like coke or anything to fuel him on. I don’t think so. I think he was just on this natural adrenal thing. He drank lightly, and he did set it up to the point where if I ever pointed my finger at him and said he did this, to me, it couldn’t be done. The code, customs, and things like that, just my behavior, when I was going with him, set me up. The cab driver was like, “They were awfully friendly.
The man was like 27, 28. He might have been a well preserved 35. To my young mind, I don’t know. He was not that much larger than me.
He set the situation up like if I ever said this was a rape, he knew what he was getting into because of the witness at the coffee shop. Later, I realized he deliberately showed a positive, happy interaction with several people before going to his apartment. Like in the cab, he was affectionate. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember him saying encouraging stuff like, “We’re getting there. I can’t wait.” Things that the cab driver would pick up on.
He set it up, so it seemed consensual. Exactly. Then when we got there, remembering back and dealing with my responsibility part of that whole issue, I remember seeing doilies on the dresser and things like that. You just don’t put a doily there. You set something on it. He had removed everything from the room that could be grabbed and used as a weapon. He had thought it out. His actions were premeditated.
I knew that I was in trouble when he grabbed me by the throat. My mind reeled. He went from Jekyll to Hyde in about 10 minutes.
He became menacing and then started the rape. It was more, besides the rape, the physical part of it, it was things he said that warped me. He was talking about how he could give me what I need. It was like he tapped into a part of me. He was able to tell me what I needed ever so much to hear—in a way, offering love and support and yet in the next instant being very rough and physically threatening. I do remember vaguely. I think he became bored with that because I think it zapped me so much that he didn’t get the response he was looking for, so he gave up on that tactic and went back to playing with sex. I get the feeling of stuff in my throat so, I think he slid it over or something. He ran a knife across my throat, and I don’t know if my mind just won’t let me remember him doing that, but yet I remember the knife in his hand. I remember the sensation of it at my throat. Still, it’s almost like I can’t believe anybody would actually threaten me that way, so I can’t remember him doing it. Yet I remember the sensation and even now talking about, part of me is like is that just fantasy that I can’t remember? Was the knife even there? Did I make the whole piece up because I can’t get a grasp on it? As they say, knowledge is the booby prize. You just let it go through, and there are more important concerns, but it’s almost like it takes pieces out and only allows it to come back a bit at a time for you to remember and integrate.
I don’t know if there are pieces that are missing just because I’ve forgotten them or can’t remember them. There’s like such a vast difference, and I won’t let myself remember them to clarify that. Do you know what I mean? And is it important, really? I don’t know how important that is?
I did not know if he would kill me or not. Definitely, he was choking me, a lot of choking. Some slaps, a couple punches to subdue me in the very beginning, a lot of choking.
I had a sense that he had lost control. Yes. You get that feeling like this crazy fucker could kill me. I felt that this could be a possibility. I may die at this moment. I’m going to die at this moment. He’s going to kill me this time. The game has ended, it’s almost dawn.
I thought I would be dead by dawn. I knew it couldn’t go on forever. It had to end in some manner. I kind of made him come. He was sodomizing me at the time, and I kind of just kicked into gear and made him come, but I remember being outside my body. It was like I was watching. I was distanced already. I’d cracked at that point, by then, I’d split. The disassociation, it was like almost a bored indifference, a flatness.
I think that the disassociation at that point was when it hit. Sure enough, the guy fell asleep. This was exactly what I was hoping, and I slipped off the bed, and my pants were there. I slid them on and just picked up my shoes and my shirt and ran. He awoke and tried to grab me before I got out the door, but I made it. At that time it was adrenaline, I was operating on pure adrenaline. It was time to move. I was down the steps and out the door. I was in Philadelphia on holiday during the summer. In fact, school is coming up soon because it’s the 13th of August, the day before my birthday—that’s that is why I was down there. I went into shock for three days, and then life went on. There was a lot of choking, choking me numerous times to the point of almost blacking me out.
Afterward, I’d already started denial and withdrawing because when I was walking, by the sun, I could tell which way was east, and I knew I had to go west to hit Broad Street. I was walking west, and I would have to go north to get back into Center City where things were. A squad car pulled over, and there were two police inside, looking at me. You could tell, I was all bruised and like a violence victim. The cop said, “Do you need any help?” I said, “No.” At that moment, what could I do? It was 1978. I thought, well, it was, “Why bother?” It’s happened. I’m not going to put myself through court and lose. I was sure I would lose. Oh yeah. He would have made me look like a fool. I knew it from the beginning. I remember the cab driver, the waitress at the restaurant. All of them would say, “He knew what he was getting into.”
At the time of the rape, well, it’s like I knew. We’d also gone to the Steps Disco. I thought about all of that. It’s like he picked me up deliberately. It’s just what he did. It would have been my word against his, and I would have lost. That’s a serious charge.
Those were the Anita Bryant days. Think about the days and the times, and it was a gay rape. I just didn’t want my whole life to be on the page of the scandal sheet. I don’t think I would have won. I know I wouldn’t have won. I think that would have been more traumatic than bearing it. I don’t know. Who knows? Interestingly enough, I do have some kind of justification. I made a friend, and I saw this man again, and I saw him get hurt.
Months later, he came into the bar, and this friend saw me blanch, and he just turned and looked and said, “Oh, he got you, too?” My mind just reeled with that. “He’s done this before to other people?” My friend said, “He kind of got me a bit.” He was able to get away. He was bigger.
He had made a habit of this, yeah. I guess this was something he occasionally did. Isn’t that twisted? And why didn’t anybody ever put the man away? He said something to someone one night, and this doorman just grabbed him and smashed him out the front door. I’m sure he broke his nose. But I don’t care and still don’t.
This man was causing trouble in the bar, so the doorman ejected him. Yes. Forcibly. He took him and smacked him against the wall and then threw him out the door. I never saw him again. He never bothered me again. He did say something to me in the bar one time.
The exact words I couldn’t say, it was something like, “How are you? Why haven’t I seen you or heard from you again?” Something like this. I couldn’t speak. This man just insulted my whole sensibilities about what life was. You just don’t do those kinds of things to humans, people, or animals.
I felt stripped. There’s so much guilt involved with rape and my background, I was raised charismatic protestant, for me to be gay in the first place was a real chiller. I don’t know how much of that was all the homosexual overtones to this situation, to the torture, but I was left feeling like second-class goods, used stuff. The actual feeling, when I isolate just the torture part of it, it takes dignity from you. It scorches your soul. There’s a pain there that even harsh words don’t steal from you. When your space is violated so brutally, it’s almost like you withdraw, and there’s a coldness there that you have to just deal with. A flatness. That’s more of a PTSD feeling, I think. The outrage and the shock are.
Before this happened, this was not part of my thinking, not really. Coming from my background, it was like I never even thought about rape. It never even crossed my mind. I never dreamed that this man would threaten to kill me, choke me, beat me, control me sexually, and threaten my life. I’m thinking to myself, “Jesus Christ, he says he’s going to dump me in the river. I’ll just be another trick, and no one will ever know. There will be no evidence.
The rape has affected my relationships. It did. I’m in a relationship now, and we do couples counseling. I do have a problem with intimacy at times. Both emotionally and sexually, sexual not as much because sex can be learned. He knows when I’m not there. He knows how to bring me back.
I dissociate, yeah, at loud voices. Knives held up in jest. A few times, children have said things. We were in the kitchen, and I was having a crappy day anyway, and she just put a knife to my back and said, “What are you doing punk?” and I said, “I don’t think you should be talking to me that way.” I was very over-reactive and defensive. I don’t know what I would do if a mugger ever pulled a knife. I was mugged once with a knife, but it was before the rape. He never held it out. He just intimated that he had it.
How it changed me? I’m overly defensive. I won’t ever be alone and repeat that situation. I’m in a monogamous relationship. Even dating, I’m kind of paranoid about going home with someone. Just like I’m sure people from Central America are not eager to go back there either. You just don’t want to return to the scene. It’s kind of sad. I’ve had a couple of chances to visit Philly but financially couldn’t afford to go, and I can’t help but wonder if I created that so I wouldn’t go back. Since I’ve left, I haven’t had any interest in going back. I’ve gone back and visited family like every three or four years. But our lives are so separate and different. I have my life here, and I have friends, a support group, the whole nine yards. I have family here.
It stops me from making friendships easily, even though I’m outgoing. I handle a social situation well but getting involved intimately with a little clique or group, I kind of hold back from that. I’m very picky about my one-on-ones. I can have 50 million acquaintances and a thousand fans, but only a small group in which I’m able to open up. I think that’s where my performing comes in. It does give me a chance to open up and feel love and acceptance, but I had that need for mass love and acceptance long before the rape ever happened. It got put on hold. I went into a shadowland for years and found a way of venting it, but I wasn’t truly me until months ago, three or four months.
The rape happened fifteen years ago. I started to open up two to three years ago, and I was opening up and loving and having my creativity. Having some success with my career is what made it all come back.
It was almost like, I guess, opening my inner self, and I don’t know how metaphysical you want to go. I had some shame come up in a rebirthing couple’s weekend workshop. It was shortly after that that I started feeling the recollections start- flashback type feelings. Then the anxiety attacks began after that. It was almost like when I psychically encouraged myself to grow and expand and love that the rape came up.
I think it was a quick fast way of jamming ten years of shamanic training into a year and a half. Because now, I flit from reality into non-reality or whatever term you put on it. I don’t trust anything my eyes tell me or what I feel without genuinely being in the light because my mind could throw out phantasms. You have to feel. You have to have that focus in love even to be able to be true. That’s what it’s taught me. So, it’s a blessing. Not that I would ever call that situation a blessing, but you know I have to find the good in everything.
Yes, the Shamanic training part is about handling your mind when it’s pumping strange chemicals into your body. You get crossed signals and all the little aches and things that go along with a chemical imbalance. I don’t know. It creates this inner strength. It’s just sad that we have to be tortured to accept our body, to feel that. I’m lucky that I wasn’t scarred physically. I’m glad I’m alive. I would never let him do it to me again. I’m a different person now, and the times are different. That is a plus. If this happened now to someone, they would have a chance at prosecution. Getting that person into therapy and some healing would work.
The fact that I was young and that society was homophobic contributed to my feelings of helplessness. I just didn’t want to be a poster child. I had been hurt enough. I didn’t want to be dragged through it again. There’s no way I could have won. Shame is a very big issue. I don’t know how common it would be with the various types of abuse, but the shame is there. It’s pervasive. Once you get through coming to grips with what happened, I think there is an integration, and you’re able to let some of it go. At the time of the rape, it’s a driving motivator.
I don’t know if the shame had a bearing on whether I was able to defend myself because I think at that point, it was more of a primal flesh-to-flesh confrontation. I think the acceptance and submission had to come from somewhere. I felt no outrage, and I was so helpless. I was had, trapped. How much of remembering the waitress and the cab driver was there then, during the rape, I don’t know. It was there when I hit the streets. I was fucked. I might just die, too. That had to be part of that because I’m feisty. Maybe that split second of indecision is what allowed him to get the game going. Why didn’t I just knee him in the nuts? Well, there was the psychological part of it, too. All of a sudden, he would be nice, and was it just like a warp out scene. Is it possible for me to make a break? On it went. By the time I got out on the street and just went home and called my vacation short. I didn’t say anything to anybody because of what times were. I didn’t say anything to my family.
My family was on their way out the door to go on a trip to Canada for ten days, and they both desperately needed a vacation. I was in shock already, and I just masked, painted the bruises out. They asked me what I was doing home, and I said that Don decided to go to the shore for the weekend, and I didn’t want to go and thought I’d come back and watch the house and have some quiet time to myself. Off they went.
When I did finally tell people, they were shocked, stunned.
The only ones I told were my friends Bryan and Sean. John knew but said I’d just picked up an S&M trick.
Sean lives out here, and we’re still friends. Bryan is in San Diego. I haven’t seen him in a while. Bryan kind of just drew me out of that shell shock. “Come on. You have to eat. Let’s hit the shower.” I was just vague. I made this facade to get me through, but emotionally inside, I was just crumbled. I just crumbled once I was able to. I don’t know what would have happened to me psychologically had I not been able to crumble. If it had gone on days and days as it does for some people, I don’t know how they made it. Once was horrible. I couldn’t imagine being politically tortured and having them drag me out every three days and give me a few shocks. Whoever they are, they must have incredible stamina. My experience takes incredible strength. I’m sure theirs just must be a nightmare.
I do have trouble sleeping occasionally. Certain times of year are better than others because I think mine was associated with my birthday. So summer, July and August, the heat brings up the memories sometimes. I think you find that’s common, but there’s something, well that is a kind of symbolism.
As the time of the rape approaches, anxiety increases, in the past, I tended to use drugs to block. I had mini panic attacks, emotional flatness, erratic behavior at times. This is going to be the first year, where I’m relatively clean and sober. I’m going to smoke a little pot if I get a really bad one, to block a little, but basically, I intend on getting through without drugs. That was my original decision, but now that I say it, I sense that it’s just going to be a clear one. I don’t think I’m going to block it. The cigarettes are going to be hard for me to give up. That’s not related, other than addiction, just nerves. I’m nervous, but I’m high strung anyway and kind of hyper at times. I’ve learned to regulate that. Diet helps. I can feel when I have my attacks and sensitivities increase when I’ve had a lot of caffeine, high adrenaline, and just the time of day, if it’s late evening. I know if I’m going to see an action movie, I don’t have two cups of espresso with dinner. I kind of think I might have an anxiety attack the next day, I don’t expect them because sometimes it doesn’t happen. You don’t want to set yourself up for creating an anxiety attack. If I have one the next day in the morning, it’s no big deal. I deal with it and let it go. My short cycles take about 15 to 20 minutes.
I’ve learned to deal with anxiety attacks. I just ride the wave. Because I am able to disassociate sometimes, they rarely happen at work. But I don’t know if that’s because I have this little work persona or what. I think it’s good actually because I’m with my creative flow when I’m at work. I have had a confrontation with a real person, not work-related. I work with my lover, so there have been a few times that very personal things come up at work that warped me and troubled me. He’s learned not to fight that way. He’s doing well with dealing with it. If he’s going to have a life with me and I’m going to have a life, he can’t yell like that. I’m sorry, but I’m worth giving that. We can yell, but you just can’t menace me. You make a threat, and I’m gone. I’m coming at you with all the full indignation of a whole lifetime of feeling that.
My response is related to being abused, definitely. I can feel it. It slides over you like a cloak. In some vague part of you, it’s like I’m over-reacting. I can’t tell the brain to shut that off that quickly. Once that’s in there, it’s in there. I don’t know if I had been a hetero hustler if I would have the same problems with men. I am gay. How much of that is me, and how much is a reaction to the torture? I don’t know. It’s so intermingled right now with my character that I’ve been trying to deal with it, fears you create yourself just kind of live.
Because I am gay and was raped by a man, sex can be difficult. Yeah, it is really good flashback material! We were talking about intimacy problems because of the rape. I had to work through some sexual position blocks, and it was fine, eventually. I think part of it is that I’m genuinely in love with my partner right now, making it easy. Love heals wonderfully. I think in a way, it kind of gave me a bit of an attitude toward men who fall into the same physical background type thing.
It’s just that macho, the traditional sexist, male pig thing that we all want to stomp on top of their heads and say, “Please don’t do that.” He fit that category, so I don’t know how much of it is just, “You really are an idiot,” or how much of it is what I felt toward him as my attacker. And how much of his background made him what he was? That’s not quite the same as you have a political system that is doing this to people. He was almost raised to do that. “I’m that man. I’m Italian. I’m butch and he’s not.” So, he made other people, well, submit, that’s where he got his power.
I think men do that out of a desire for control. Maybe on some level, obviously there has to be a sadistic streak or a tendency at least. I think he’s just the type of person. He was the kind of person who wanted to feel in control because they didn’t have control in their childhood. I think that type of personality is created. The reason I say that is that he designed himself. With each turn of himself, he designed himself. This person was more of an intuitive creation. It has to do with all those influences of South Philly in the ’70s and growing up there, probably Catholic, guilt-ridden and gay and unable to handle it. He probably wanted to be spanked himself. Who knows? I’d say the society at that time helped to breed him.
When I read about all the victims in Lake Victoria, they just massacred all those women and children. I think it stops with each one of us. We all have that beast in us. I could do what he did. In some ways, I do what he did. I perform some of those things, but there’s a whole different feeling when there’s love behind it. I think we just need to stop the killing, stop the hurting. How could we survive into the 23rd century if we don’t somehow manage to acknowledge that in us, and find ways of dealing with it at an individual level? Each person has it in them to be that monster and capable of actually doing that to another person. It’s just that we each have to be aware of that choice and choose not to be harmful. We could each be harmful, but you have to choose to be loving, to be kind, to care.
Yes. We are responsible. Each of us is responsible, not only for what we do but what we think. You sit around and think about it and play with it, come on, wake up!
I think that we are all responsible. With the Holocaust, I’m sure the attitudes of the people in Germany at that time went along with this, but there had to be some point in the mind that you think, “This could not be right.” Yet they believed what they believed, and on it went. And the abuse continued just as now in some fashion. It’s each person’s individual choice not to be harmful.
I’d like to see a world where we were all treated fairly and equally. As a gay person, I feel that. I don’t feel it in me because of my own experiences. I’ve been so lucky with the love I get and receive from my group and from many people who see my work and entertaining. When I see problems and hear someone being turned down for housing or a job and see the police being so casual about domestic violence and gay discrimination. I would like to see that change. I would like to see gays in the military. It shouldn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. Like Goldwater said, “I don’t care if a soldier is gay or straight, as long as he can shoot straight.” Should it matter? He just recently joined a very conservative party, and they were heralding it as an anti-gay thing. I wasn’t concerned because I think he’s bringing a voice of reason into that organization. He is a pretty together old guy. I wish there were more of them around. I’ve seen several bills that I didn’t want to get passed either because of things they tagged on at the end. I do feel we all should have equal rights, and I don’t think gays do. We don’t. It should not matter what your sexual orientation is.
I have done several things to heal. On a trip back there, I found the neighborhood, and I believe I found the right house. Even though I was greatly afraid, I went there and found it. I stood my ground from that fear, and it subsided. Then I just let it go and went on. In therapy, I brought him up. There has been a lot of verbal pouring out of anger. Shrink him down and put him away type of work. Try to communicate through the intimacy problems. I run my energy at least once a month. I’ll do a complete woo-woo type balancing on myself. I’m out of synch now. I feel achy. I guess it’s kind of just nurturing the healing. I am keeping it going and going through. I am nurturing myself as much as possible.
There are some things that other people have done. There had to be some behavior modification. I changed work because I was with two high energy people. Even though I’m with a larger staff now, it’s not quite as jumpy and loud. I kind of created less of a stressful environment for myself. My relationship is a little different now, but it’s better. We had those problems and needed to work them out anyway. You have to limit your stress and your exposure and things like that just to get through.
Touch is vital. The body remembers all that. We’re all electric. The muscles are holding that in there. The stuff that you produced when you were going through the experience is there. You have to let it out via massage, rebirthing, breath work, exercise, lovemaking, physical awareness. There has to be that awareness that you’re alive. Feeling the grass, touching the hay, feeling that sun in your face, it’s important. There has to be deliberate involvement in getting those feelings going. Partners of victims have to be very patient with their partners, supportive, nurturing, loving, and without allowing us to walk over them because we’re so defensive that someone will do this again to us. They have to be focused on staying in the light, to be able to love us because we’re going to throw such curves. They have to be very supportive.
I think the home environment is essential because that is the womb, the space, whatever label you chose to put on that, that is the place where we go. I think that’s probably going to have to be for most of us who have survived somewhere where, at least a part of the house that’s quiet. I love my action. I do, but trauma makes me take my quiet time. Without it, I’m lost. To a new partner, remember there are days when you’re just going to have to grin and bear it. Patience is going to be something you pray for daily. There are going to be days when you pray for it three and four times. Ask them to remember that we’re not always meaning what we’re saying or how we react. We’re in the throes of the emotions. I’m lucky. Mine are minute. I can even work through mine and talk through mine, and if undetected, can make love through mine. But I’m sure that there are some who want to cry and crawl.
I’ve had those cry and crawl feelings, and I think that’s because my experience was only one time. I think someone who was with someone who had it repeatedly molested, has to be especially patient because it will take the victim time to heal once they start remembering. Other than nurturing them and loving them, I would strongly recommend some kind of counseling, and learn about communication. I would suggest they pick up a book on it or have a therapist teach them how to talk to each other, perhaps add writing. There are times when we can’t open. In my case, there are. It seems to be a common theme in the reading of people I’ve met and talked to. We can talk about anything, but when we talk about it, it’s difficult to put it into words. I have to be open and out. I’m planning on being one of cable TV’s predominantly gay performers. I want to be Oprah. I want to be on the Mike Douglas show. That’s what I want. I want to sing, do my little sketches, and interview. My gay life and PTSD are part of me. My show is called “___’s Mind,” so it’s all there. I’ve kind of just got to be upfront about it.
Also, they will need to accept that talking about it is going to help sometimes but not always. There will be some partners that don’t want to talk about it and try not to be disappointed. Don’t take that personally. Sometimes love makes you want to keep it away from them, and they should accept that. They have to be very accepting. With the rape overtones, intimacy is difficult. When your sense of space has been violated like that, it’s hard to let someone back in easily. Each person is going to be different. Each day is going to be different, learn to expect the unexpected. Don’t feed into that, but yet accept it as it comes.
This is important: don’t in any way intimate that you are going to do anything similar. It’s not funny! It is just not funny. We can’t accept that kind of humor. I have a hard time being physically threatened. I have to get my mind ready for that. If I’m doing something like a sketch where I’m going to be thrown, I have to prepare. I don’t know at this point if I could act my way through a rape scene. Avoiding similar situations and loudness is essential. Physical threats really disturb me. I see that I overreact.
Oh yeah. I feel we should all have the legal right to hurt these people that hurt us. We have the legal right to stop this from happening. I wish it were worldwide, and I wish that some of the things that are still happening here weren’t happening. I think that attitudes at the time handicapped my whole concept of who I was and what I could and could not do. I think if we had laws and followed up on these as a people, as human beings, of course, it would be a better world.