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ChicagoCAC’s Jan Waters Quoted in Chicago Tribune Article

In essay revealing he was raped at age 8, novelist Junot Diaz shines light on male sexual assault

“By age 11, novelist Junot Diaz was struggling with depression and uncontrollable rage. At 14, he put a gun to his head.

The nights were the worst. He dreamed of horrific rapes: attacks by his siblings, his father, his teachers, his peers, complete strangers. Often, he’d wake up with blood in his mouth; he’d bitten down hard on his tongue while he slept.

In a widely shared essay published in The New Yorker on Monday, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author went public for the first time with his rape at age 8 by a trusted adult and the consequences that dogged him for decades. His account of his assault and its aftermath, including trouble with intimacy, intrusive memories and depression, echoes the stories shared in the largely female #MeToo movement, in which women have spoken openly about their pain and healing after sexual assault.

But Diaz’s account also sheds light on the particular challenges facing male sexual-assault victims, according to Meredith Alling, communications director for 1in6, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides services for sexually abused men.

“The expectations that we place on men — they’re not allowed to be weak, they’re not allowed to be vulnerable, a lot of times from a really early age they’re not allowed to ask for help — these can really be a barrier to seeking help,” she said

Diaz, who was born in the Dominican Republic, wrote that rape was at odds with his very definition of manhood.

“Always I was afraid — afraid that the rape had ‘ruined’ me; afraid that I would be ‘found out’; afraid afraid afraid,” Diaz wrote in an essay shared more than 130,000 times on Facebook. “‘Real’ Dominican men, after all, aren’t raped. And if I wasn’t a ‘real’ Dominican man I wasn’t anything. The rape excluded me from manhood, from love, from everything.”

While Diaz was talking about his own specific culture, the fear that rape is at odds with masculinity is common among male assault survivors, said Janice S. Waters, senior director of clinical services at the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, a nonprofit serving sexually abused children.

“Boys are less likely to come forward, so there are probably more boys that are impacted than we’re aware of, and I think the reason would be that fear of their male identity being questioned, and that fear that people will see them as ‘less than,’” Waters said.

The essay also highlights the change that’s possible when male victims do seek help, Waters and Alling said.”

Read the rest of the Chicago Tribune story here.

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