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*This article was published on HIV Equal on August 31, 2016. Within the first week, “I’m A Black Man And I Was Raped" received over 600,000 impressions online. Thank you HIV Equal for giving me the platform to share my story with the world…

Last year I was raped.

And because I’m a stubborn man, I didn’t even begin to deal with it until months later.

I was newly single and living a faux fabulous life; not necessarily ready to be physical with someone yet, but I jumped on “the app” to get a little attention and see what was out there.

They all can’t be bad, right?

Per usual, I kept the conversation pretty surface level with most guys. Sure, I’ve used apps to consensually find late night hookups before, but I wasn’t really in that mental space emotionally yet.

One guy in particular was really nice. Good job. Quirky. Two-point-six miles away. From his picture on my cracked, dated iPhone 5, he definitely was not my type. But I figured at least someone wanted to treat me to a free cocktail. We met at his house early evening and chatted it up for a bit. He drove us to a nearby bar where it was obvious that he and the bartender had built a rapport from the friendly head nod and suave introduction. Now, anyone who knows me personally knows that as skinny as I am, my alcohol tolerance is that of a German lumberjack. This night, it took only three small, unsupervised complimentary whiskey cranberries until I was blacked out, facedown, with my new “friend” penetrating my anus in his bed.

I still have no idea how I got to the man’s bedroom. I remember feeling suddenly dizzy at the bar. I remember leaving the bar. But getting back to the car? The drive back to the apartment? Saying goodbye to the friendly bartender?

Nothing. When I came to I was able to push him and he got off of me. But I was too weak to even walk and I instantly fell back asleep. When I woke up again, I walked to my car and fell asleep for another few hours until I gained the strength to drive back home. I never saw or spoke to him again. In fact, if I walked right past him today I more than likely would not be able to recognize his face.

At first, I was totally fine. I had made the decision to put myself at risk and this is what happens to people who do that, right? Totally my fault. I decided it was best to tell someone who meant the world to me, though I still was not able to say the word “rape.” However, this trusted person used the information I disclosed to him and threw it in my face when he found the opportunity to be upset with me.

That was the moment it unexpectedly hit me.

My body. My naked body. The only thing I was given at birth was violated. You can take my material things, but the first gift given to me, my first gift from God… It was assaulted without my consent. The feeling was something I have never experienced before. The touch of another human being was absolutely disgusting.

My usually clear and concise mind was unable to properly formulate the words to express what I was trying to internally pick apart. Why now? Was I hurt from the actual event? Were these suppressed emotions what I had been subconsciously been holding back for months and months? Was I just hurt that someone I truly cared about used something so personal against me to try and hurt my ego? I had heard rape stories, but never thought anything like that would ever happen to me; especially as a man.

When I was able to get a grasp on my words later that evening, it all came out like months’ worth of suppressed verbal vomit. I ended up calling a guy I used to date who I trusted and who knew how to deal with me on a deeper emotional level even though we were not together. Through talking about it and having a comforting ear, I finally addressed the fact that I was indeed raped.

I decided it was best to see a therapist. In all my years on this planet, my mind, body and soul never had a reaction like this to something. I wondered what else I was holding onto that could emerge through conversation with an unbiased professional. Completely out of my emotions this time, I told the story and they were in shock that I was able to vividly describe something with such a straight face.

There were a couple triggers here and there. A certain pop song I specifically remember that night on the way to the bar. I was thrilled when the song that was publicly silently cutting away at me in social settings was dismissed from the radio airwaves. I used to tense up when I thought about the cruel statements from the friend who is no longer in my life.

I thought about pressing charges. Maybe getting the bartender fired or at least doing an investigation. I had no clue if he was involved, but he probably had some answers. When I thought about it, I really didn’t know the location or the name of the bar. I couldn’t even remember what the bartender looked like, his name; and it had taken so long for me to come to terms with everything that I had already let the pain and everything go. I would never condemn someone who goes after their attacker, but for me it was a personal triumph. I have no information. I made a personal choice to not move forward with trying to find these people. I did not want to put energy into something like that. I made the choice to put power in my words and bring awareness to the topic.

I wondered who else ever felt in denial about being sexually assaulted. Even as a very self-aware black man it took me months and unexpected assholism for me to personally address, acknowledge and heal from what had happened to me. The thing is, women are not the only ones who are subject to rape. Once I started doing research and reading the statistics and studies behind rape, especially the history, I wanted nothing more than to let men and women know that if this happened, you are not alone and it’s okay and healthy to talk about it. Rape in men, especially heterosexual men by women is more common than you think. I’m still learning and researching.

I brought it up on stage at a Kiss & Tell Live event in New York City. Expecting it to be an uncomfortable but well-received conversation, I could feel the air sucked out of the room full of Manhattan gays and gals. I began to notice every time I brought it up, people would clam up and instantly get uncomfortable. It soon became common that more and more of the men in my personal life came forward with similar stories. I was graciously given the opportunity this month to tell my story in a room full of people in Washington, D.C. I purposely didn’t tell the story I was going to share with the facilitator prior to, but I saw I was the only man on the panel and it fit the theme of the event. Whether the audience liked it or not, they were going to hear me out.

The talk went great. I received so many “Thank yous.” So many questions. Especially from women. It was put on Facebook Live and I’ve had people comment, inquire and commend me, both nationally and internationally. I learned so much and was given the opportunity to hear stories from the other amazing panelist who sat beside me. Our testimonies varied, but our willingness and desire to openly share our stories of overcoming was enough to instantly unify our energy. Our vulnerability organically drew us together.

So, I have a message for you: You are not alone. Speak up. Speak out. Learn from others.

Get the help you need to heal from this and turn your pain into power.

Jayce Baron Sadler

My Story: Welcome
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