My name is Alec Fischer. I'm passionate about social change work, film production, warm chocolate brownies, and living life as a beautiful adventure. During my free time I like taking walks outside enjoying the fresh air, reading new books, and spending time with my friends. I was also sexually assaulted and raped at a party the summer before my sophomore year of college.
The phrase "I was raped" is simplistic enough; the statement is comprised of three words, nine letters, and only eleven characters. Yet that phrase has been something I have been unable to express publicly for the past three years. When I think about what happened that summer night, my stomach churns, my hands sweat, and I feel as though I may vomit. For three years, I kept quiet; I never reported the assault to my University, and though I take pride in being an open and authentic person, only a select handful of people know what I experienced. Why is it that a simple statement only three words long has held such power over me?
Is it because I don't want to become a statistic? Because being reduced to a statistic, being named as one of the 1 in 16 men who get assaulted during their college experience somehow doesn't sound particularly endearing or empowering?
Is it because I blamed myself after it happened? Because I was drunk and suddenly things started happening that I couldn't physically resist as I was passing out? Did I ask for it by getting that intoxicated?
Is it because my rapist continued to pursue me sexually, even after my drunken murmurs of "no" ceased to be vocalized? Because I feel intense amounts of shame surface when I recognize my 6'2" body wasn't able to push him off me? Because in that moment, I felt truly helpless?
Is it because I felt disappointed in the friends who were with me at the party? Because none of them checked to make sure I was okay before they left the party without me? Because I woke up naked and alone the next morning not knowing where I was or where my clothes had gone?
Is it because I never reported it? Because I felt that it was too late to report the incident by the time I had finally come to accept what had happened to me? Because I had heard horror stories about the reporting process and didn't want to put myself through that possible scenario?
Is it because the stigma attached to male assault was and still is overpowering and had manifested itself as a bureaucratic beast I was not prepared to deal with? Because when you're a male survivor, "you can't be raped" seems to permeate every crevice within the collegiate system, both socially and politically?
Is it because from a young age boys have grown up being taught that our masculinity complex is valuable? Because there's an unspoken fear that if a man publicly states he's been raped, his male peers and colleagues won't be able to relate to him any more, leading to further isolation?
Or is it because deep down, despite my advocacy work and ability to be vulnerable in the public eye, I've been terrified that revealing my story would expose myself in ways I have never experienced before? Because I can count the number of stories I've read about male survivors of college sexual assault with my two hands, and adding my own to that number required more courage than I thought I possessed?
Earlier this semester I found myself sitting with fellow student leaders in a meeting at the University of Minnesota's Aurora Center, an office dedicated to working with students who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The topic of this meeting? How to break down stigma surrounding male sexual assault on campus.
As the meeting progressed, we talked about ways that student advocates could spread awareness and reach male populations in more authentic and effective ways. My head began to feel like it was going to burst. I could hear my heart beating through my chest and felt the perspiration gathering on my palms. I knew the answer before anyone had the chance to say it out loud; in order to break down the stigma, more men needed to share their story.
I needed to share my story.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Students across the country are being assaulted, shamed, and isolated on their college campuses because society has not figured out how to stop blaming them for something they were not responsible for. We see this cycle of blame continuously show up in our Universities, perpetuated through victim-shaming court cases that gain national attention in favor of the assailants. We see administrators refuse to address their own students' experiences publicly and then we act surprised when nothing changes.
How do we expect change to occur if we sit in silence? For three years, I hid my assault because I was so afraid it would take control and define me as "that guy who got raped". The overwhelming embarrassment and self-deprecation I had layered onto my authentic-self was suffocating. The only way for me to release that pressure was to speak up and speak out. After three years, I will own it; I am "that guy who got raped". I am also a brother, a friend, an advocate, a content creator, a lover, an educator, a soon-to-be graduate, and a human being who wants to live life with passion, adventure, and a sense of curiosity. My assault will not define me. Stigma will not silence me.
Now is the time to change the conversation surrounding sexual assault on college campuses. Now is the time for both men and women to share our stories and take control of our narratives. We are greater than our assaults. We are stronger than our rapists. We are survivors, not victims. Together, we can change the conversation. Together, we can erase the stigma behind sexual assault and ensure that future generations feel safe and supported on their college campuses.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.