Brandon Cook was not only shocked at the sexual assault, but the response on social media afterwards.
Brandon Cook was not only shocked at the sexual assault, but the response on social media afterwards.

My rape was called ‘divine justice’

THE first time I tried to write this piece, it sounded like the hysterical screaming of a Hollywood thriller script. Then a voice in my head said, "What would your grandmother think?" The second time, I tried to "make it funny", but I came off sounding dishonest.

I don't want to sound dishonest, though. I want you to know that I'm serious. Because this isn't misery porn: This is rape.

I was an addict looking for a hit in an apartment with someone who could give me what I thought I wanted: Dissociation from reality. That's how I met him.

But when the drugs he gave me sent me to the brink of unconsciousness, and every groan or pained writhing on his couch was met with him telling me to "Shut the f**k up", I could hear an inner voice telling me that something wasn't right.

It was only when they began to wear off - what acts he performed to my barely-conscious body for his own pleasure I could hardly contemplate - that I started to realise what kind of place I was in.

The front door was barricaded shut with heavy boxes; all perceivable cracks covered with gaffer tape. From beneath a lampshade gazed a webcam, staring down at me, lights blinking.

And he was standing in the corner of the room with a sharp tool in hand, hacking away at the drywall. When I would rise and stumble to his kitchen sink, trying hard not to vomit, he would whip around with a sharp intensity and hiss to "Sit the f**k down". The look on his face was that of pure murder. When I looked down, I saw sheets stained red.

He was completely psychotic. To him, there were spies in the walls. Suddenly I was looking at the face of someone who could be my murderer.

I don't know how long he kept me there. All I have to go off are the time stamps of text messages that read: "Call the police and send them to this apartment. Someone is going to die here today." And the videos - almost farcical in nature, taken on my phone, depicting a man in a blue thong decimating his own apartment walls - that serve to validate the experience.

Brandon Cook admits he stopped co-operating with police after the assault as he was too traumatised at the time to talk about it.
Brandon Cook admits he stopped co-operating with police after the assault as he was too traumatised at the time to talk about it.

What he did put me in the hospital. I am loath to recall how I escaped his apartment - how hard I had to pretend - because it makes me ashamed. What I do know is that police and paramedics found me on the ground outside of a 7/11, openly sobbing.

He had struck fear into my heart and used me for his sexual pleasure. I had been too afraid to say no, let alone adequately consent. He'd broken me.

The following 24 hours comprised of a rape kit, multiple statements made to numerous detectives, and no shortage of shame and self-hatred. Not the kind that creeps in when you're standing on a train platform, beckoning you to jump - but the shame that screams loudly in your ear, until all you can do to keep on walking is to pretend that you aren't really there at all.

I remember being wheeled into emergency, my body actively twitching uncomfortably from the substances setting my synapses wild. I would laugh and say, "I'm just happy to have a good reason to be in emergency for once." Happy to be a junkie with a problem that society "deemed valid".

At one point I leaned over to a police officer - one of the women who stayed with me the entire time - and whispered deliriously, "Although, I was on drugs. Which means I asked for it, you know?"

It's taken me until now to realise that I hadn't been "held hostage". Not really. Being held hostage denotes a value apparent to the hostage-taker - of which I had none. I had been taken in, dosed up, used and abused - and then left on the side of a road to die. That f**ks with a person.

It should come as no surprise that later, when I received a letter from the police saying that they wouldn't investigate my case without my full presence and co-operation, I was furious.

A reasonable person might deem it logical that the authorities couldn't investigate a crime without the involvement of the complainant. But this case did not involve reasonable people.

I had been held against my will; violated, abused and made to be afraid. I'd done everything that they'd asked for - everything that was expected of me - and still they wanted more. More, more, more.

So I did what many millennials are ought to do - righteously, in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp - and publicised my outrage at the letter on social media.

The response was scathing and typical: I was told to "play the victim a bit less", accused of being out to ruin someone's life, and called a compulsive liar by virtue of being a drug addict (as if this stereotype wasn't already evident to me). It was even suggested that my rape was divine justice.

Brandon was shocked at the response the post about his experience received on Facebook.
Brandon was shocked at the response the post about his experience received on Facebook.

And yet they didn't know what happened to me. I had only shared "something horrible" - no specific details. I wasn't even given the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder, sometimes, if my story would have held weight in the larger #MeToo movement. As a male survivor, I can't imagine feeling understood, let alone feeling solidarity, with my own gender.

Yet I see the #MeToo movement, and so badly want to raise my own voice. I want to feel included, supported and to have my trauma recognised, but it isn't.

Maybe it's because men refuse to allow other men to identify as survivors. Or maybe this is a reflection of how #MeToo has yet to tackle laziness in its own efforts: an unwillingness to accommodate all survivors of abuse. It's the worst club you could want admission to, but to those who aren't in it, it's all the support and understanding in the world.

Many social media users blasted him for not co-operating with police.
Many social media users blasted him for not co-operating with police.

Either way, men are so conditioned to keep their anguish to themselves, that when we fall victim to sex crimes, patriarchal strangleholds tell us we can't ever reach out for fear of being seen as less than what society demands.

And when we're retraumatised - like I was so many times, and like it was commanded of me - it feels almost grossly novel. We have no framework to ease our pain, and all we can do is hide.

Society constantly asks us to revisit our trauma, no matter how close it brings us to the edge. But maybe, someday, we will have the strength to ask for more.

Comments questioned whether Brandon was completely making the story up.
Comments questioned whether Brandon was completely making the story up.

When I was in hospital on that day, I called someone - more than a friend - and begged that he be by my side. He came without hesitation, and held me in my hospital bed, while a detective asked - yet again - for details of the incident.

When the detective left, he looked down - and he saw me. He saw me. His eyes were all warmth and comfort, like he was seeing something special for the first time. And all he said was all I needed to hear.

"I'm so sorry this happened to you."

I wept. Not only because I realised that I could love this man. But for a moment, the trauma, the pain, the judgment and the fear, were gone.

I was finally safe.



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