A searing, self-reflective account of adult male rape.
Historian and distinguished Colgate University professor Douglas (Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, 2012, etc.) was just 18 when a Catholic priest whom he “knew little about” soon became “cunning, violent, and someone who obtained gratification from causing others to suffer.” A school chaplain, inebriated at a gathering, sexually molested Douglas during a violent four-hour attack; much later, the author would learn of the man’s reputation for such behavior around campus. Though it was heinous and psychologically scarring, the author eventually came to terms with the incident and began to explore the semantic trickle-down theories of such a crime: how his feral, panicked resistance contributed to its ferocity, the moral obligations of rape victims, and how gender affects the response to a rape accusation. He also needed to come to terms with the Catholic Church’s repeatedly casual dismissal of his accusations and their hushed reassignment of the undisciplined clergyman. Douglas retreated socially yet continued completing his college degree in denial, while restless sleep patterns and weight loss led to an eventual psychiatric evaluation for sexual trauma. A group of counselors attempted to haphazardly reframe his ordeal through therapy, which proved useless and only reinforced his belief that, as a male victim, he was a “walking anomaly.” Sadly, Douglas admits that though he’d experienced other crimes like burglary and property theft, those events had finite closures; his rape, however, is “always now” and continues to “rewrite the computer code of my life.” Perhaps surpassing the physical and emotional trauma of the event itself is the crushing fallout Douglas continues to experience even as a happily married husband and father who copes daily with the grim realities of sexual victimization. Through prose that is consistently eloquent and frank, some semblance of vindication only arrives after Douglas learns of the priest’s conviction and, more personally, by increasing societal awareness and struggling toward forgiveness.
Courageous, sobering, and cathartic.