“It’s not like he wore a sign saying, ‘I’m a sexual predator.’ He was that cool uncle.”
Adam had always enjoyed spending time with his uncle, and would often look forward to sleepovers when they could have extended time together. On one of these occasions when he was 14, their normal activities turned abusive. He was confused by his uncle’s actions; nothing like this had happened before.
For the next four years, Adam continued to struggle, both with the physical abuse and the emotional pain it brought him. “I took steps to prevent the pain, but a part of me thought that was how he loved me.”
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse will often use grooming tactics, like gift-giving, spending alone time, and building age-inappropriate relationships with children and teens to keep them silent about the abuse. In Adam’s case, it was the chance to sneak cigarettes and attend expensive sporting events.
The abuse had serious effects on Adam’s life including weight gain, an inability to maintain relationships, and suicidal thoughts. The effects of sexual violence can be challenging to deal with, but with the right support they can be managed. They can be particularly challenging for men and boys who face unique challenges due to social norms about masculinity.
Adam also recalls questioning his own sexuality after the assaults. Many male survivors experience this uncertainty and doubt after sexual violence, especially if they experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. Physiological responses like an erection are involuntary, meaning the survivor has no control over them. These physical signs are not an invitation for unwanted sexual activity and in no way condone an assault.
Adam did not report the assault or tell anyone from his family. He feared that he wouldn’t be believed and that the truth would destroy his family. “I think there’s a stigma attached to it that, ‘Oh, you’re a man, you should have been able to fend him off.’”
Years later, Adam finally opened up to his girlfriend, who encouraged him to talk to his parents. “The ironic thing was that I opened up to my parents on October 8, 2010, ten years to the day of the last sexual attack. They supported me unconditionally and distanced themselves from him.”
Today, Adam is currently working as an archivist at the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. He enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, going to sporting events, watching TV, reading and just enjoying life. It wasn’t easy to recover from the abuse, but Adam found that talking about what happened to a supportive network of friends and family helped him to heal. “The experience I have had in the recovering from the abuse is [that] he did not win. I have not allowed myself to be defined by the abuse.”
Adam is one of seven survivors featured in the RAINN Survivor Series. Learn more about the campaign.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.