Sexual Assault

Drew’s Story

“Living boldly and honestly is how we force places to accept us.”

Drew Perkoski is a student, activist, and a survivor of sexual violence by an intimate partner.

As a college freshman, Drew was sexually assaulted by a female partner. Being a male survivor of a female perpetrator created unique challenges and stigma for Drew.

“It’s very easy for people–regardless of their viewpoint–to have a very gendered perception of intimate partner violence and sexual violence.”

Drew attributes these perceptions not only to societal ideals of gender roles, but also to the way sexual assault is discussed contemporarily.

“As the #MeToo movement became popularized, for one reason or another, it became a chant of ‘believe women’ instead of ‘believe survivors.’ That has made it very difficult for male survivors–especially men who were assaulted by women–because the statement of ‘believe women,’ means, in this case, believing the attacker.”

 

Despite not feeling he is necessarily the target audience, Drew is still supportive of contemporary reckonings with sexual violence.

“The current victims’ movement may not be for us, and we understand that and are supportive of it. We aren’t trying to undermine that or center ourselves in a conversation where we are not the majority, but instead are carving out spaces for ourselves… The very specific reversal of the stereotype–being a man attacked by a woman–is a unique experience, especially for those of us who do not want to undermine the major work going on, which has been gendered.”

In his search for justice, Drew has suffered from gender misconceptions directly. While filing a Title IX report through his university, Drew says he was consistently met with disbelief and doubt.

Drew says that the office even began to work directly against him, enabling multiple retaliatory complaints to be filed against him by his attacker. “I was having to do case preparation and go through the hearing process during my first finals of college.”

Drew appealed decisions from the Title IX office twice, both of which were rejected by the university. The following semester, Drew says he dealt with another retaliatory complaint from his attacker.

“I was in and out of the Student Conduct office, the Title IX office, and the Department of Public Safety all through my freshman year.”

Ultimately, after concluding his first year, Drew decided to transfer to another university.

Drew says the negative experiences of being maligned and denied justice were further traumatizing.

“The experience of assault is in itself traumatizing...and has been an almost separate set of trauma from the domino effect of witnessing institutional failure and neglect; of seeing the institutions that are supposed to help you, fail you.”

Because of his experiences, Drew is passionate about speaking out about institutional shortcomings to help others find justice in ways that were denied to him. He is also passionate about expanding understandings of justice.

“What we can do immediately is show a more holistic view of justice… Justice for survivors is a longer, wider process. It isn’t just the cathartic act of having someone incarcerated and punished. That is not what is going to heal.”

To other survivors weighing the decision of coming forward, Drew advocates for making the best choice for oneself personally. After disclosing to his family, Drew faced mixed reactions, which hurt some familial relationships. Because of that, he knows the stakes of coming forward.

“Before someone comes forward, it’s important to assess whether they are in a secure enough position on their own to deal with the unknown consequences around them. People are often surprised how their friends or family fall when they go through this. A lot of people will speak nicely until it hits home, and a lot of surprising people will come up and be your strongest advocate. Not everyone is in the position where they can deal with that change.”

Despite that risk, Drew understands that when survivors share their experiences, they help to propel change.

“Coming forward helps prove to those reactionary deniers that this is everywhere, it’s systemic, and so much more common than we would like to admit.”

In his healing journey, Drew emphasizes the importance of finding supportive communities, no matter what that looks like at a given point in time. Initially, Drew found a community that allowed him to express his hurt and anger most helpful. Later on in his journey, Drew needed a different kind of support.

“In reacting to the secondary trauma of being failed by institutions, the place I found the most comfort is in the groups of people who are also trying to reshape institutions after being failed by them.”

Drew’s takeaway message to other survivors is that disclosing, in the long run, can lead to better things and better communities for survivors.

“The thing I want people to know is–especially for those who have seen more people come forward publicly over the past few years–that as much as we have to fear from coming forward, in the long term…we will all benefit and we will all find ourselves in spaces which are better for us. Because by existing as a survivor publicly...you gain the potential for growth. You’re not going to end up in places you shouldn't have been in the first place by coming forward.”

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“You don’t know the kind of love and compassion that is out there until your need for it is taken to the extreme.”

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