“The real healing was achieved when I started to sincerely believe I’m not responsible for what happened to me.”
When Keith Smith was 14 years old, he was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger in the woods in his hometown. He reported the assault to the police, and the perpetrator was arrested. Keith testified in front of a grand jury and the perpetrator was indicted—but the the man responsible never stood trial. Before the trial date, the perpetrator was beaten to death by unknown assailants.
The experience haunted Keith, and he remained silent about the assault for the next 35 years. “I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed that a man sexually assaulted me…that I didn't fight hard enough.” Men and boys may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and they can experience additional challenges due to social norms about masculinity.
Keith also felt pressure to keep his story a secret to eliminate the possibility that his “protectors,” the unnamed people who murdered the perpetrator, would be arrested. “My brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, coaches, professors, priests, doctors and colleagues were unaware. My mother didn't fully understand what happened, and my daughters knew nothing. No one knew. It was my secret. My choice.”
It took a long time for Keith to open up, but the more he told his story, the easier it became to shed his guilt. “The real healing was achieved when I started to sincerely believe I’m not responsible for what happened to me.”
Today, Keith is vigilant about educating the public on the reality of sexual violence and how it affects men and boys. As an active member of RAINN’s Speakers Bureau, he frequently speaks about his experience to local communities in New York City. Keith has also written a novel based on the experience, “Men in My Town,” which tells Keith’s story in tangent with a fictionalized account of the townspeople who sought retribution by murdering the perpetrator.
“It was time to be honest with myself and to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me...most importantly my daughters.” Keith hopes that by sharing his story, he can let other survivors know they are not alone. “I’m not saying you’ve got to disclose. I’m saying if you’re strong enough, and if you can, give RAINN a call. RAINN is a safe place.”
Keith 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.