The Skate Shop
Note: Names have been changed in this piece to protect the victim. TRB hopes this story brings light to the often overlooked topic of male rape. The author has included resources with this essay in case you or anyone you know is a victim.
Casey was the best boyfriend a young lesbian in denial could ask for: loyal, kind, respectful, and supportive of my gutsy refusal to take any shit. Our relationship was similar to that of Darlene Connor and David on TV’s “Roseanne,” including the queer vibe that would later reveal itself more openly.
We had a very active sex life throughout our 19-month relationship. Though technically we never “did it,” we did many other things which I did not consider “it” but, let’s be honest, totally were. I liked the attention, the singular focus, like I was his world and he would never leave me. Of course, moments later he always would, for dinner or homework or the skate park.
Casey was brilliant, an effortless talent. On a whim, bored one night, he painted me a stunning portrait of Morrissey (which I still have.) Math was like breathing for him, even though he got a lot of F’s from unfinished homework. A skilled athlete, Casey had won wrestling championships. He was easily the most adept skater in our local band of thrashers; all the skaters said so.
Casey’s parents were strict, with their own ideas about who he should be. When he quit the wrestling team in favor of skateboarding, his father flew into a rage and destroyed all the meticulously crafted art projects that covered Casey’s bedroom walls: images of pro skaters, half pipes, stunts and tricks. The next day I discovered six deep gashes on Casey’s stomach which he’d carved with scissors; he said he felt he had no control over his life.
Casey was so agile and capable as a skater that his dream of going pro seemed possible. One day, he called to say he and his friends were driving to a skate park about 40 minutes away, a park they’d visited countless times. We got in a fight, because I had wanted to see him that day, but he promised to call when he got home.
By 8:30 p.m. that night, I was mad because I hadn’t heard from him. So I called to tell him so.
But when he answered, his voice was small. “Something happened,” he said. My anger gave way to horror as he told me what it was. Every last detail is burned into my consciousness forever.
While skating at the park with his friends, Casey noticed an older man– around age 35– hovering around the ramps, and wondered what he was doing there. Eventually Casey’s friends went inside to watch skate videos, but he decided to stay outside on the ramps since he was skating especially well that day.
The older man approached Casey and remarked on his skill. He offered Casey a spot on his skate team, which the man was to sponsor through his skate shop. Casey was thrilled, as this is how pro skating careers begin. The man noticed a broken truck on Casey’s board and offered him a free part at his shop a few blocks away. Psyched to get on the road to his dreams, Casey got in the car.
They drove around for a while, taking exhausted rural backroads. Casey knew something wasn’t right, but did not know what to do. They stopped at the home of the man’s girlfriend, but she wasn’t home, so they kept driving.
Suddenly the car stopped. Corn fields receded into the faraway sunset, wrapping and trapping the car. The man power-locked the doors. He pulled out a weapon, said, “It’s illegal to have one of these babies,” and set it on the dash. He snorted cocaine from a small vial, and offered some to Casey. “You know, that truck is in the backseat if you want it.” Casey turned to reach behind his seat. When he faced front again, he saw the man’s pants unzipped.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Casey said.
The man reached behind Casey’s neck and pushed him face-down on the seat, yanking Casey’s shorts down with the other hand. In a split second, Casey’s young body screamed with the greatest emotional and physical pain he’d ever felt. The pain was such a shock to his body that adrenaline pushed him to break the man’s grip and leap from the car.
He took off running through a cornfield, gripping the waist of his shorts, skateboard in tow. He had no idea where to go; he just ran as fast as he could. As it turns out, the skate park was on the other side of the cornfield. Casey met up with his friends, but did not tell them what happened.
The night he told me on the phone, Casey swore me to secrecy. Crying, I begged him to let me tell my mom, so she’d let me come see him past 10 p.m. on a school night. My mom had no reaction when I told her, her gaze vacant. But she did agree to drive me to his house.
When I walked in and saw him, I felt utterly helpless. We hugged, wordless. I held tight, his bones collapsing inside my embrace like a marionette.
We went into his bedroom and he sat on the bed. I studied him for signs of how to help, any clue to indicate what he might need. On the drive over, my terror had conjured visions of horror movie bloodbaths and screaming. But here now, in front of me, he was silent, sullen. Blank and still. Far away, pale.
I noticed his shorts were safety-pinned. I felt sick.
The bloodbath was inside of him.
We sat in silence for a long time, my hand brushing his back. I wanted to get the terror out of his shirt, wash away the hands of that madman. Spaced out. Can’t breathe. No words. Sixteen.
Casey numbly asked me to “touch” him, a sexual code between us which made talking about sex easier. I felt a lump rising in me, a growing clot from gut to throat. Cancer? Heart attack? Whoa. Come back.
“Please, I don’t want him to be the last one who touched me.”
I obliged, choking back tears. I would do anything to help him. It was all I could do.
For the next two weeks, we told no one. I was a wreck at school; people asked what was wrong, but I couldn’t tell. Finally, I begged Casey to let me call a rape crisis line for him. He agreed– if I’d do all the talking. I told the hotline volunteer Casey’s story. She seemed distracted, said “uh-huh” in all the wrong places, then, “Honestly, I’m really new at this. Does he know it’s not his fault?”
“Of course he thinks it’s his fault!” I replied. “And nothing I say can change that!” Casey didn’t want to talk to her, or anyone, especially over the phone. She offered to send a male volunteer to talk to Casey in a public place, such as a park. Yeah, great idea: meet a male stranger in a public park, to talk about being raped and abducted by a male stranger in a public park. Bullshit rape crisis handbook.
I called my aunt, a recent divorcee on a self-improvement kick. She was the most compassionate, kind, and happy adult in my life, so I thought she might know what to do. I told her about the rape, and she cut in: “Honey, I have to go— my son’s calling soon.” Her adult son. Who is not in crisis. Who has not just been raped.
And that was it. I never brought it up again with her, nor did she with me. Stunned, I saw another hope implode.
With no other options, I implored Casey to tell his mom. He refused, but agreed to let me call her. As I told the story, static on the phone line electrified long silences between us. She said only, “Is he there right now?” and came to pick him up.
Later, Casey told me about the drive home. “Let me know if you need therapy. I’ll get you someone.” That was all she said. No one in the family talked about it after that–not dad, not brother, not sister, and certainly not Casey. A few days later Casey’s mom sent me a card with a cartoon bear that said I was special. She signed only her name, closing with “love.” But no word passed between us after that, not one.
The first time Casey returned to that skate park, months after the rape, I needed a guarantee. I’m sure he was scared, but he didn’t show it. We’d planned to connect at the teen dance club that night, but hours came and went with no sign of Casey. “What if…” drummed in my mind. Too many terrors replied.
Desperate, I sobbed out the story to my best friend Jamie, breaking my promise not to tell, but getting support I’d long needed. It felt so good to talk about it to a compassionate witness. She, too, was shocked by what had happened, as well as the utter failure of the adults in our lives. Jamie’s reaction spoke to what my gut already knew: Shock is the appropriate response to child abduction and rape. Our devastation was not hyperbole.
Casey came home safely that night, but I was far from certain that everything would be okay. On some level, I knew it never would be. I tried to control my ongoing fear by asking him to call me before and after he went out skating, a ridiculous effort to control a world that had proven itself to be unpredictable and utterly barbaric. No matter how many times he came home safe, I wasn’t convinced.
He broke up with me a few months later, and to be honest, I wasn’t shocked.
After we broke up, Casey became violent, dark, and dangerous. His entire face changed, overtaken by doom and bitter pock marks. His curly hair grew long and mangled; he dyed it jet black. Even his voice sounded caustic. A life of drugs and heavy drinking followed.
He and his friends began bullying me, and though it was painful, I understood why he did it, so I never blamed him. A year later we were in the same art class. We both sat at the “skater table” – without speaking to or looking at each other. Casey had a new girlfriend. Their couplehood was painful to witness, but not because of the normal teenage heartbreak. No, that sweet longing for lost love was gone, ruptured by Casey’s daily, graphic accounts of their sex life. He disparaged his girlfriend with explicit and vulgar details. “The first time I had sex with Donna, man, there was blood everywhere! Disgusting!” Watching him animate these stories with furious and expressive hands, I could see the rage, violence, and revulsion, with sex and with himself.
This went on daily throughout my senior year. Hardly surprising, the teacher never intervened. An acquaintance mentioned to Jamie that she’d noticed a change in Casey, despite not knowing him outside of school. “Something happened to him. I don’t know what it is, but something happened. He is not the same.”
Why didn’t the adults call the police? I remember feeling as weathered as a combat veteran yet as helpless as a newborn. Still do. Did the adults around us feel that way too?
Who knows how many other kids that perpetrator abused. Clearly he had worked out his routine very carefully. He knew the skating world well; knew exactly which words and treats would get an adolescent skater into his car. Even now, as I tell this story, my denial tricks me into believing the guy really had a skate shop—as if that place exists, beyond dirt roads, just a few blocks away. As if they just got lost along the way to Casey’s dreams.
RESOURCES FOR SURVIVORS AND THEIR LOVED ONES
The following organizations offer support and information to survivors of sexual violence, including crisis hotlines, online discussion forums, legal assistance, and referrals to local help such as counseling and support groups.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE
The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Includes 24-hour help via live chat and phone.
MaleSurvivor (one word)
Support for male survivors of any form of sexual violence. Website includes discussion forums and resources for survivors, loved ones, and professionals who work with them.
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (The Anti-Violence Project)
24-hour Hotline: 212-714-1141
Support for LGBTQ survivors of all forms of violence. Offers counseling, legal assistance, and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
The Trevor Project
Crisis help and suicide prevention for GLBTQ youth.