The furious rallying cry of the #MeToo movement rose late last year and, riding its wave, Brandon Cook took to Facebook to share his own story of a historic sexual assault perpetrated by a powerful man he knew.
But in return for overcoming years of shame, denial and suicidal thoughts to speak his truth, social media rewarded him by silencing him.
The morning after he shared his #MeToo post on Facebook, he woke up to find it had been removed for “violating community standards” and that he’d been banned from the social media site for 30 days.
It meant he would have to open up online all over again in a Medium post just the next day.
In a searingly honest piece for news.com.au, he explains that he was sexually assaulted by someone who gave him drugs.
was an addict looking for a hit in an apartment with someone who could give me what I thought I wanted: Dissociation from reality. That’s how I met him.
But when the drugs he gave me sent me to the brink of unconsciousness, and every groan or pained writhing on his couch was met with him telling me to “Shut the f**k up”, I could hear an inner voice telling me that something wasn’t right.
Brandon was held hostage, raped and hospitalised by a man he writes was “completely psychotic”.
After escaping the man’s apartment, the police and paramedics found him on the ground outside of a 7-Eleven, sobbing.
The police explained in a letter that they would refuse to investigate the case without his full presence and cooperation, though he was still too traumatised to speak about it.
Outraged, he took to social media to share the letter.
He was told to “play the victim a bit less”, that the rape was “divine justice” and was called a “worthless junkie”.
Most of the social media vitriol stems from disbelief. As a male survivor, Brandon wonders if he would have been taken more seriously if his identity had checked different boxes. He explained to indy100:
Statistically speaking, women cop the brunt of sexual assault. That’s fact, and in that regard, Me Too and Times Up have been powerful movements that are tackling the problem in society to whom it impacts most.
This is great, but it also leads to people having a blind spot when it comes to male victims of abuse. I wrote about “laziness in the movement”, and that still stands.
We talk about women who are survivors because statistically, more of them are – but when we talk about rape and violation, we’re not talking about numbers. We’re talking about human beings. So it’s not enough to say, “wait your turn”; we have to support them all.
The comments expose a wider societal sickness when it comes to responding to sexual assault – yet they are also personally targeted, dealing low-blows to Brandon and trying to strip him of credibility. But, right now, Brandon can take it.
I wasn’t dragged through hell and back, left for dead and hospitalised, just to cower in the face of some anonymous talking head calling me gay like it’s an insult. Please.
In all seriousness, I care too much about what I’m saying to let them ever truly get to me, or to ever let them win. That’s one hell of a cringe-worthy cliché, but it’s true.
On surviving two sexual assaults, Brandon told indy100:
Yes, twice is already too much. But it’s not as if ‘you get one and that’s it’ – welcome to real life, y’all!
Anything can happen. Repeatedly. Even the awful stuff.
He shared a similar sentiment on Twitter: