#SAAM: I’m Sorry
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Please note this entry contains language and material that might be triggering for some readers.
I learned how to become a “man” from what I saw on TV, magazines, and from the group of teenage guys I hung out with.
I grew up without my father for most part of my adolescent years, therefore, I learned how to become a “man” from what I saw on TV, magazines, and from the group of teenage guys I hung out with. At 16, I spent a lot of my time with other boys who were similar in age and interests: sports and video games. When it came to relationships, just like SAAM, I really never had “the talk”. Instead, I learned about dating from TV, magazines, and the group of teenage guys I hung out with. Some of them were having sex at 16; some had even claimed to have had sex earlier than that, which to a group of teenage boys automatically becomes an idol, sadly a “role model”. As far as I know, such sexual relationships that were discussed while ‘hanging out’ were all presented as consensual.
The guys and I spent a lot of time at a local community center, usually hanging around the courts looking for the next basketball pickup game. We spent a lot of our afterschool afternoons and evenings doing homework, working out, or simply socializing with other teens. One afternoon, I arrived to mostly empty basketball courts. I spent a few minutes shooting free-throws, thinking perhaps the guys would just show up later. Just shy of the 30 minute mark, people started rolling in. After a few first bumps and nods, I got word about a “special” event taking place outside at the park. I took a pass on it and figured I’d just stay shooting hoops, but they kept insisting I had to check it out, that I would not regret it. As I write this, I do – I regret having ever left the gym. As I exited the community center, I recall asking myself what those kids were talking about. The park was empty. That didn’t stop me; I kept scanning the park until I saw a group of guys huddled around a park bench near the outdoor public restrooms. As I got closer, I see some of the boys fist-bumping and high five-ing one another –- some of them were just laughing while others were just sitting, playing with grass. When I finally get close enough, I notice boys guarding the entrance to the restroom, some coming out while others are going in. I thought perhaps they were smoking marijuana or maybe even passing around a dirty magazine – it was much worse than that.
The boys were huddled, discussing their game plan, discussing who would be next to get lucky. I didn’t leave immediately; rather, I distanced myself from the crowd and just watched boys go in / out as if the restroom had a revolving door. After about 10 minutes, I just left and went back to shooting free throws. I didn’t know what to think and I sure didn’t think it was RAPE, so I stayed silent. At 16, it wasn’t rape because I thought to myself that the girl had put herself in that position, that she wanted it. It also didn’t seem that anyone forced her to go in. From what I could see – no one was holding her back but then again I wasn’t 100% sure because I never went into the bathroom. I could have easily had just told one of the staff or volunteers to check up on the members at that park, but I didn’t. What’s worse, I condoned the behavior by fist bumping some of these kids as they started making their way back to the gym. I never did see the girl but during my ten minutes, I could hear the whimpering and the moaning mixed in with boys’ laughter and cheering on.
Eighteen years have passed and when April rolls around, I recall these events and how my silence may have ruined someone’s life. I don’t know what happened to this girl after that day – but if you ever read this, I am sorry for not speaking up. The only words I can recall saying was “Nah, I’m good” when I was offered a chance to get in line. I regret not saying anything to this day, and now I devote my life’s work to help prevent boys and men buy into rape culture. So to everyone who happens to read this blog entry, please – STAND UP, SPEAK OUT and help end sexual violence.
This blog entry is the result of a partnership with 1in6 in commemoration of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and our efforts to highlight how sexual assault affects men and boys both in prevention and intervention efforts. It was originally published by Robert de León on behalf of the National Latino Network for Healthy Communities and Families on April 14, 2015.