“I’m just an ordinary guy, with an ordinary job,” Ben Alexander writes in a new op-ed published by The Independent. “You see me on the way to the office or down the pub at the weekend; I blend into the crowd, just another face in London.”
But Alexander carries with him a secret which, until recently, has brought him shame.
“[S]even years, five months, and a few days ago, another man raped me,” he writes. “He was bigger and stronger than me, and I was drunk.”
Alexander explains in harrowing detail how the man pinned him to the ground, shoving his face in the mud. He begged the man to stop. When he refused, Alexander called out for help, but nobody heard his cries.
“He didn’t use a condom,” he recalls. “I was deeply ashamed and embarrassed.”
After surviving the assault, Alexander could not bring himself to report it to police, afraid he would be “scorned and ignored.” He did, however, see doctor about getting Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), the drug used to prevent HIV infection in people who might have been exposed to the virus.
“The doctor I saw wasn’t sympathetic,” he recalls. “He told me that he couldn’t help me if I wasn’t prepared to help myself, and that he wouldn’t give me PEP unless I reported this to the police as a crime.”
Ultimately Alexander says he was left feeling “sick” and like “the rape was my fault” by the visit. Thankfully, he found another doctor who was willing to prescribe him the drugs he needed.
“Being raped changed me,” he writes. “[It] left me scared of the dark, checking the door’s locked all the time, often sleeping with the lights on.”
This went on for several years, until he finally contacted SurvivorsUK, a group that provides support to male victims of rape and sexual abuse, where he was assigned a therapist to help talk through his experience.
Though his rapist was never caught, Alexander still considers himself “lucky.”
“I’m HIV negative,” he writes, “which means that either my attacker wasn’t positive, or the PEP worked. And I’d now say I’m in a very good place in my life.”
“SurvivorsUK was instrumental in saving my life,” he concludes, “and giving me the confidence not to let my rape define who I am. … I’m now living without fear or shame, with confidence and strength.”