September 28, 2018 at 6:10 am PDT | by Karen Ocamb
I was sexually assaulted. Maybe my story will help other LGBT victims speak out

Karen Ocamb is news editor of the Los Angeles Blade.

(Editor’s note: Brave Andrea Constand’s testimony against Bill Cosby and trans survivor Harper Jean’s comments at a #BelieveSurvivors rally highlight the fact that the #MeToo movement also impacts the LGBT community. To encourage more discussion, we are coming out with our stories, too. – Troy Masters and Karen Ocamb) 

I am 38 years clean and sober. The first 10 years were a real slog, rough going. My defiant, independent streak kept flaring up. But that streak kept getting me in trouble when I drank and used, which I did whenever I could from age 14 to age 30. I was a Broadcast Associate at CBS News in New York when my boss gave me an ultimatum: Get sober or you’re fired. Luckily, he thought I was worth saving.

My job was my identity so I went to rehab. I didn’t realize that getting sober required me to get honest with myself, something I professed to do as part of my Age of Aquarius persona.

But as I dug deep, excavating the layers of lies I told myself, the masks of self-protection started crumbling off. I had to confront the ongoing belief that I was an alien in this world, that I didn’t belong, that I felt like an orphan in this group others called my family. I learned how to walk around with two faces—one that gauged the room and turned chameleon-like into whatever was acceptable; and the other, deep inside, alternately quivering and brave, distrustful and naïve, defiant and blithe, and always fearing I’d be found out.

But why? Lots of reasons, it turned out, including internalized homophobia so profound I constantly thought of suicide. I had my own 12 Step saying: I will not drink use or kill myself one minute at a time. Even in sobriety, I had a “brave” face while trying to share my secrets. It wasn’t until I was five years sober that I allowed myself to cry—I’m the child of an Air Force Colonel who believed stoicism was good behavior. But at five years an internal dam broke and I finally allowed my muck to rise to the surface and be expunged.

I had been raped in college and told no one. I had been raped after moving to New York City in the 1970s and told no one. No one talked about “date rape” then. If a guy bought you dinner, he expected sex and if you said, no—too bad. That’s just the way it was. And when I came to work with a black eye and puffed up split lip, I sloughed it off: shit happens on the streets of New York City and big girls don’t cry. Besides, I was usually drunk or high so I thought somehow I deserved it.

The one time the cops were involved, they just added to the trauma I was trying to ignore. It was late one night, after dinner with a friend and I was trying to catch a cab on the Upper West Side. This white pickup truck stops, two white guys jump out and one guy asks me if I have the time. I moved under the streetlight to look at my watch when suddenly the second guy jumps me from behind and the two hustle me into the front of the truck. I start flailing away so the dominant one punches me while the other one ties my hands behind my back. The dominant guy drives a bit until there’s no more glare and then he unzips and tries to force me to have oral sex as the other one tries to keep me from jerking my head and body around. I remember being amazed that the guy wasn’t worried that I might bite his thing off.

This was one time when my defiant streak was serving me well. Except the guy gets so pissed off, he ejaculates on me, hits me again and then starts strangling me. I was on the verge of passing out when the other guy says: “That’s enough.” He opens the door and dumps me onto the street, into the proverbial puddle. I lay there for a bit until my survivor mode kicks in and I manage to sit on the curb. A passing cab stops and the man asks if I need help— he’d take me to the hospital—even though I have no money. The second guy had taken my wallet.

The late shift cops and nurses in the admitting room look at me with scorn, annoyed I’m interrupting them. They take my clothes, have me lay on a cold steel gurney and then leave as if I’m a slab of meat with eyes. One nurse later slips in surreptitiously and whispers: “Remember, you’re the victim.” I’m grateful.

Two bored cops later ask me questions off a sheet of paper. My description of the men and the location lead them to conclude the guys were probably sailors on shore leave during Fleet Week. I probably led them on. Besides, I’d been drinking. This interview is an exercise in futility.

Why don’t women report? Who wants to be blamed for their own victimization and re-traumatized?

I thought I’d worked through all this in my 12 Step program. And then came Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and now, Brett Kavanaugh. But this time it’s not my vulnerability and shame that’s been triggered—it’s my outrage. Despite the #MeToo movement, victims are still being too easily dismissed as unbelievable.

Being professional is keeping me in check. Did you know that (then-closeted lesbian) Kellie McGillis was a real rape survivor who played the attorney in “The Accused” where (then-closeted lesbian) Jodie Foster played a (real life) woman viciously raped in a bar as others watched?

I hope my story encourages more LGBT victims to come out in the #MeToo movement.


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