Last month, Justin Hand, an 18-year-old finance and marketing student from Orlando, Fla., was raped. Now, he’s going public with his experience on YouTube, describing the assault in graphic detail.
His testimony is raw, heartfelt, straightforward, and occasionally darkly funny, but above all else, it’s brutally compelling, and it’s absolutely crucial that you watch it in its entirety.
Trigger warning for detailed descriptions of rape in both videos.
In the two-part vlog, “Raped Last Sunday,” Hand describes meeting a stranger at a gay club in Orlando called Parliament House. He went back with him to a bar and then his motel room, where the man assured him he wouldn’t try anything; when Hand tried to leave, the man attacked and raped him.
To hear Hand describe, in matter-of-fact tones, the moment he realized he was about to be assaulted is absolutely chilling: “It sort of happened right before it happened. It sunk in, ‘Hey, I’m about to be raped. This is happening.’”
Hand then recounts the rape in incredibly graphic, chilling detail, to the point where you might have to pause the video and catch your bearings for a few minutes. “There was so much pain by this guy thrusting into me, so forcefully and hatefully,” he says. “And I think that’s what hurt the most: I was having sex with someone who hated me. For no reason.”
Although the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that almost 10 percent of rape victims are male, the subject of male-on-male rape rarely receives media attention, aside from the occasional Law & Order episode. After Hand shared his story and blogger Kenneth Walsh posted the videos on his website, Hand was met with a slew of comments, some from fellow male rape victims thanking him for bringing attention to the subject.
He also received scathing criticism from a handful of commenters, some of whom took issue with what they perceived as his “nonchalant” tone in the video (which I, frankly, interpreted as post-traumatic disconnect), as well as his decision to come forward on social media. Others were outraged by the fact that Hand has not yet reported the encounter to Parliament House, nor to the Orlando police (he told Vocativ’s Versha Sharma that because he just moved to Orlando, he does not want his reputation as a rape victim to taint his reputation with the city’s gay community, which he describes as “very unsympathetic”).
As one of the more than 2.78 million American men who have been the victims of rape or sexual assault, Hand has the right to decide if he wants to report his rape to the police. And he also has the right to tell his story, in whatever manner he sees fit, loudly and clearly and as many times as he wants to. And in a culture that turns a blind eye to the experiences of Hand and other male rape victims like him, it’s not just our right to listen to his stories. It’s our obligation.