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Drew Carrillo: Arising like a phoenix from a childhood of sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse is sadly the norm on the evening news these days.

Almost nightly, we hear stories of rape, sexual abuse and even the murder of innocent children, specifically girls, but more and more we are hearing about male victims.

There seems to be an underlying belief system that has developed over time, almost like an epidemic, in the male community.

Those beliefs have been reinforced through the extremism of macho gender codes inflicted on our boys.

The misguided notion is that rape only happens to girls.

In addition, rape is also affiliated with a very male-induced shame; a shame that is clearly associated with being weak, or even gay. For years afterward, the boys (victims) are silent and hide in a shallow dark pool of shame and guilt.

The emotional after effects in the long run are nothing less than tragic and heart breaking. 

"Exhibit 10: Percentage Distribution of Female and Male Rape Victims by Age at Time of First Rape," from Patricia Tiaden and Nancy Thoennes' 1995-96 U.S. Department of Justice study, we see an example of the powerful and sobering reality of cases regarding the age of boys when they are raped.

I was in utter disbelief when I read, "48% of boys reported their first time of actual rape was before the age of … twelve." TWELVE.

The next age bracket said, "out of 28% of boys age 12-17, 23% report that their molestation was rape." 

You may ask why I cited a 1995-96 study. I utilized that data because that is my age group.

There are boys in their twenties and thirty-somethings that we see every day on the streets, at the gym, at a club -- that carry a burden that is incomprehensible. What happened to the Penn State boys is becoming normal and common in the United States. 

One of today's most passionate activists when it comes to the horrors, the shame and the preventative steps we can all take when it comes to sexual abuse, is aspiring actor and model, Drew Carrillo. 

Many know Carrillo for his role in the movie "Vampires Suck," in which he played the part of a cast member of "Jersey Shore." He also has been featured in many popular television advertisements, the most recent being the "NERF or Nothing" toy campaign.

I specifically contacted Carrillo for an interview because he has a very unique story when it comes to his own personal childhood traumas. 

Drew is now openly gay, but his backstory is that he was raped at the age of 16 while a dedicated member of a prominent movement called Teen Mania Ministries.

When he shared with me his initial story, I was shocked to hear about his case.

Coming to terms with one's sexuality can be very dramatic and tough due to gender societal parameters. To make matters worse for Drew and other young followers like him, Teen Mania Ministries spends millions of dollars on educational materials telling members of the church that homosexual men are in fact, often that way because they were raped.

When you hear that it sounds like a ridiculous, vicious, and uneducated lie, right? Well it is. It is also exactly what the evangelical church he subscribed to tried to enforce upon him. 

Drew took a few minutes to answer some questions for San Diego Gay & Lesbian News readers.

SALA: What do you think when you see cases like the Penn State abuse and how long and drawn out the abuse was? 

DREW CARRILLO: I think about the long term effect it has had on the victim's ability to trust others, as well as the affect it has had on their own self-image.

Also, the long term effect it has had on the perpetrator's ability to possess integrity and transparency in their personal and professional lives.

If any human can hold secrets of this magnitude for as long as the individuals involved in this case, there are dire consequences to pay in the future. It will find its way to the surface, one way or the other. I am a firm believer that ALL things will come to light.

In your own life, can you sum up the pain caused by sexual abuse?

To "sum up" the pain of sexual abuse is almost equivalent of asking to "sum up" the meaning of life. The intricacies of the pain of sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind, and the ripple affect it causes varies from case to case.

In my own personal experience, even with sought-after help, I had no idea of the resentments I harbored for a certain type of person, as well as the trust issues I held even up to my recent past.

The poison left over from having gone through something like sexual abuse is very frightening. It often goes by unnoticed until you are faced with a situation that you have been ill-equipped to deal with, due to the arrested development you were unaware that you had. 

How did your family react to the news?

I refrained from disclosing any abuse I encountered until I was in my 20's. My abuse happened when I was 16. Up until I was older, I had NO idea that there were other cases like mine. I was far too embarrassed, guilt-ridden and disgusted to tell ANYONE when it happened.

Being a victim of sexual abuse has shown me something VERY alarming, aside from the obvious. It is one of the only times when the victims can feel like the perpetrator; like they "asked for it". That was the case with me. So I felt that I couldn't tell my family because it was something I did wrong.

It wasn't until I was older that I saw the abuse for what it was, the imprint that it had on my life and the refusal for it to continue, that I [finally] told my family.

They took it surprisingly well. There was of course, anger, guilt and tons of questions on their part and I did my best to answer them. But of all the reactions to expect, I got one that I couldn't have even imagined, which was love and understanding. 

Do you feel like the Evangelical Church helped you heal or slowed the process? 

The Evangelical "Church" did half of its job in my opinion. It most definitely opened the door for me to finally tell someone what had happened, that I would have possibly never encountered had I not been saved and decided to turn my life to God.

Their desire to save me from that demon eventually took a new focus when I decided to come out of the closet. They now had ammo for blame of this "struggle" and no longer felt the need to help with the clearing of my heart, mind and soul of the abuse, and instead, fought tooth and nail to "save" me from being gay.

It, in turn, confused me and left me feeling even more shameful for being the way I was. Again, it wasn't until later in life that I found refuge in the church but FAR from the one I knew. 

As a gay man, specifically in the long run, how did this affect you?

It has shown me a strength I never knew I possessed and a passion I never knew I had. My heart's cry is to reach out to those who feel alone and feel there is seemingly no place to go.

As a gay man who has been gay his whole life and a survivor of sexual abuse, I know the lies that can be told to you and the wide, uncontrollable array of emotions and feelings that can come along it.

I, at one point, attempted to turn to suicide, fell into addictions of many kinds and became a statistic that "hurt people hurt people." I subconsciously sabotaged relationships because of my hurt.

Little did I know, there is a strength right past the threshold of brokenness and despair that leaves you with two options: Allow this to kill you and let it win, or fight with the desperation of a drowning man and allow failure to not even be an option.

I chose to stop merely surviving and began to live for the first time. I've made it my mission to share my experience, strength and hope with anyone and everyone who asks, or that is willing listen.

I say this to readers from the bottom of my heart: If you are a boy or a man and have been a victim of sexual abuse and your silence has cause you to suffer, contact a proper agency, clergyman or trusted family member and share your story and begin the stage of healing and honesty. 

To someone who has not been affected by sexual abuse, I would say: If a boy or a girl is sexually assaulted in our society, we all suffer. We can do something to affect change.

One person donating to an organization that fights sexual abuse can make a difference. One person who sees something off or has that gut feeling and knows that something is off in the behavior of a child, can make that difference. Too many times we see people who had the ability to tell if they had the intuition to say something, but didn't. 

In closing, if you are gay and lesbian and you have been told by a family or religious institution that sexual molestation caused your orientation, do not buy into the lie and long-term guilt that a belief like that instills. 

I am a former evangelical church member, myself, who was also gay and told that perhaps I had "suppressed" sexual molestation in order to "explain away the gay." But of course, nothing of that sort was true. 

Today, pick up the power of justice for our children and fight sexual abuse and the lies tagged onto them for something they were never guilty of and let them live free of shame.