When Keith Smith was 14 years old, he was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger in the woods in his hometown. He reported the assault to the police, and the perpetrator was arrested. Smith testified in front of a grand jury and the perpetrator was indicted—but the the man responsible never stood trial. Before the trial date, the perpetrator was beaten to death by unknown assailants.
The experience haunted Smith, and he remained silent about the assault for the next 35 years. “I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed that a man sexually assaulted me…that I didn't fight hard enough.” Men and boys may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and they can experience additional challenges due to social norms about masculinity.
Smith also felt pressure to keep his story a secret to eliminate the possibility that his “protectors,” the unnamed people who murdered the perpetrator, would be arrested. “My brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, coaches, professors, priests, doctors and colleagues were unaware. My mother didn't fully understand what happened, and my daughters knew nothing. No one knew. It was my secret. My choice.”
Today, Smith is vigilant about educating the public on the reality of sexual violence and how it affects men and boys. As an active member of RAINN’s Speakers Bureau, he frequently speaks about his experience to local communities in New York City. Keith has also written a novel based on the experience, “Men in My Town,” which tells Smith’s story in tangent with a fictionalized account of the townspeople who sought retribution by murdering the perpetrator.
Smith’s story has been covered by Roni Rabin for the New York Times. He participated in Oprah Winfrey’s award-winning show, '200 Male Survivors,' was featured on ‘Perspective' with ABC Investigative Reporter Nora Muchanic and appeared on Anderson Cooper’s Special, 'State of Shame:The Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal.’
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