In honor of Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month, a local resident shares his story of resiliency and hope.
By Ron Blake
I’m a blue-collar guy and a rape victim. A most unlikely combination. But I wasn’t given a choice in what happened to me.
Today I do have a choice. Do I speak out? Do I stay silent? Either way. It still happened. I experienced a brutal near-deadly rape at the hands of three men who entered my Phoenix home while I was asleep.
April is National Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month. We already know the horrible things that this topic brings with it. So, I’m not going to discuss any of that. Nor tell you the difficulties in getting justice.
Instead, I’m going to try to inspire all Phoenix area victims by sharing my odyssey. To show all that’s possible beyond sexual violence. The successes and confidence that can come with speaking out.
Especially addressing the boys and men. We too experience sexual assault and abuse. We rarely talk about it. We’re expected to suck it up and move on. Guys often suffer terribly because of silence.
As you will see. It starts with taking a leap of faith. That life can get better. By not keeping it all bottled up inside of you.
I had an unexpected moment of laughter on a suicidal night six years ago that saved my life. That laughter gave me hope that there was something still good left in me. Despite the PTSD and extensive physical injuries I sustained in the rape.
I used that hope as the muse to go forth and finally tell my story. To help me better process what I had gone through. While also helping me learn to re-engage with society. After isolating badly.
Since that night of hope I’ve walked up to and met 32,083 complete strangers one by one on an exhilarating journey to reach a symbolic goal as part of my recovery mission.
Each of those strangers heard my story. Each of them wrote amazing stories of traumas, triumphs, and support for my efforts in 94 languages with 27 Sharpie marker colors on 494 giant foam boards.
They’ve helped me create a massive display of artwork of hope that’s already been in nine art exhibits.
Along the way, I encountered the entire staff of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (acesdv.org). They surrounded me with an abundance of resources and support to assist me in my recovery. A great organization for all sexual assault survivors to contact.
Because I ended my silence, a large group of singers from “America’s Got Talent” fame eventually heard of my story of determination. They are recording an original, uplifting song about my story. It will soon be released to excite and motivate millions of sexual assault survivors.
Because I opened up, several ASU journalism students became aware of my innovative therapy. They created an Emmy-nominated documentary about my artistic healing odyssey.
Because I chose not to isolate anymore, the Arizona Diamondbacks came across my advocacy. They had me throw out the ceremonial first pitch before 43,000 fans one evening. To represent the vibrancy and moxie of all of us sexual assault survivors.
Because I would no longer remain quiet, Pope Francis and Super Bowl Coach Jim Harbaugh learned about me as a person. They mailed personal handwritten letters of gratitude to me for my work.
Because I decided to open up I was nominated for and gave a TEDx talk, was asked to make presentations at 27 colleges, and brought in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee to pass a new law.
Of course, this is only my journey of recovery. Each one of ours will be different. However, my triumphs would never have occurred had I not decided to break through the chains of silence.
Perhaps the greatest way to recognize National Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month is not to focus on the bad stuff. But to tell our stories of overcoming adversity. To encourage survivors throughout Arizona to follow our examples. To find their own voice and bring about their own accomplishments.
I may never get justice. I will never eliminate the night of the rape. But I can change everything that happens every day forward now for the rest of my life. We as survivors have control of that.
I will keep speaking out. Keep building confidence. Keep achieving great things. Keep living life to its fullest. Here’s hoping my odyssey will inspire more sexual assault and abuse survivors (including boys and men) to find all the good stuff that’s possible past the trauma.
To learn more about Ron Blake, visit BlakeLateShow.com.