JDI IN THE NEWS - 2006

Chandra Niklewski: Male rape cases are serious, The Bowling Green News (Bowling Green, OH), December 12, 2006.

The movie "Let's Go to Prison" was released last month and billed as a comedy. The main joke was in the advertising for the film which showed a bar of soap and various one-liners using the issue of male rape as the punch line.

But Keith DeBlasio isn't laughing.

"You wouldn't make a comedy about women being raped or children being molested and think that's acceptable," DeBlasio said.

When DeBlasio was convicted in 1996 of interstate trafficking of forged securities and embezzlement, he had no idea he would receive a "life sentence."

In June 2005 DeBlasio testified in front of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission of being raped in prison by the same man between 20 and 30 times and that he was infected with HIV because of those attacks.

Every day he lives with the knowledge that he may face a medical crisis at any time.

DeBlasio served part of his sentence in Milan, Mich., in a federal penitentiary where his height of 6-foot-2 and his 200-pound frame made him an intimidating figure, and he assumed he would be safe from harm.

"I never dreamed that someone could attack me, much less sexually assault me," DeBlasio said.

DeBlasio suffers anxiety attacks, but works diligently to bring more coverage to the issue of male rape and prison rape in particular. However, it is a myth that men are raped mostly in prisons.

Ronald J. Dominique was arrested on Dec. 1 for the murders of two men, but has since confessed to the murders and rapes of 23 men - the issue was made public again.

Known as the 'Bayou Strangler', he was charged with nine more counts of murder after his confession.

Male rape happens as often as female rape according to a fact sheet provided by Stop Prisoner Rape, an organization instrumental in seeing sexual assaults in prisons reported and putting the issue in the public spotlight.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, the chance a man will be raped is the same, whether they are in prison or not. The difference is in the number of times a man is raped.

The Behavioral Science (journal), "Sex Roles: A Journal of Research," states that, because of the low rate of male rape reporting, victims do not have other men to turn to with questions, concerns and support. Women, on the other hand, are aware they have numerous resources available to them.

Men in communities such as prisons, universities or even families are at a greater risk for repeated rapes than other men.

The differences between male and female rapes vary, but the American Journal of Psychiatry reports three which are most traumatic for male victims. For men, there is a higher number of gang rapes, a greater amount of physical injury and a significantly longer amount of time that a male victim is held by his rapist compared to a female victim.

Detective Tony Dotson of the BGSU campus police has never worked on a case involving male rape, but related a story of an incident which happened years before he arrived at the campus, involving a male victim who committed suicide after his attack.

That isn't something Dotson wants to see happen on his watch and wants male students to know he plans on being available to them if they need help.

"From me, [a male victim] can expect empathy, understanding, and no judgment," Dotson said.

DeBlasio is glad people are becoming more aware of the subject, but emphasizes just how difficult it can be, as a man, to come forward.

"It wasn't something I wanted to admit. It's hard to admit how vulnerable you can be," DeBlasio said.

There are many resources to help, though. Besides the campus police, there is the Sexual Assault Awareness for Empowerment program, Student Health Services and the Counseling Center.

Stefani Hathaway, a psychology resident with the Counseling Center, has an office located inside a dorm. While the smell of old socks and moldy pizza lingers outside her door, inside is pleasant, relaxing and most importantly - it's private.

"It's your experience to reveal or not to reveal to people," Hathaway said.

Information is not shared with other student services without the student's permission.

It's also not related from one student service to another without the student's permission and any avenue of getting help can lead to the right person helping a victim.

Student health services can perform a rape kit and contact advocates. SAAFE provides advocates and will help the victim throughout the healing process. The police department encourages victims to get medical and emotional care and hospitals will contact the police or advocates if desired.

DeBlasio knows there are plenty of services out there and encourages male victims not to keep the attack to themselves.

"The most important thing is not to internalize things. You have to find somebody to feel comfortable talking to," DeBlasio said.

Comfort is something DeBlasio still has trouble finding.

"In talking and dealing with it, there are times you don't feel like you have control," DeBlasio said.

Dotson and Hathaway want to make sure control lies with the victim. Both state strongly that decisions about the case and reporting are always up to the victim and they are there to support, not make decisions for the victim.

DeBlasio remembers talking to people about his ordeal and having mixed emotions but is still grateful for the support.

"[It helped] having people who really care and were really concerned. I was feeling like there was some justice. I was feeling good, but emotionally wrecked," DeBlasio said.

DeBlasio doesn't remember a lot about the attacks because he allowed himself to block out what was happening, but it was after the rape that he found himself dealing with more thoughts than he could handle.

Whether it was outside staring at the ground or in his cell staring up at the bunk above him where his rapist slept, he was fighting his own emotions.

"I can remember lying there and thinking I wanted to just slit his throat," DeBlasio said.

The expression of rage is common among male victims of rape, but DeBlasio didn't give in to his anger and has come to terms with what happened to him and the fact it wasn't his fault.

While it would have been safer for him to not resist, he did at first, but knew his rapist would physically harm him if he didn't do what he was told.

"Your fear takes over," he explained.

Fear has turned to conviction as DeBlasio vents his anger at the people who thought it would be funny to make a movie about prison rape.

But people like Ronald J. Dominique are bringing out the attitudes DeBlasio has been working so hard to turn around.

Angela Smith, whose son and several cousins were allegedly raped and killed by Dominique, spoke to a Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, and explained that she didn't want him to get the death penalty, but to suffer like her son suffered and be housed with the other inmates for the rest of his life.

"I want to see him get punished for what he did," Smith told The Advocate.

But it's the non-violent criminals like DeBlasio who suffer the punishment she's wishing on an accused serial killer.

DeBlasio will continue fighting for male victims of rape with the hope he can educate more people and also to continue to aid in his healing process - but the damage has already been done.

"I don't know that you ever completely heal from it," DeBlasio said.