HICKORY, N.C. — The first half of this two-part series, published in the May 31 issue of Q-Notes, began with some eye-opening statistics. To recap: The U.S. Justice Department reports that one in every 10 rape victims is male. A national study found that three percent of American men (2.78 million) have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, and 60 percent of those men identify as gay or bisexual.
The Hickory Police Department said a total of 31 adult sexual assault or rape cases were reported in 2007. Of those, only one — the case of our alleged victim, identified here with the pseudonym Brian — was an instance of male-on-male sexual assault.
North Carolina law does not recognize that a man can rape another man. Therefore, when both parties are male, cases that would be considered rapes elsewhere are prosecuted as sexual assaults in North Carolina.
Part two of Brian’s story, presented here, details his experiences and interactions with the community agencies charged with assisting victims of sexual assault and rape.
The harrowing ordeal of Brian’s alleged rape didn’t stop once he returned home in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 29, 2007.
After sleeping the entire day, he woke up that evening and talked to his parents. He told them that a man he met at a gay nightclub the previous night had drugged him, driven him to a motel and raped him. Brian’s parents immediately took him to the local hospital, Frye Regional Medical Center, arriving around 8 p.m.
After checking in, Brian said he waited three hours to be seen by hospital staff. Once he was called back to an examination room, he continued to wait for assistance.
Brian told Q-Notes that at approximately midnight, an officer with the Hickory Police took his statement. He said the officer didn’t take the note he had from the alleged assailant or the clothes he was wearing at the time of the rape.
He said a nurse told him the hospital would not do a rape kit because “there would be no evidence” due to lack of complete penetration and ejaculation. The nurse took blood and collected a urine sample, although Brian claimed he was not tested for any sexually transmitted diseases or infections and that no full physical exam was completed.
Brian further alleged that the nurse did not call the local rape victims’ advocacy organization, informing him that he could not have a victim’s advocate because he is male. According to employees at the Rape Crisis Center of Catawba County, this assertion is patently false.
“After I found out later what they were supposed to do, I kind of felt like I had just been revictimized,” he said. “It really did put a stop to me having any kind of case.”
On June 5, 2008, a representative of Frye Regional Medical Center told Q-Notes that the hospital could not comment on the story.
“Frye can’t comment on any patient’s experience at the hospital,” Eddie Salyards, vice president of business development and the hospital’s public information officer, said. “We don’t comment on policy and procedure as it is related to patients. I can’t go beyond that.”
Salyards said the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibited the hospital from disclosing patient information.
Police, D.A. response
On April 30, 2007, Brian went to the Rape Crisis Center and met with a victim’s advocate who helped him call the police department.
Hickory Police Investigator Dustin Nowatka met with Brian at the Center and allegedly revealed that he knew who the assailant was and that the man had previously raped another man. According to Brian, Nowatka added that the assailant was “violently schizophrenic” and it was “best not to have any contact with him.”
Nowatka also allegedly asserted there was “no way this would ever go to trial.”
On May 2, 2007, Brian said he again met with the investigator at the Rape Crisis Center and was told not to push the case. His last interaction with the police department was May 22, 2007, when Nowatka visited the Center and gave the victim’s advocate handling Brian’s case a form that, if signed, would give the department consent to stop their investigation. Brian never signed the form.
“The police weren’t thorough at all and there were so nonchalant about it all,” Brian told Q-Notes. “I feel like they never even investigated it. They just didn’t care, in my opinion.”
Hickory Police Department Capt. Thurman Whisnant, Nowatka’s supervisor, was careful with his comments when contacted by Q-Notes.
“I can’t comment on the specifics of the case,” Whisnant said. “There is no perfect case. There’s obstacles in every case that you have. We try to be as thorough as we possibly can.”
Whisnant said the police department completed their investigation and submitted it to the District Attorney’s office for review.
“They make the determination whether or not an indictment will be sought,” Whisnant said. “We received a letter from the D.A.’s office in August 2007 saying the case was rejected for prosecution [due to lack of evidence].”
Whisnant later clarified there was lack of evidence of forced sexual activity.
The D.A.’s letter is something Brian said he’s never received. He alleges that he attempted to make an appointment with the district attorney’s office in August 2007 but was told officials there “don’t have time for it.” He’s had no contact with the police or the D.A.’s office since.
Sarah Baker, the victim’s advocate working with Brian, confirmed with Q-Notes that the district attorney’s office has already made a decision not to prosecute the case. She added that despite repeated requests from her, the office has yet to formally inform Brian of the decision or meet with him regarding the case.
Repeated phone calls from Q-Notes to Catawba County Victim Witness Coordinator Thea Helderman and District Attorney Administrative Assistant Tammy West had not been returned at press time.
In the aftermath of his alleged rape, Brian said Club Cabaret, the gay nightclub he patronized on the night in question, would not allow him to post fliers publicizing support for rape victims.
Club Cabaret owner Jeff Reeves responded, “I didn’t know about [the fliers]. If I had, I would have allowed it. We have bulletins for everything, even our church.
“We were very concerned [about the incident] because, of course, it transpired in the City of Hickory.”
Reeves added that he remembered hearing about the incident only a few days after it was alleged to have happened.
“The police acted fast,” he said.
A time for healing
Now, more than a year after the incident, Brian is on a journey to educate others and prevent similar attacks. He wants to turn his negative experience into positive change for himself and others.
Part of his mission is to educate the community and national organizations from which he sought assistance.
“It is beneficial having someone to talk to, but [the organizations] don’t have any experience with male victims and it limited the kind of resources I could have,” he explained.
Brian knows that part of the problem is simple inexperience. Because male victims so often don’t report the crimes committed against them, local, state and national agencies find themselves at a loss when victims do come forward.
“They don’t have much experience, but I also think some of the national organizations I’ve talked to don’t seem to have the resources either.”
It’s all a matter of getting out there and speaking out, Brian said. The more victims who speak out and bring attention to their experiences, the more knowledge and awareness will be created. In turn, more resources will be available when future victims seek help.
“I believe the way I can resolve this is by speaking out and being the voice to help another person come forward,” he said.
— For more information and resources, visit www.rainn.org, the website of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. For more on Brian’s personal story, visit asurvivorvoice.blogspot.com.
Click here to see Part One of this story