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A powerful performance explores why men don't come forward after they've been raped.

Talking about being a rape survivor can be rough. Being a guy has a different set of challenges.

A powerful performance explores why men don't come forward after they've been raped.

Kevin Kantor was 20 years old when he was raped by an acquaintance. He was 22 when he saw the guy again, who was recommended as "people you may know" by the Facebook algorithm. He saw that three friends were friends with the guy too. He saw the normal life things his rapist was doing.

He decided to share his story so more men can come out and not be ashamed of surviving, in a poem called "People You May Know."


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I spoke with Kevin over chat about why he wrote this piece. He wanted to get some more nuanced things off his chest about the culture we currently live in.

Adam: What were you trying to say with this poem?

Kevin: It may not be explicitly apparent in the poem: The dominant culture that works to shame and silence male victims of sexual violence is the same pervasive rape culture that invalidates all survivors.

"The dominant culture that works to shame and silence male victims of sexual violence is the same pervasive rape culture that invalidates all survivors."

Adam: Did you ever attempt to get justice?

Kevin: I didn't. I never even planned to the hospital, but I called a friend, and he drove me there despite my not wanting to. Which I'm now truly thankful for. They did an exam — I can't remember if they were really testing for anything — I never heard anything back about it.

Adam: You never heard back? Did they offer any counseling or trauma support?

Kevin: A lot of pamphlets.

Adam: Was any of it geared toward guys?

Kevin: I'd say half counseling stuff and half "if you catch something/get pregnant."

Adam: What were the major factors that made you choose not to report it?

Kevin: The real thing that deterred me from reporting was my interaction with the police.

Adam: What happened with the police?

Kevin: It's 3 a.m.-4 a.m. Two male officers — in the room with me in just my hospital gown alone — was how it started. I remember being asked if I was attacked, assaulted, or raped. And I had no idea how to answer that. When I said I didn't know, I very distinctly remember being said to, "If you don't help us we can't help you."

And I don't think I ever spoke again, or if I did, it was saying, "I don't know" or "please leave."

Adam: Had you had any training about rape counseling or prevention at that point in your life?

Kevin: When I was 19, I had undergone crisis training — I worked as a diversity mentor for my college's residence hall. That October, I had emceed our school's Take Back the Night event. It made it all the more surreal.

Adam: I presume most of those campaigns don't have a lot of support material for guys?

Kevin: No. I was scared to say the word rape. I felt like it didn't belong to me. And the part of me that has been trained in social justice knew how ridiculous that was — but I still couldn't cope with it.

Adam: And now?

Kevin: Now I know it's real for me and too many other people to not take ownership of it. Not of victimhood, but survivorship.

Adam: What's the best advice you have for people who are confronted by others who say men can't be raped or don't think it's as serious as it is?

Kevin: Part of me, perhaps a selfish part, wants people to know that my brother, Adam, is probably the biggest inspiration in my life. He has absolutely always been there when I needed him. He raised me.

When he asked me why I didn't fight back, he had no idea what saying that meant. That man loves me beyond measure. I had to realize that sometimes even the people that love you most don't know how to protect you from or deal with the aftermath of trauma, but it doesn't mean they don't love you.

Don't let other people deny the reality of your experiences and the strength you have for surviving them. And it hearkens back to my previous thought: The culture that says men can't be raped is the same one saying other survivors were asking for it.

If you or a loved one have survived a sexual assault, you can learn the facts and get support at RAINN.

If you'd like to see more of Kevin's work, you can Like him on Facebook.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."