Tim Mousseau, a professional speaker and writer, told his personal story of sexual assault and urged students to talk about sex during a lecture Monday night.
The event, titled “Retaking our Story," was sponsored by the Duke Interfraternity Council and the Women's Center in a collaboration for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Mousseau, who works for the leadership development group CAMPUSPEAK, started the talk by highlighting the central role that storytelling plays in daily life.
“Stories make you who you are," he said. "We connect with people on a story-level, and if we ever want to change society, the way we do that is through the telling of stories."
He said that sex and narratives are commonalities in the human experience, and that how college students currently talk about sex needs to be changed. The same goes for the American public, he added.
After asking audience members to share their stories about bad dates, Mousseau told his own date-gone-wrong story. He went out with a girl when she asked to see some of his online writings. This led to her finding a blog post he had written titled “To the person who sexually assaulted me, I forgive you."
“You see, that’s part of my story that you don’t know, that you can’t tell just by looking at me and that’s not written anywhere about me," he said. "That part of my story is that I am a male survivor of sexual assault."
Mousseau did not know he had been a victim of sexual assault in college until years after graduation. But then he received an anonymous envelope containing photos of him, comatose, being assaulted.
Whenever he told people about being a victim of sexual assault, Mousseau said he always got a look of “shame, pity and fear” from people.
“Right now, it's still at a place where so often the only time we are ever actually having conversations about [sexual assault] is when it happens," he said. "And that’s far too late."
A lot of people have a hard time understanding that males can also be victims of sexual assault, but he said six percent of men on college campuses have been victims. Other statistics he cited were that one in five female college students have experienced sexual assault.
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Mousseau said that to help prevent sexual assault from happening, students should share their stories, form a community and learn to support victims.
He advised students to focus on the relationships they are in—whether a long-term relationship, a one-night stand or friends with benefits. They should discuss sex through various ways, such as sexting or on a date.
Mousseau also encouraged students to actively intervene instead of being a bystander, because intervening could potentially change someone’s life. He told students to be supportive if a friend opens up to them about sexual assault. Finally, he concluded the talk by referring back to his own experience—explaining that his assault could have been prevented if anyone had said something to stop it.
“This will always be my story," he said. "It didn’t have to be—somebody could have stopped it. So, my only question for you now is—what is your story going to be?"