The #MeToo movement has allowed thousands of sexual assault victims to share their traumatic stories of abuse on social media, often helping them mitigate the pain through collective bonding. But for Brandon Cook, it did not quite turn out that way.
Inspired by #MeToo, Brandon decided it was finally time for him to share his story. Just like other victims, Brandon was concerned about whether or not he would be believed. First of all, he is a man, and we have all seen how male victims who have spoken since the #MeToo movement burst to life have been treated (see Terry Crews). Second, he is gay, which was sure to bring him more marginalization if and when he spoke out against the man responsible for abusing him. And third, his alleged abuser was a powerful man capable of seriously damaging Brandon’s career as a photographer in Melbourne.
But when the time is ripe, nothing can stop one from speaking out.
So last night even after being warned by his friends to reconsider his position of going public with his story of abuse, Cook wrote down his experience of having been violated by the owner of one of the nightclubs where he worked as a photographer. He wrote an open letter to his alleged abuser, mentioning in detail what had happened on the night of the incident, the full text of which you can read here. Brandon underlined shame as the primary reason that had stopped him from speaking out until now — as is the case with most victims.
Last year I was held hostage, raped and hospitalised by a psychotic man. I went to the police, and the police retraumatised me. I went to social media, and people told me I deserved it.— Brandon Cook (@brandycooklyn) February 18, 2018
I'm finally telling my story, for @newscomauHQ.#MeToo. https://t.co/j8LMydMwYO
After he made the post, a nervous Brandon — unsure of what the reaction to his experience of coming out with the story will be — went to sleep. What was to happen next morning would leave him more damaged.
According to the Independent, Brandon’s traumatic experience was met with a hurl of abuse and condemnation online, with some Facebook users considering him the culprit for having gone home with an alleged sexual predator. The amount of vitriol was incessant, with people telling him to “play the victim a bit less,” that the rape was “divine justice,” and calling him a “worthless junkie.”
To his horrific surprise, Cook was suspended by Facebook for violating their “community standards.”
Brandon was expecting some amount of criticism and shame, but he had not imagined this kind of reception to his most daring act of telling the story of his abuse. As the comments gnawed at him, and Cook felt even worse than what he had felt before he had posted the story, Brandon knew he had to do something.
So he posted the story again on Medium, and sure enough, this time he found an audience which could empathize with him. Soon, a major Australian newspaper did a story on him, which was then followed by the international press.
When asked about how he felt now that his story was being reported all over the world, Brandon could not hold back his excitement, and underlined that the world needs to engage more with victims of sexual assault.
“I’ve been incredibly moved by the reaction to what was a deeply personal confession of trauma. What I hope this story delivers is a chance to stop looking at survivors of sexual abuse as collated statistics to be trotted out in online debates, and start looking at them as human beings worthy of love, validation and support.”
He also expressed hope that his experience would encourage more victims to speak out. Brandon said the pain of not being able to talk about such traumatic experiences often leads victims towards more destructive paths.
“I’m also extremely hopeful that we can start to look at abuse not just as singular instances, but as patterns of trauma that perpetuate one another down the line, as one slips further into self-destruction in the interest of forgetting their pain, and how profoundly deep and destructive that convoluted pain can be.”