Muni riders have been doing double takes at the posters for the “Men Surviving Rape” campaign launched by the district attorney's office and Community United Against Violence for more than a month — photos of pensive men paired with “I thought he was a great guy until he raped me.” And, for at least one prominent Castro merchant and rape victim, the ads miss the mark.
“I never thought the guys who raped me were great guys,” says Mark Welsh, the manager of the Rock Hard adult shop.
Last September, Welsh says he was knocked to the sidewalk on Sanchez Street, kicked and punched, and then dragged to an entryway of a house by two men and sodomized and forced to perform oral sex. Welsh went public with his rape last fall once he heard from police of two other sexual assaults in the neighborhood before his. In recent months, he's become a vocal agitator on the topic of gay rape, complaining that the SFPD “hasn't done squat” to catch his attackers. Police say their investigation is “open and active.”
Which brings us back to the “great guy” ads. Welsh argues they're misleading. He says many of the recent rapes in the Castro he knows of have been perpetrated by strangers, not the victim's acquaintance or significant other. “It wasn't the case for the cases that have happened in the Castro on the street,” Welsh says. Indeed, of the 13 male-on-male sexual assault victims in the city who've been examined at General Hospital so far this year, nearly 70 percent reported that they didn't know their alleged attacker, reports the Trauma Recovery Center. (One caveat: The center doesn't define what constitutes “knowing.”)
Tina D'Elia of Community United Against Violence defends the “great guy” slogan, since statistics have historically shown that the majority of rapes happen during casual hookups or with acquaintances. Also, she says the campaign does well to reduce the stigma around male rape by focusing on healing, since the frequent lack of witnesses and, oftentimes, physical evidence makes it difficult to prosecute the crime.
Welsh argues that a city-sponsored ad campaign should focus on educating men to take preventative measures, and to preserve evidence and report the incident immediately to the police — not just healing afterward. He should know the pitfalls of not doing so: After being assaulted, Welsh took a shower, thereby getting rid of DNA evidence; he also didn't file a police report for two days. Police told a local gay newspaper that those kinds of things hinder their investigations of rape cases.