By Austin Koeller
It was 18 years before he finally saw a therapist and took charge of his own healing. Like other rape victims who survive the terror of rape, the victim at first didn’t know how he could talk about it.
After a night of drinking, 19-year old James Landrith lies down, terrified of what is to come. The pregnant female friend of a friend is on top of him. As Landrith tries to get up from under her, she accuses him of trying to hurt her baby.
“Don’t be forceful,” she says.
“I was disoriented,” Landrith said. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. At that point, I lay back, and I started to dissociate.”
When he wakes up, he realizes he had been raped — by his friend’s female friend.
On Thursday, Dec. 4, Landrith told his story to students and members of the Kearney community in Copeland Hall. The “Against His Will” presentation was sponsored by the UNK Women’s Center and the UNK Interfraternity Council as part of National Male Sexual Assault Week.
“I’m a father, son, brother, Marine Corps and Gulf War veteran, an Internet publisher, commentary writer and human resources professional,” Landrith said as he introduced himself to the crowd. “I’m also a rape survivor.”
In 1990, 19-year-old Landrith was stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in the Marine Corps.
One Friday night, he decided to meet up with a friend and a female friend of his friend to “listen to music and relax.” After being ditched by his friend, Landrith agrees to take his friend’s friend home at the end of the night. The plan, he said, was to drop her off at the end of the night and then go back to the base. However, the night did not go according to plan.
“As the night went on, she bought me a couple drinks,” Landrith said. “The last couple drinks left me a little disoriented. I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Since he was too drowsy to drive home and the club was in on a lot next to a motel, Landrith and his friend’s female friend got a room with double beds for the night.
He said, “She gave me a glass of water, said to go ahead and drink it and that I would feel better,” Landrith said.
He then fell asleep quickly. When dawn approached, he looked up and realized that he was lying in bed with the woman on top of him. As the events unfolded, he later realized that he had been raped by his friend’s female friend.
“I didn’t know how to talk about what happened to me,” Landrith said. “I didn’t know how to classify it. I knew that men weren’t supposed to talk about it; men weren’t supposed to think about it.”
Landrith said that he had to bury the rape, put it in the back of his head, and pretend that it didn’t happen. He kept this buried for 18 years.
In 2008, he decided to be let out the truth of what happened him.
“I was having trouble sleeping; every time I saw a pregnant woman it bothered me,” Landrith said.
After having a conversation with a co-worker, he finally came to realize and admit that he had been raped.
Following that conversation, Landrith went to see a therapist.
“I didn’t know how I was going to be treated when I walked in,” he said. “The first thing I did was I got assigned. I sat down in her chair, and it felt like the world was ending. I didn’t know what was going on. She said I was having a panic attack.”
For 13 weeks, Landrith was in therapy, learning how to breathe and to cope with what had happened to him.
“It felt like a Band-Aid had been ripped off,” Landrith said of talking about the incident for the first time while in therapy. “Everything was fresh again. I never focused on it. I never thought about it, I never dug into it to deal with it.”
Upon going through therapy and as a result of his experiences, Landrith decided to focus on sexual violence issues and help other survivors.
He is currently an active member of the speaker’s bureau for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), is a speaker and trainer for the Survivor’s Caucus of the Virginia Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and serves as section moderator at Pandora’s Aquarium, one of the largest online mixed gender communities for rape survivors.
To survivors of rape and sexual assault Landrith said: “Your journey is your own. You call it what you want to call it. You decide to get help when you want to get help. You have to be in charge of your own healing or it’s not going to work.”
If you are a student who has survived rape or sexual assault and are seeking help, the UNK Women’s Center is a free, confidential resource. The UNK Women’s Center is located in the Memorial Student Affairs building. They can be reached by calling (308) 865-8279.
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