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The furious rallying cry of the #MeToo movement rose late last year and, riding its wave, Brandon Cook took to Facebook to share his own story of a historic sexual assault perpetrated by a powerful man he knew.

But in return for overcoming years of shame, denial and suicidal thoughts to speak his truth, social media rewarded him by silencing him.

The morning after he shared his #MeToo post on Facebook, he woke up to find it had been removed for "violating community standards" and that he'd been banned from the social media site for 30 days.

It meant he would have to open up online all over again in a Medium post just the next day.

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Here is the post in full:

Three and a half years ago, you took me home with you after your club, POOF DOOF, had closed, and Revolver was thriving. We had done this once before. The bouncers chuckled as we walked out.

Only this time it was different. I was physically exhausted, and when we got to your bedroom, I asked you several times to slow down, and then to stop. It hurt. You didn’t listen. It kept hurting. You repeatedly ignored my pleadings, me telling you that I was in pain. I tried to push you off of me, but I was too weak. I withdrew consent. Repeatedly.

Eventually I was left to make those pleadings into the pillow, staring at the morning sunlight from your bedroom as it splashed onto your wall.

You finished. You rolled over. You went to sleep.

I got up, in shock, part of me already in denial — and went home.

That night you wrote me saying you had no memory of that morning. None.

Weeks after that morning, I tried to talk to you about what happened, to explain why what you did was wrong and how you hurt me. But every time you were unavailable or incapacitated.

Then I realised I couldn’t. You were in a powerful position in the nightlife scene, and my career as a nightclub photographer was important to me. You continue to run the most popular gay night in town.

You could have had me blacklisted from bars and clubs. You also invest in many of Australia’s biggest music festivals, including some that my friends played at, and I aspired to be a festival photographer. You could have banned me from those too.

We have many mutual friends; you’re an influential person in the “scene”. If I tried talking to you, you might get angry and shame me. I would be a target for bullying, would be called a liar, and it made me sick inside. The idea of losing so many people, of damaging my image and also my career felt impossible.

So I didn’t. I even tried to be nice for a while; pretend it didn’t happen. I kept talking to you.

Then it started to hurt me. I couldn’t bring myself to pretend it never happened. The truth was agony and it seeped from my pores no matter how many times I tried to wipe it away. You didn’t remember — or maybe you refused to acknowledge — what happened. So I was left with it all alone.

Fuck you.

I’ve been waiting years to say that out loud. Fuck you.

I’ve been to counselling. The Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault. I’ve seen doctors and therapists. I avoided your club night and anything which reminded me of you. My closest, closest friends have been consoling me about it for years. I’ve talked about it with them to try and work out my feelings.

Because what you did stole something from me.

You stole my ability to feel sexy.

You took my power away.

You made me want to kill myself.

You made it feel like nobody could ever want me.

You made it possible for a drug like crystal meth to fill that void; a drug I took of my own free will, but made me feel what you took again. I often say, “Meth sneaks in, attaches itself to something bad in your life, and grows until it becomes a problem all its own.” — That bad thing? I am talking about you.

A friend is currently in my inbox telling me not to post this, to “come back in a week with objectivity”.

I have been patiently waiting for a time when it might be okay to talk about this. But I realise there’ll never be a good time. This will always hurt, it will always be scary, and it will never be objective.

This might not give me peace. It might do more harm than good.

But I would like to think that I’m saying everything I wanted to say, three and a half years ago, when I was comparatively innocent, scared, and all I wanted was to pretend it never happened and to move on with my life. I want justice for that person.

So many bad things have happened since then; so many bad choices made out of a lack of self-worth, of sexiness, of everything else. But they always come back to that morning, in that bedroom, watching the light on that wall as all my pleadings went ignored.

During this period of social change, I feel it’s important to call you out. Because it’s so, so obvious now, that if it happened to me, it could happen to anyone.

And I wouldn’t wish how I’ve felt, what I’ve done, how I’ve filled the void your actions left, on anyone in my life. Not even you.

So there you have it.

#MeToo.

Three years later, in 2017, Brandon reported another rape to the police. Social media let him down once more.

In a searingly honest piece for news.com.au, he explains that he was sexually assaulted by someone who gave him drugs.

I was an addict looking for a hit in an apartment with someone who could give me what I thought I wanted: Dissociation from reality. That’s how I met him.

But when the drugs he gave me sent me to the brink of unconsciousness, and every groan or pained writhing on his couch was met with him telling me to “Shut the f**k up”, I could hear an inner voice telling me that something wasn’t right.

Brandon was held hostage, raped and hospitalised by a man he writes was "completely psychotic".

After escaping the man's apartment, the police and paramedics found him on the ground outside of a 7-Eleven, sobbing.

The police explained in a letter that they would refuse to investigate the case without his full presence and cooperation, though he was still too traumatised to speak about it.

Outraged, he took to social media to share the letter.

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In response to his Facebook post, Brandon received seething, grotesque abuse.

He was told to "play the victim a bit less", that the rape was "divine justice" and was called a "worthless junkie".

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Most of the social media vitriol stems from disbelief. As a male survivor, Brandon wonders if he would have been taken more seriously if his identity had checked different boxes. He explained to indy100:

Statistically speaking, women cop the brunt of sexual assault. That’s fact, and in that regard, Me Too and Times Up have been powerful movements that are tackling the problem in society to whom it impacts most.

This is great, but it also leads to people having a blind spot when it comes to male victims of abuse. I wrote about “laziness in the movement”, and that still stands.

We talk about women who are survivors because statistically, more of them are – but when we talk about rape and violation, we’re not talking about numbers. We’re talking about human beings. So it’s not enough to say, “wait your turn”; we have to support them all.

The comments expose a wider societal sickness when it comes to responding to sexual assault – yet they are also personally targeted, dealing low-blows to Brandon and trying to strip him of credibility. But, right now, Brandon can take it.

 I wasn’t dragged through hell and back, left for dead and hospitalised, just to cower in the face of some anonymous talking head calling me gay like it’s an insult. Please.

In all seriousness, I care too much about what I’m saying to let them ever truly get to me, or to ever let them win. That’s one hell of a cringe-worthy cliché, but it’s true.

On surviving two sexual assaults, Brandon told indy100:

Yes, twice is already too much. But it's not as if 'you get one and that's it' – welcome to real life, y'all!

Anything can happen. Repeatedly. Even the awful stuff.

He shared a similar sentiment on Twitter:

It is all most reasonable people can do, to marvel at Brandon's bravery for speaking out again and again.

What comes across as a dogged determination and a man hell-bent on justice, Brandon says, also stems from a fundamental need to to talk.

I was open because I didn’t have a choice. Because there was a dead body inside of me after the incident, and leaving it there to rot was eroding everything else about me that was still alive.

I went through months of complete self-destruction; I was taking more drugs than I ever was before – I’ve been an addict in recovery for two and a half years. I wound up with hepatitis C, and was subjecting myself to so much pain, just to cope with the past.

People don’t realise that when you’re coping with trauma, you can find yourself trapped in cycles of abuse and self-destructive behaviour. Eventually worse things start to happen as a result, and you end up with trauma stacked upon trauma stacked upon trauma.

You can almost draw a line through all of the traumatic experiences as they happen, like a grim constellational recount of history.

And for a long time it all looks fine to you, like it did to me, because part of coping means normalising your own behaviour to yourself. That’s how people die.

I chose to be open about it because I thought, enough. I had a few horrific moments, along with some lengthy periods of self-reflection and clarity, and decided I had to pull the dead body out of me; I had to stop torturing not just my body, but also my soul.

I had to talk about it. So I did.

He added:

The responses have meant the world. It hasn’t actually hit at all, how well I’ve been supported. Even as I’m telling you this, people are piling in with messages of support.

I think this has so much to do with Me Too: People are collecting their thoughts and are ready to support their friends and strangers more than they ever have.

I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that there’s never been a better time to let the pain go and tell someone about the weight of being a survivor.

Because the solidarity, respect you receive in return, like I have, is nothing short of heart-warming.

indy100 has contacted Facebook for comment about the original removal of Brandon's post.

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