Josh Lueke and my past

WARNING: If you’ve experienced sexual violence or have strong feelings about the subject, this post may be triggering. I do not wish to re-victimize anyone with my words.
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Until recently, I stayed quiet every time someone tweeted about Josh Lueke. Many people on Twitter slam Lueke, the Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher, who pled guilty to false imprisonment with violence following rape allegations in 2008. Many decry Lueke’s presence in Major League Baseball, parts of four seasons since his incident. Others fume that Lueke spent just 42 days in jail. The collective outrage is mixed with glee whenever Lueke falters on the mound. But I’ve stayed mostly quiet, and there’s a good reason: I’m not that different than Josh Lueke.

Eight years ago in the waning hours of a party, after a night of drinking, I had sex with a woman who had passed out earlier. I made comments afterward to multiple witnesses suggesting something similar had happened before; while I’ve never raped anyone before or since, I had a prior history of questionable incidents. Rape tends to be a repetitive offense, committed by a small group of offenders, maybe 5-10 percent of males. Because my comments suggested I belonged in the group, the prosecutor assigned to my case insisted I plead as charged. I pled no contest to rape by use of an intoxicant and served one year in county jail along with five years of felony probation. I also am required to register annually as a sex offender, and for the past few years, my offense has come up in Google searches of my name.

I can only imagine what my victim has gone through. The average victim of sexual assault can experience effects for a lifetime. I still feel badly about what I did, and on some level, I think I always will. My offense was, among other things, selfish, stupid and unnecessary. I did it because I had personal problems I wasn’t dealing with, problems I could’ve taken appropriate action to resolve. Thankfully, an offense doesn’t ever have to be repeated. I haven’t reoffended and I don’t intend to. I’m writing this post, in part, to hold myself accountable.

The best thing I can say about my offense is that some good has come out of it. I quit drinking immediately and marked eight years of sobriety in February. Alcohol isn’t the main reason people commit rape– as the landmark 1979 book Men Who Rape notes, it generally has to do with unresolved personal crisis and untreated disorder, along with a range of other non-sexual factors– though knowing myself, I’m confident that so long as I remain sober, I’ll never reoffend. In addition, I completed five years of sex offender therapy focused on relapse prevention and also saw a psychiatrist privately for a few years. I donate monthly to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the foremost groups helping victims and urging more frequent prosecution of rapists. As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, RAINN is matching all donations through April 30. Here’s a link to their donation page: https://donate.rainn.org.

I admit it bothers me when people spew hate at Josh Lueke, though I understand where it comes from. It’d be weird, really, if Lueke faced no public outrage, if the only responses he drew were from people minimizing or condoning his conduct. I’m glad the world’s evolved enough that it’s starting to recognize rape as the despicable act that it is– not a youthful mistake, not an accident, not anything that can ever be justified. I hope Lueke understands this and that at some point, he uses his experience for good. He’s in a unique position to do so.

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