Junot Díaz: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma | The New Yorker


In an essay for The New Yorker, award-winning author Junot Díaz describes how he was raped at 8 years old and how that abuse had haunted him throughout his life.

Díaz’s piece began with a brief anecdote about a fan — whom he refers to throughout the essay as “X” — who approaches him during a book signing and asks the author, quietly, if he’d ever experienced the abuse he’d alluded to within his writing. At the time, Díaz admitted that he sidestepped the question with “some evasive bullshit,” though the memory of the fan’s disappointment with his answer stayed with him. “I know this is years too late, but I’m sorry I didn’t answer you,” Díaz wrote.

I was raped when I was eight years old. By a grownup that I truly trusted,” Díaz wrote. “After he raped me, he told me I had to return the next day or I would be ‘in trouble.’
It fucked up my childhood. It fucked up my adolescence. It fucked up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living. I was confused about why I didn’t fight, why I had an erection while I was being raped, what I did to deserve it. And always I was afraid—afraid that the rape had “ruined” me; afraid that I would be “found out”; afraid afraid afraid. “Real” Dominican men, after all, aren’t raped. And if I wasn’t a “real” Dominican man I wasn’t anything. The rape excluded me from manhood, from love, from everything.

From there, Díaz recounted the trauma he endured as an adolescent — including nightmares, being unable to focus in school, and anger, all linked to the assault he’d faced — to his time as an adult, navigating the terrain of romantic relationships and having trouble connecting with others intimately because of the pain he’d suppressed.

That Díaz came forward like this took great courage, an outreached hand for survivors—and that he was able to write it in such a way that accurately encapsulated the emotional devastation of a rape, is a gift and possibly a salve.

We applaud Junot Diaz for his decision to tell his story, in an effort to address such taboo issue that mentally affect men, and ultimately their partners and children. As individual as this issue can get, it has a ripple effect that affects society at large. This is why mental health is such an important piece of what Mastermind Connect seeks to achieve. Wellness, in it's different facets, has been ingrained into the fabric of what this group of men understand needs to be addressed, in order to grow and find true joy within themselves.

Look within yourself. Seek help if you need it. Offer help if you can give it.