“Joe” is an older gay man from Delray Beach who met a much younger male off Craigslist a few years ago. The first time they had a sexual encounter, it was mutual.
“I went to his house in Fort Lauderdale. It was a really nice. His backyard was the Intracoastal,” Joe recalled. “He told me that he has a husband that travels a lot. The husband was a lot older. I was 20 years older than him, and he happened to like older guys.”
Small talk led to pillow talk.
“We went to the bedroom, and he tried to fuck me. I had not done that in years,” Joe said. “It was very painful. I said he had to stop because I couldn’t take it.”
Instead, they did “other things.” The next day, Joe went back. It was a Sunday.
“We were just talking on the couch, and I was drinking something – not liquor – because I don't drink. I think it was water. Then all of a sudden I got super horny, and I don't know anything after that.”
Joe said when he regained consciousness; he was naked in his host’s bed. He asked what happened.
“He put on the TV a video of him fucking me,” he said. “I was just passed out. I was really shocked.”
Embarrassed and in a foggy, drugged state, Joe said he returned home.
“I took it like ‘well that's what happens when you meet people off Craigslist,’” he said.
Joe had not been given the chance to say “No.” He was incapacitated and raped.
Gay men meet other men off hookup websites or apps. There's also bars and parties. Regardless of where first contact is made, the chance of being drugged and raped very much exists here and elsewhere.
Gay men-on-men druggings and rapes are not easily navigable – for victims, medical providers, law enforcement agencies or advocacy organizations.
In South Florida, like many gay-populated areas in the U.S., cases like this aren't uncommon nor is there a playbook on how to address this.
There is no local, statewide or federal data on this type of crime, according to area law enforcement agencies.
"Our special victims detectives do not classify sexual assault/battery cases as described. We have no information, stats or documents," explained Veda Coleman-Wright, spokeswoman for the Broward County Sheriff's Office.
The reason being, she said, is that it is not a reportable category as part of the UCR (Uniform Crime Reports) system, which is official data on crime in the U.S. published by the FBI.
Because of this, Det. Tracy Figone, spokeswoman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Dept., said to locate information related to this type of crime, a lot of specifics are needed.
"You need to provide records with a specific time frame and specific location, club, cross roads, or an actual address," she said.
The Miami Police Department confirmed a few recent instances of robberies involving gay victims, but nothing related to gay rapes and druggings.
Aside from lack of data on this type of crime, the larger problem is that a majority of gay men do not report their sexual assaults to authorities, experts say.
“Gay men have been victims of sexual crime for a long time… It’s under-reported because of shame,” said Dr. Steven Santiago, chief medical officer of Care Resource, a nonprofit and health center for uninsured and under-insured patients primarily in the LGBT community.
Care Resource has three locations in Miami-Dade County – Miami, Little Havana and Miami Beach – and one in Fort Lauderdale.
Joe, the victim who was drugged, raped and videotaped, said, “I wouldn't have gone to the police. I would have felt ridiculous.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, approximately 63 percent of sexual assaults, regardless of gender or orientation, are not reported to police. The center estimates that one in 71 men – sexual orientation is not cited – will be raped at some point in their lives.
"Dean,” who is a recent gay drug-and-rape victim, asked to be given an alias due to shame and fear of retaliation from his rapist. He is in his 20s.
He is a handsome man with average height, crystal blue eyes, sandy blonde hair and a deep southern drawl. He recently moved from West Virginia to Miami for warmer temperatures.
Dean used Adam4Adam.com, a gay dating website, to make new connections – sexually and otherwise.
"Just don't get drugged," he said. "Someone drugged, raped and tried to overdose me... He used a liquid then later a needle with something."
Dean, who said he was raped in January, called the incident "embarrassing." He said the guy did use a condom, which he left behind with semen inside.
Dean was treated at Miami’s North Shore Medical Center, he said. Spokeswoman Shelly Weiss was unable to confirm any recent gay drug-and-rape cases, but said that rape patients are transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital, also in Miami, for rape kits.
Santiago said he treated a gay male patient just a few weeks ago who was drugged and raped. The patient was not Dean.
“He was referred to us by Jackson. That patient stated he was at a bar and drugged. He remembered waking up in his car without his pants,” Santiago said. “He assumed he had penetrated someone else, because his penis was soiled.”
Santiago said, unlike Dean’s encounter, most rapists do not usually use condoms. He recommends all rape victims get tested for STDs. He said Care Resource offers the full gamut of STD testing.
“I would venture to guess if someone is committing a sexual crime that protection isn’t used, but I don't have knowledge of statistics,” Santiago said.
Joe said he doesn’t know if a condom was used in his rape, but said he didn’t see one.
Physical health is just one of the concerns after a sexual attack. The others being psychological and emotional impacts.
About 35 percent of men report significant short-term or long-term impacts, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Dean said he is still “raffled” over his rape. “I thought the feeling would be gone, but I still have anxiety over it… Is it normal to feel weird and a lot of anxiety?”
Both police agencies and Santiago suggest taking extra precaution when meeting someone off of the Internet.
Santiago said meeting in a public place is key. He also mentioned giving contact information of the person, such as screen name, phone number and even photo, to a friend.
“Regarding prevention, the tips would be the same as for any individual dating or meeting someone online or at a bar, etc. Be aware of your surroundings, make smart choices and watch for red flags,” Det. Tracy Figone said.
After several high-profile incidents where people met off Craigslist and were either raped or murdered, the website now has a personal safety section posted.
There are also stricter guidelines when posting personal ads, including creating a user account on the site and phone number verification.
Adam4Adam.com, which advertises as “the world’s largest gay hookup site,” also has a safety tips section on its website. Grindr – “the world’s largest gay social network” – is an app but does have a website. There is not a safety section posted.
Media inquiries were sent to both Adam4Adam.com and Grindr. Neither responded to requests for comment.
Contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline by calling 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. For more information, visit www.rainn.org.