BEVERLY HILLS — Zeke Thomas says talking about being a rape survivor isn’t difficult. The hard part is not talking about it.
“The hard part for me is ignoring it. The hard part for me is not talking about it,” says Thomas, whose father is basketball great Isiah Thomas.
Thomas, who identifies as gay, says he was raped in February 2016 by a man he met on a dating app.
The 29-year-old DJ and music producer also says it’s frustrating when people avoid saying the word rape.
“I got raped,” Thomas says. “It’s getting people to admit to what happened and not gloss over it.”
In the United States, more than 19.5 million men are the victims of contact sexual violence, including rape, over the course of their lives, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thomas says he did not press charges against the man who raped him because “I just wasn’t ready,” and he did not want to be labeled a “victim.”
Thomas went public last year about being rape and spoke with The New Yorker and “Good Morning, America.” Thomas’ appearance on the ABC morning chat show, “DJ Zeke Thomas Goes Public,” is nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment. The awards ceremony will take place Saturday in New York City.
Thomas also has used his music to talk about being a rape survivor. The video for the single “Dealin’ With It” opens with a clip of the “Good Morning, America” interview followed by a semi-biographical look at the downward spiral Thomas took after he was raped.
The video ends with the public service announcement Thomas did last year for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Thomas is also an ambassador for the organization, which is dedicated to “preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaboration, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research,” according to its website.
Thomas’ new single, “Love Me Sober,” also was influenced by his personal experience.
“ ‘Love Me Sober’ is a song and message about finding true love after surviving trauma,” Thomas said in a statement. “My trauma stems from my sexual assault and rape experiences.
“The hard-hitting beat gives you an insight into the mind of a man seeking the support and authentic acceptance of his lover and someone to see him as more than just a survivor. I too, hope to find mine soon,” Thomas said.
Proceeds from the single will be donated to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and GLAAD.
Q Voice News spoke with Thomas while he visited Beverly Hills to shoot the video for “Love Me Sober.”
In the interview, Thomas talks about coping with the rape, how therapy helped him, and giving back by helping other survivors.
Here are some excerpts that have been edited for clarity.
Thomas met his rapist on a dating app
“We had met actually at my recording studio in Chicago. I invited him to my recording studio. My safe place,” Thomas says. “I had people around. I was like, I’m OK. We had a good time at studio.
“Three or four days later for our second date per se, we went to a bar. I had even DJ’d at that bar. I had friends at that bar. I knew the bartender. So when he gave me the drink, I didn’t question it at all,” Thomas says.
Something was wrong
“But then I just knew something was wrong in that moment. The red flag was the over aggressiveness of giving me the drink,” Thomas says. “We took, yeah I guess a cab, and I woke up the next day in my bed. He was still there. He was just getting ready to leave. He said he had a great time and hoped to see me again.”
After the rape
“After the rape, I couldn’t get out of bed. My dog was outside barking, just barking, barking, barking, barking, and I couldn’t get out of bed. I just couldn’t move,” Thomas says. “Finally, I got up, let him in, went back to bed. I didn’t eat. Just slept. Just slept, and I was sleeping like that for a while. I didn’t get out of bed for two days. Even in the months after, I would just sleep. “
Self medicating with drugs and alcohol
“I definitely was self medicating. I definitely was doing a lot of drugs, and recklessly,” Thomas says. “It wasn’t that I had never done drugs before. It was just the recklessness and the not caring at all.”
“I was not in the best place. I said this to my family actually. I said, I’m proud of what I overcame. I could have given up. I could’ve let it go. iI could’ve just said, ‘OK. Fuck it’.”
Dating after rape
“There are predators out here. One of the first things I had to accept is that there are more good people in this world than there are bad people,” Thomas says. “When people ask me, Have your dating habits changed? Yes. I’m more careful, but I’m not walking on eggshells. I can’t look at every person like this is a bad situation. I meet people, and we see what happens.”
Going to therapy, counseling
“I was not resistant. I knew I needed it,” Thomas says. “Therapy allows you to get emotions out and get them out in a healthy way and work through them. I’m still in counseling. I’ll be in therapy forever. Everybody should have a therapist.
“At the same time, a lot of rape victims, a lot of sexual assault victims, their problems are because they were assaulted or raped,” Thomas says. “If you don’t deal with that core issue, then you’re told you’re an alcoholic. You’re told you’re this. You’re that. When all they had to deal with was get to the root of the issue.”
How someone can help someone who’s been raped
“The biggest thing that you can do for a victim, or a survivor, is just tell them you believe them, and that you are there for them, and you love them,” Thomas says. “It’s empathy and love that really has to be shown. You don’t want to treat it with a glove.”
People feeling uncomfortable to talk about sexual abuse
“One of my main objectives is for people to be able to talk about rape and sexual assault and to say it, to talk about it for what it is,” Thomas says. “It’s one of the worst things that can happen to a human being.
“We can talk about murder. We can talk about gun violence. We can talk about all these other horrible things that happen, but when it comes to sexual assault and rape, it’s an issue that people can’t talk about and comprehend. That’s something I want to change.”
Being an ambassador with National Sexual Violence Resource Center
“I’m starting to speak at colleges. I’ve definitely been concentrating more on the male side, because I’m a male. I’m definitely concentrating hard on the gay side, because I’m gay. I’ve definitely been concentrating even more on African-American minority, because I’m an African-American minority. You want to help the people who have no voice, the disenfranchised, the people who don’t know what to do.”