“To not be a voice for an injustice is an injustice in itself.” So writes 32-year-old Steven Nary from his cell at California’s Avenal State Prison.
Nary has been in a California prison every single day of his life since March 1996. The reason why is hard to believe.
As an 18-year-old sailor on leave in San Francisco, Nary was lured from a co-ed dance club to the apartment of a gay predator, Juan Pifarre, under false pretenses.
When the coked-up Pifarre tried to rape Nary, the sailor, though drunk and possibly drugged, fought back and killed him unintentionally.
No matter. In October 1999, a San Francisco jury convicted Nary of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 16 years to life despite the fact that the “victim” was a known predator with at least two prior arrests on sexual charges.
Unfortunately for Nary, the well-wired Pifarre was better known at City Hall as a leading Hispanic activist and publisher.
In June 2009, Nary’s exceptional prison record did not dissuade California from denying Nary parole for at least five more years.
In a state where interest-group dynamics trump individual justice, Nary never had a chance. “The panel feels that you haven’t fully explored the totality and magnitude of this commitment offense,” said the Parole Board chairman at hearing’s end.
Freed of the need to conform to the state’s Orwellian take on contrition, Nary has attempted to explain how he feels in the hope of encouraging other victims of sexual assault, male or female, to speak out.
Other than a very few minor grammatical corrections, the following has not been edited. Although discreetly written, this is not for children.
The horror that dwells within
I have never been able to fully express to others what happened to me. The obvious reasons are my fear of judgment and my desire to not be labeled a victim.
In addition, how do I define what happened to me: Was it a sexual assault, was it a rape, or was it all my fault and should it be defined as a sexual encounter gone wrong?
I do not believe that the latter is the case, but how does a man, even if he was still a kid at the age of 18, legally an adult, yet legally too young to drink, get raped?
Prison adds an element that has made this even more difficult. Prison isn’t a place to appear weak or victimized, especially as a rape victim. Yes, I feel alone and daily I relive this event that acts like a vampire to my very being.
It is hard to close my eyes some nights or even watch certain shows because of the strong sensation it evokes.
A nasty mind trick that creates a feeling of being touched by the predator. A feeling that causes my hair to become filled with static and my body filled with goosebumps. A fear appears and suddenly the smell of his sweat and the lustful stench feeds the experience.
My heart starts pounding and beads of sweat start pushing through my pores. My neck starts to feel hot, and I become agitated as tears flow out of my eyes: drip, drop, drip, drop.
Sometimes I am able to snap out of the apparent hypnotic state, usually only because of noise around me or knowing people are present.
However, there are times when this event enters the solace of my sleep and intensifies. There have been nights that I wake up underneath my covers, and my body is flushed with every ounce of sweat, but I don’t realize where I am and I am so scared to come out from the dark covers because I fear that he will be there.
To be paralyzed, but seem functional, is a contradiction that baffles me. To not have the ability, beyond saying no, to resist this man pulling my shorts down and oral copulating me, leaves me with even more questions.
My attempts to say no prior meant nothing to him. My attempts to say no to his demand for more meant nothing as well. My mind began racing as I rolled to my side.
I hoped that it was a nightmare. I was disgusted, angry, and ashamed that I could not do anything to resist this man. I felt dirty and I thought a shower could somehow wash it away.
However, he wouldn’t stop and began to try to have anal sex with me. He kept touching me, struggling to pull my shorts down, and succeeding just enough to start.
The hardest part of this whole event is to admit that he kept trying and trying and yes, pushed himself against my anus several times, which sparked my reaction.
Yes, my reaction was violent, and I am sorry for taking a life, which was not my intention, and I live with that as well.
However, I am frustrated that I have to keep saying that I am sorry because it takes away from what happened to me.
What was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to allow this man to do whatever he wanted to do with me?
I am often asked, “But why the rage?” Even the Parole Board wondered this. So many people think that I must have learned this violence somewhere.
Why is it so hard to understand the violation of one’s body is enough to see the deepest of emotions come out? The fact is that prior to that night I never experienced or felt such emotions before, let alone understood how to handle it.
There are many life occurrences that can’t be related to unless you have experienced them – dealing with a terminal illness, the death of a loved one, and being sexually abused, assaulted, or raped.
I hope that the few words that have been said can be a motivation for others to speak out. I know it is not easy.
I may end up spending the rest of my life in prison because I have trouble articulating this to a parole board that somehow came up with the conclusion that I wanted this to happen.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a common reaction from people who hear of such stories. To all victims of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape, I am so sorry!
I do not know of the experience you went through, but I empathize with your pain. I know that you did not want it to happen, and I know the horror that dwells within.
Steven Nary can be reached at:
ASP, 250-1-55 up
P.O. Box 9
Avenal, CA 93204