An emotional Albert Kroeyr took the podium at the Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church on May 11. He is one of more than a dozen members of the church’s writer’s club and that evening’s presentation was held to commemorate the release of the club’s first book: “Kaleidoscope” — a collebtion of poems and short stories of longtime club members. However, for him, it was a monumental occurence; the newly 48-year-old Kroeyr celebrated his birthday by speaking publicly about the rape that changed the course of his life more than 20 years ago, and inspired his written contribution to the book.
“If I can help just one person, sharing my story will have been worth it,” he said. “Since it was a same-sex rape I felt it was even more important to share because there have been a lot of people who’ve dealt with this and it’s been difficult to report. I hope that my story will inspire other people, too. To know that there are so many others out there that have dealt with this in the LGBT community.”
Betrayal of Trust.
Kroeyr’s case, like many others, began with someone around whom he felt comfortable. Kroeyr had just moved to the Ferndale area from Grosse Pointe and needed a place to stay. After some searching, he found a couple that was willing to rent him a room in their home at a reasonable rate and he soon set about moving in. That’s also when he met a friend of theirs, with whom he ended up spending much of the day. He said he remembered thinking that the friend might also have identified as gay, but he didn’t intend to ask.
“I was attracted to him, but I wasn’t thinking about having any sexual relationship with him because I didn’t know him that well,” Kroeyr said. “I was there the first night that it happened; after I was with the couple and him.”
Kroeyr said that after a quiet night in things began to escalate.
“We were watching TV and he wanted to take me to my room and it just happened in a second,” Kroeyr said. “He took it upon himself to make the move; became more aggressive. And the next moment it was about three or four in the morning. I didn’t know what to do, I was in shock. And, after that, I didn’t feel safe to get out of there either, because I didn’t know if anything else was going to happen.”
The next morning, still dazed by the events of the night before, Kroeyr said that he tried to act as if nothing had happened. His host couple, unaware of the transgression of trust, paired Kroeyr up with his rapist and sent them into town to show him around.
“So, I had to wait it out and the next day I was with him going into town on 9 Mile and Woodward,” he said. “At the time I knew different people, they had stores on 9 Mile, and I tried to get someone’s attention. I was in shock and kind of going into survival mode, so I didn’t want to make him mad or do something more. He was trying to call me his boyfriend right away.”
According to Kroeyr, what made the day unbearable was his attacker’s next proclamation: he had HIV.
“I fell down and went hysterical … he left,” Kroeyr said. “I made a brave move later to go back and get everything I could that had personal information on it, like my social security number and things like that. I was just afraid that they could have used that for other reasons and I didn’t realize the kind of people I was dealing with. I went to a mail carrier that I knew in Ferndale and she took me to a Royal Oak hospital, Beaumont. They did a rape kit on me and gave me HIV drugs to take.”
Kroeyr was able to avoid contracting the virus, but said that the emotional trauma he suffered took years of therapy to work through. However, arguably his greatest steps to healing happened only in the last couple of years, when he regularly began attending the Unitarian Church’s writing workshop and he “began to find his voice.”
“I felt comfortable because it’s a Unitarian church and it’s LGBT-friendly. That’s the reason I started to go,” he said.
The club, open to all members of the community, was founded as a way for people with an interest in writing to have a supportive group of fellow authors-to-be to provide positive reinforcement, thoughtful criticism and a little well-meaning deadline pressure. Kroeyr began to delve into his past, and, eventually, to begin to tackle head-on an event that had haunted him for more than two decades.
“It took nine months, trying to put it into words on paper in a format that wouldn’t be too graphic,” he said. “It took time trying to write it and making it where more people could read it. It gets to the point.”
And although the book has been out for a few months already, Kroeyr said that speaking publicly to the congregation was another small way in which he demonstrated his strength.
“I really feel passionate to write this story,” Kroeyr said. “He went to jail, but because I didn’t get the virus he would have gotten manslaughter. I didn’t get the virus that he got less charges and got out. I’ve learned to be strong and not let that tear me up.”
The Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church’s Writing Workshop meets the second and fourth Monday each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. It is free and open to the public and located at 17150 Maumee Ave., Grosse Pointe. More information can be found online at gpuuc.org/adult-religious-education.html. Readers interested in purchasing can do so on Amazon at gaybe.am/tZ.