As a 9-year-old, Patrick Dati's life changed forever when serial killer John Wayne Gacy raped him in the men's bathroom of the now defunct Goldblatt's department store on a winter morning in January 1972.
It took Dati, who is openly gay, 35 years to reveal this information; he details that event as well as other events that have shaped his life in his debut book, I Am Me: Survivor of Child Abuse and Bullying Speaks Out.
The genesis of the book began about six years ago when Dati's psychiatrist suggested that he write his thoughts down in a diary so he could release therapeutically what he'd gone through. Dati started writing the diary; then about three-and-a-half years ago his best friend and mentor Bob, who is a writer, asked to read and review his diary. About three weeks later Dati got together with Bob, who insisted that Dati's story would be a New York Times bestseller that would help save lives if he turned his diaries into a book.
"In March of last year Bob retired from his job and he offered to take on the manuscript again," said Dati. "He knows me better than anyone else in my life. We found a technical writer who could take the manuscript and translate it into a book format. From there we found a publisher and the book has been out for about three weeks. I've had a number of people reach out to me and thank me for the book already."
The book begins with a prologue where Dati shares how Bob, who is also gay, helped him break free from the constraints that Dati's family and society put on him. Dati also recounts the years of anti-gay abuse and bullying that he faced at the hands of his older brother, Marco, beginning at the age of 5 as well as what happened to him on that fateful day when Gacy raped him.
Dati chose the title of his book because "I am finally myself after all of these years." He prefers to think of himself as a survivor, not a victim.
"I really appreciate the opportunity I've been given to be a voice for the LGBT community by sharing my story," said Dati.
The most important lessons Dati wants readers to glean from reading his memoir is not to hide who you really are as a gay person because by being closeted he made his life miserable. "I wanted to please the people who I thought loved me," said Dati.
With the book Dati also wants to be the voice of all of the Gacy victims who lived and feel like they can't come forward about what Gacy did to them. He has heard from two of Gacy's victims who found Dati's website and reached out to him via Facebook to thank him for what he is doing, however, they haven't come forward.
"Eighty-five percent of men and boys don't come forward about being abused. I want to show them don't be ashamed, don't be fearful of what people think and come forward. You can survive this," said Dati.
Through his website www.youandmecanstopbullies.com, Dati noted that he has heard from many people who have been bullied, abused and/or molested/raped.
An advocate for several organizations, Dati does a radio show once a month for the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse and is a member of the speakers bureau of Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network [RAINN]." Where I lead with my advocacy is to tell people that it gets better and you need to have hope," said Dati.
"My technical writer does social work with individuals such as myself and what we are looking to do is an educational book for parents, teachers and the general public about the warning signs to look for when a child has been abused or bullied," said Dati of his future writing plans. "For example, after Gacy raped me in the third grade my grades dropped and that caused me to have to repeat third grade. I developed obsessive compulsive disorder [which wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult] as a result of the rape."
Along with his desire to continue writing, Dati has plans to become a public speaker.
Today Dati shares his life with his partner, Greg, and his 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage to a woman. "My life is amazing. It will be two years in August 2014 since I met Greg. We met on a Sunday when I took a bike ride along the lakeshore to clear my mind since I was writing my book at the time; I thought I had finished my last chapter, which is different now," said Dati.
Dati will be holding book signings at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., on Feb. 21 at 6-9 p.m., and the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., on March 22 at 12-3 p.m.
I Am Me is available in both book and Kindle formats at amazon.com and at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway. Visit www.youandmecanstopbullies.com for more information about the book and Dati.