Chicago resident Patrick Dati has been to hell and back. He nearly committed suicide twice. However, he lived to share his story, and now he's helping others heal from the pain of bullying and sexual abuse.
Dati told Windy City Times that he came from a strict, conservative Italian family. He said the family is extremely racist and homophobic: "It always confused and hurt me that they were like this."
"I was bullied by my brother" he added. "It began when I had bronchitis at 2. I was taken to the hospital, and I needed to get shots every week. My brother resented the attention I got and began to beat me daily."
"If Jeff's a faggot, then you must be too," Dati was told by his brother, in reference to a close childhood friend. "If Mike teases you, you kick his ass or I'll kick your ass."
However, the worst was yet to come. One day, while still a child, Dati found himself trapped in a locked public restroom with a man who put a knife to his throat and raped him. He was warned that if he ever spoke of the assault, he would be killed.
Later that day, his brother found him at home, hiding in the closet, crying. Young Dati endured yet another beating.
Years later, while watching news reports, he realized that his restroom attacker was the notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
"I nearly committed suicide over the guilt I felt about my silence, since he had killed 33 others," Dati now says. "I thought maybe I could have saved them if I had spoken up."
Dati expressed his disgust with the book about Gacy, Defending a Monster, which is now being optioned for a film: "It's awful. The book was written by Gacy's attorney. He's trying to benefit from defending a criminal who raped and killed. All he cares about is money."
Following his childhood, Dati had two failed marriages, one of which produced a daughter, now 15 years old. "She's the love of my life," he proclaims. When he finally came out as a gay man at age 41, his brother threatened to kill him, and he finally ended the relationships with his siblings. Of his marriages, he says. "I did what I thought I needed to do to be normal, to please my family. But I felt phony, depressed."
It was a long, hard road towards recovery. He's undergone years of therapy, which continues today. He's very close to his daughter, who has a friendly relationship with his siblings, which he accepts. He and his daughter do not speak of his past. His siblings consider him an embarrassment to the family.
Dati, now 48 years old, is happy at last. He lives as an out, proud gay man, and works diligently towards educating people about abuse and sexual violence. He's become an in-demand public speaker on these topics, and has appeared on network news shows to share his story and speak out against bullying. He holds down a full-time job in the marketing industry, where he's respected. "They've seen my television interviews, and they support me," he said of his employers and co-workers. "My life is incredible now. People write to me. I was able to help a woman who contacted me get help."
One of his proudest achievements is to have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a spokesperson for its 2012 National Trauma Campaign. He's also associated with the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse and RainnThe Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. He also said that a book is forthcoming, though the exact title of it has not yet been chosen.
"I'm doing exactly what I've dreamed of my whole life," Dati said. "I'm grateful to be helping other people."
For more information, visit www.youandmecanstopbullies.com .