#MeToo: Al Chase

In 2012, I was sexually assaulted by Al Chase, a member of the IRNE Awards Committee and a theatre reviewer in the Greater Boston Area.

This assault was my first sexual experience. It caused me both emotional and physical trauma and years of self-hatred and sexual confusion.

I am not his first victim. According to the Boston University Police Department, Al is a repeat sexual offender. It is for this reason, and the likelihood of him assaulting someone else in the future, that I am speaking out. Al was someone I deeply trusted and loved as a mentor — he was like a second father to me. He met me after reviewing my first show at Boston University and quickly became a major part of my life. He invited me to Sunday luncheons he hosted with several young students (mostly men) from various schools in Boston/Cambridge to discuss a wide array of interesting topics and issues.

Al began to meet me outside of these luncheons and took me to plays, concerts, a baseball game, and restaurants. I was very innocent, and I found Al’s kindness and interest in my life to be special. I looked to Al for guidance on everything including religion, politics, family life, and romance. He encouraged me to expand my comfort zone and do things that scared me. He was the first person I opened up to with questions about sex and masturbation —something I was afraid to explore, and questions regarding my own sexuality. He even went out of his way to meet my immediate family members and close friends. I trusted Al above all others and he knew more about me than anyone else in my life.

On September 30, 2012, Al invited me to see a play in New York City called “Cock” with him; it is a play about a man exploring his sexuality. He told me to buy a specific red-eye bus ticket back to Boston at midnight, which I did. I didn’t think anything of it. He had taken me to plays before and I was looking forward to another opportunity to see a great show with him.

Instead of walking me to the bus after the play ended as I was expecting, Al got onto the bus with me. This surprised me as he didn’t mention he was coming back to Boston with me. As we entered the bus, Al was explaining Stockholm Syndrome to me: feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.

As I took a seat in a booth section on the virtually-empty Megabus, I expected Al to sit across from me, but he didn’t. He sat next to me; I immediately felt uncomfortable. I politely asked, “Would you mind sitting across from me?” He didn’t respond. I asked him a second time. Again, he gave no response. He was acting as if he didn’t hear me.

I thought about moving across to the other seats, but Al was blocking my way out. I figured I was overreacting, so I calmed myself down and fell asleep.

While I slept Al covered me with his large trench coat, like a blanket. I briefly woke up when he did this, but I went back to sleep soon afterwards because I thought he was just being nice. Then I felt his hand lightly touch my thigh. I kept my eyes shut. I didn’t want to cause a scene and make things awkward between us, so I acted like I was still sleeping. I moved my body to the side, as if I were turning in my sleep, and was able to slip away from his hand. Despite my efforts, Al’s hand returned to my thigh. He slowly slid his fingers towards my crotch and eventually gripped my penis.

Al proceeded to give me a hand job. Despite my best efforts to control myself, I got an erection. I have never felt so ashamed and helpless in my life. This was my first sexual experience.

I remember at one point grabbing his arm to move his hand away. I remember doing this a few times, sometimes without grabbing anything at all; it was as if his hand was still there.

I froze up. An intense buzzing sensation surged through my limbs and face; everything began to go numb. I struggled with general motor functions and the ability to move my body; I later learned that this is a common bodily fight/flight response to traumatic events.

When we arrived in Boston a couple of hours later, I grabbed my bag and began to quickly limp towards the exit; my legs were still numb. Al chased me down and asked me what was wrong. He tried to gaslight me by acting like nothing had happened, but I managed to squeak out, “You know what you did.” He acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about, and for a moment I thought it was all in my head. But then he admitted it; it was real.

I screamed. I quickly limped out of the station to a nearby cab driver. He asked why I was crying, and I told him that my mentor had assaulted me.

“Why didn’t you hit him?” he asked.

“I don’t know…I couldn’t move.”

“You are a pussy. You need to learn how to be a real man and defend yourself. If you couldn’t fight him, it’s your own fault.”

I thought something was wrong with me. I felt not only violated but emasculated. I was ashamed of myself. Unable to move my legs, the driver pushed me out of the cab and left me on the side of the street crying in a fetal position.

This incident was immediately reported to the police thanks to my friend and hero, Cassie, who helped me after I got away from Al. Without her calling the police for me, as I was unable to talk at this point, I never would have told anyone. A police officer later told me Al was on file as a repeat sexual offender.

A warrant for Al’s arrest went out that day, but he fled the country—flying to Europe for several days. When he returned he was arrested but soon afterwards was released on bail. I am posting his docket number for reference and proof: 1202CR004536

The impact this had on my emotional health was severe. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I was deathly afraid to tell my friends and family what was going on; I didn’t want people to think I was less of a man, or thinking I was gay. I began receiving support from Maureen Mahoney, a therapist and director of BU’s Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center.

In the week following the assault, blood came out from my penis. I admitted myself into the student health center but could only be seen by a male doctor. I did not want another man touching me, but he was the only doctor on site. Many of the same numbing sensations returned as I became paralyzed with fear of another man touching me. According to the doctor, the blood was a stress-induced injury from the assault and would stop eventually.

After I returned from my semester abroad in 2013, I was asked to come to the Boston Municipal Court as a witness to deliver my victim impact statement. I unfortunately never got the chance. The court date moved several times, I assume due to Al’s lawyers. My victim witness advocate changed, I lost track of the changing court dates, and I never knew what happened to the case. I capped my feelings and moved on with my life.

In 2014, I performed in New Repertory Theatre’s production of “Assassins.” In the Boston Globe, I’m quoted as saying I was sick during our preview weekend. This was not the whole truth; I was sick with fear and anxiety knowing that Al Chase was reviewing my performance in the audience. His presence in the Boston theatre scene was a major reason why I decided to leave the city.

In 2015, Al Chase found me while I was working at 2econd Stage Theatre in NYC. He made a comment to me saying, “I figured you’d be working on this project,” which made me concerned that he may have been stalking me. While he attempted to claim that he has a condition where he “does things in his sleep,” I held my ground and demanded he get help; he said he was. I also made him promise that he would stop pursuing young people in Boston and never do what he did to me to another person. He gave me his word.

While I shouldn’t have trusted him, his promise gave me a sense of peace. If Al said he wasn’t going to do it again, it meant I didn’t have to worry about other young people getting hurt. The responsibility to keep people safe and away from him was lifted off my shoulders, or so I thought.

In November of this past year, I was contacted via Facebook by Ilana Brownstein, one of my professors from Boston University. She told me “current actors are feeling targeted by” a theatre reviewer who was “being skeevy.” She told me his name was Al Chase. After two years of keeping Al and the assault from my consciousness, I was suddenly triggered. I became overwhelmed with guilt and fear that Al may be planning to hurt someone else.

I spiraled into a massive anxiety attack, a deep depression, and hurt the people I loved most. I eventually sought out therapy, the first help I’d received since I was assaulted, and have been working through the pain I had been suppressing for over 5 years.

Earlier this year, I reached out to Maureen Mahoney to find out if she knew what happened to the case. She learned that Al’s charges were ultimately dismissed. We did not learn why, but we imagine this was most likely due to no witnesses being present and testifying.

I never wanted to make a public statement, primarily for fear of public persecution and non-acceptance; however, sharing this story is more important than my pride. I am willing to accept the blows to my personal image if it means I prevent another assault from happening in the future.

Before the #MeToo movement I privately reached out to directors, actors, and educators in Boston to warn them about Al Chase. Nothing has changed and he is still at large. I realize now that my efforts behind closed doors have not been working and it is imperative I speak out in a public forum. I share my story in the hopes of riding the #MeToo movement and putting a definitive end to Al’s pattern of sexual assault.

I also share this story to bring more light onto male sexual assault. There are many people I have seen who look past the allegations against Kevin Spacey, but condemn the crimes of Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, et al. 1 in 14 men are sexually assaulted in the United States alone, and that number will likely climb as more men decide to speak out. I share my story to stand in solidarity with these men.

Al Chase is a repeat sexual offender. I believe it is only a matter of time before he hurts someone else. While the court of law has been working in his favor, I strongly encourage immediate action by the Boston theatre community.

I call upon the Boston theatre community to demand Al Chase’s removal from the IRNE Awards committee. I implore all theaters in the Greater Boston area to refuse entry to Al Chase to prevent him from targeting vulnerable, young actors and creative artists. I recommend all educational facilities in the Boston area to keep Al away from your campuses, social events, and students. Most of all, please share this story with all those concerned—especially those within the Boston community. Prevention is the best form of care.

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