Troy JÃ³nsson stepped on to the Mr Gay World stage as a perfect pin up; handsome, athletic, intelligent, caring, confident. Nobody knew his secret.
He was raped as a 12-year-old boy by one of his brother’s friends.
Now he’s spoken to Gay Star News about that terrible day. It’s a story he has never even hinted about to anyone else in the world – not his friends, his brothers, his parents or his boyfriend.
JÃ³nsson, 27 now lives in Iceland, the country he represented in Mr Gay World.
But this story takes him back 15 years, to his childhood in Connellsville, a small town 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
‘I was definitely not out at that period. I didn’t come out until my senior year at high school. There were a lot of issues in the high school due to prejudice.
‘I wasn’t the most popular kid at school. I was a little chunky I guess, I was way out of shape and I had this blond hair that was very puffy. It was very easy for me to get picked on and my hidden sexuality made it even worse.’
By contrast the teenager who would attack him was one of the popular kids. He was about two-and-a-half years older than Troy and one of a group of friends who hung out with his brother.
One day, he was getting ready for a night out at the JÃ³nsson family home.
‘The guy was getting dressed and the others were downstairs and he asked “what do I look like?” and I said “it looks good” or “it looks cute” and he gave me this weird look.’
That night, the teenager had spent the night at the JÃ³nsson’s but had a lie in rather than go out for breakfast with Troy’s brother and the rest of their friends.
‘I stayed at home as I really wasn’t friends with my brother’s friends and he was still sleeping and he woke up.
‘He was hard and he grabbed my hand and shoved it in his pants and I thought “oh god, what’s going on?”. And I saw something in his eyes and the look he gave me was “I hope he goes with it, I hope he does – because if not it’s going to be bad news, he’s going to say something”.
‘I grabbed him because he was making me and was thinking I don’t think I can do this but then people came back downstairs and he jumped and that was the first incident. I ran out, I can’t remember where, probably to one of my friends.’
But a few days later, the teen was around their house again and found another opportunity to get Troy on his own. This time, he went much further.
‘He pretty much did the same thing. He was just saying “go with it” and I was saying “no” and he said it wouldn’t hurt and I was saying “no”. I was saying I don’t think I can.
‘He told me “just bend over, bend over” and I said “no, no” and he put his hand on my shoulder and bent me over and said “I promise it won’t hurt, just try it”. And he had inserted and I was like, “this really hurts, I can’t do with it” but he kept repeating “just go with it, just go with it”.’
The rape lasted less than five minutes.
‘He was in control, he was “just go with it, it’s not going to hurt, stop complaining”. But you could see how scared he was. He was very afraid he would be discovered.
‘I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know anything about sex, I was just 12. I don’t think I even knew what I was, what my sexuality was. I was probably scared too, thinking “oh my god, someone is going to come in and think I’m doing something”.’
What followed was 15 years of silence from Troy.
‘He still hung out with my brother and I never said anything because I didn’t want anyone to know something like that.
‘It has had such an affect because every time I get depressed or sad or upset or angry I think about that. It was so traumatic it haunts me to this day.
‘Whenever I had a boyfriend and was going to have sex with them, that pops into my head. That’s all I could think about at first. It was hard for me to have affection with my boyfriends because it was in the back of my mind.
‘I felt so reserved and I am an open person and I like to tell everybody everything. I don’t know why I held it in for so long. I feel like it was defeating me.’
He chose to speak to Gay Star News because, as a regular reader, he wants his story to help more people than it would if he just shared it on his own social media.
‘I am really pleased to be able to talk about it now. The truth sets you free, they say, and if I held onto it for any longer, maybe I would explode.
‘I was never afraid to tell my brothers, my parents. It was just I wasn’t ready to tell them. I knew they would support me, my brothers are my biggest protectors.
‘They know I love them and although this is a traumatic experience they can see what I’ve been doing with my life, that I’m happy, that I continue to grow and they know I’m a fighter. I have a deep passion for success, to better myself as a person, to help other people and for gay rights.
‘Whenever you fall in love, I want to say it starts to go away because you have a person you can rely on, a person that’s there for you. I am taken, happily, but my boyfriend doesn’t even know about this either so I think he will be a bit shocked when he hears about this.’
Being a survivor matters to Troy. One of his heroes is Oprah Winfrey – who also survived sexual assault as a child. He has a tattoo of her date of birth just below his rib cage, under his left arm.
JÃ³nsson hasn’t just survived but thrived. In the years that followed, he took up tennis and, as his athletic abilities grew, so did his confidence. He now trains CrossFit and is hoping to compete in regionals in 2015.
He also developed a passion for music. He now does hip hop, mainly rap and RnB. His first album is almost ready and he hopes to release it in 2015 with some collaborations from Icleand’s biggest stars. He’s auditioning soon for Iceland’s Got Talent.
And JÃ³nsson won the Sports Challenge at the Mr Gay World contest this year.
‘It was a crazy experience, one of the best experiences of my life. I got to meet people from all around the world, to learn what it’s like to be gay around the world by hearing their stories and to represent my country, Iceland.’
Taking part in the competition boosted his confidence – it’s partly because of that he feels he can share his story now.
‘Does it haunt me? Yes. But it’s about how far I have come and how happy I am. The most important thing is I’m a survivor.
‘People need to see that and by reaching out to a publication – many, many more people can see that. This is happened to so many people around the world and I’m more than happy to speak out about it and reach out to them. I want to be out there and this known so if they have any fears they can come to me and I will be able to help them, any way I can.’
And he has a message for his rapist.
‘I forgive you. If you don’t forgive someone who hurts you they keep power over you and that’s what he’s been doing for 15 years.
‘I have decided not to mention his name. Because people make mistakes in life, they deserve a second chance, and I’m giving him that second chance. When he does read this, and I’m sure he will hear about it because it’s a very small town, I want him to know I forgive him.’
If you have been affected by rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence or related issues, there are links to support and help services around the world here.