(Editor's note: The following contains strong subject matter some may find difficult to read.)
PLATTSBURGH - In the early morning of Nov. 19, Christopher Rigsbee and his girlfriend, Darcel Downing, had planned to walk to a friend's house from a downtown bar. Instead, they ended up in the emergency room of CVPH Medical Center.
"[We were] just on Broad Street walking to a friend's house," Rigsbee recalled. "We just wanted to eat chicken wings. We were both assaulted by people that are at large. It was a gang assault."
Rigsbee explained as they were walking, a group of guys called him "hateful, homophobic names," and he approached them.
"They pushed me and of course I was a little drunk and pushed back," he said. "That was when they punched me."
While Rigsbee was being assaulted, his girlfriend tried to break up the fight.
"She tried to pull some of the guys off me while she was screaming at them to stop," he said. "One of the guys punched her in the face. So, needless to say, she backed up and just tried to scream for help. No one came out of their homes."
Rigsbee said during the assault, his glasses fell to the ground, making it difficult for him to see and defend himself.
"[They] ended it with grabbing the back of my head and bashing it against the sidewalk," he said. "The dentist had to pull bits of gravel out of my gums and bits of shattered teeth."
Rigsbee, who has no health insurance, said he lost three teeth, with a fourth one probably going to need to be pulled in the near future.
"This is just the beginning of what seems like it's going to be months and maybe a couple years of dental procedures," he said.
After Rigsbee's friend, Matt Hall, heard of the assault, he began planning an assault awareness event, to be held Thursday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m. at the Koffee Kat. The event is free, although donations will be accepted to offset some of Rigsbee's medical bills.
"We didn't want to just have it be a benefit or fundraiser," Hall said. "I also want to create a public forum where people can come and talk about their experiences and situations like this."
"More of my female friends on campus have been raped than have not been raped," he added. "It's just disgusting."
The event, which Hall hopes will bring people out to open up and share their stories with others, will also feature music by For the Kid in the Back, and Team Grease.
"I want people to be able to come and share things, but I also want to have a nice, fun, relaxing event," he said.
Hall said he's also hoping those who have never been affected by some form of assault will also attend this event.
"I just want community members to come and talk about these things because I feel the only way that anyone can fearlessly come out and speak about them is if they have the support of the community."
Rigsbee said he's still dealing with his assault on a daily basis.
"I had to take two weeks out of work," he said. "[Darcel] had to leave school for a couple days because she couldn't be around guys that fit the profile. It's still pretty hard."
"I'm happy that [Matt's] bringing the awareness in the community, because I was unaware," Rigsbee added of Hall's event. "I didn't know that I needed to protect myself in any form. I'm now carrying mace. I never thought I would have to do that. Now, I realize what the world is and I have to prepare differently for it."
Both Rigsbee and Hall agreed those people who may not want to come out and share their story should still speak to someone about what they may have gone through.
"If someone doesn't want to come down and share with us publicly in that type of forum, definitely take the time and share with people you trust, like your family, your significant other, people that you do feel safe with," said Rigsbee. "As difficult as it is to talk about whatever happened, it is healing to not be the only one carrying that."
Anyone with information that may help Rigsbee's case is asked to call the City of Plattsburgh Police Department at 563-3411. Callers may remain anonymous.
"There are a lot of assaults that are still open cases," said Rigsbee.
For more information about the assault awareness event, contact Hall at getoffoftheinternet@gmail. com or call 315-708-4179.