On sexual assault
I want to talk to you about sexual assault, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to throw around words like “trigger” and “victim” and “victim-shaming”. I don’t even feel like I have any right to talk about it. Except that’s part of the problem. I have every right to speak about these things. And the recent news is absolutely a trigger for me, and countless other women. And we are victims, and we are so often shamed. These are facts.
When I was only 12, I vividly remember walking down a street with my then-best friend. It was summer, and we wore jean shorts and t-shirts. We were honked at and cat-called. I admit we giggled about it.
In grade 10 keyboarding class, there was a boy who constantly felt me up. He’d say the dirtiest things, smiling while he said them, like they were compliments. And every time I walked by, he’d touch my butt, or graze a breast.
When in grade 11, I got drunk at a party in someone’s basement, and a grade 12 guy pulled me by my hair up the stairs. He said that he was tired of my flirting, so he was going to give me what I’d been asking for. I had never spoken to him in my life. If a friend hadn’t caught the whole thing happening and stepped in, I really have no idea what may have happened.
In grade 12, I went to a guy’s apartment where he forced himself on me, only to be stopped by the doorbell. How mortifying it was to see someone I knew at the door — a guy I’d grown up with who made a comment to the guy I was with that he was, “Lucky you got in those pants”. I left immediately, but the next time he saw me in public, he shouted across a crowded mall that I was a slut. He actually added me on Facebook when it first started, can you imagine that? Thinking that nothing had happened?
I dated a boy who told me I had to do with him what the women in porn movies did because that’s how he’d know I really cared about him. I thought he was The One. He treated me like a princess and a possession, and I was just so confused.
In grade 12, a guy I thought was really cute whispered to me in math class that he would take me to prom if I let him f*ck me but not tell anyone. I declined, but every time he saw me, he would make lewd comments and hand gestures for the next year.
In university, I met a guy at a bar, and gave him my phone number. He was so polite the night I met him. He had walked me to a cab to make sure I was safe. Was gentlemanly. He called me the next day to see how I felt, and invited me on a date. We went out on a date, and smoked a joint together after dinner. I don’t know what was in that joint, but I blacked out and was suddenly in his truck in a dark parking lot, with him telling me, “You can suck my d*ck now.” He threatened to hurt me if I didn’t do what he wanted me to do. He called me names, and told me I was being a slut, and why would I let him drive me to a dark parking lot if I didn’t expect this? I got out of the truck, lost, confused and scared. It was a parking lot surrounded by trees and nowhere to go. I was crying, and had no idea what to do. I was so embarrassed. I suppose he eventually felt guilty, because he apologized, called me back to the truck and drove me home. And I thanked him for the ride.
When I lived in Toronto, I was frequently cat-called walking down the street. I lived in an apartment building on Vaughan Road at St. Clair, and whenever I parked my car, I dreaded the walk into my building because it was always peppered with sexual comments, usually about my ass.
I am a strong-willed, confident woman. I stand up for what I believe in, and I always have. I am, and always have been, the last person you may expect to sit back and allow these things to happen and yet, I did. Repeatedly. I thought these things were normal. I didn’t think they were right, but I didn’t tell anyone. Why didn’t I tell? I didn’t grow up seeing this in my family. My parents are respectful of one another, and my father treats all people with respect and dignity. There is nowhere to point the blame. There are only perpetrators.
I was embarrassed I had allowed these things to happen.
I was ashamed at the positions I had put myself in.
I was afraid of the repercussions.
I am still ashamed. Even now I feel like you’re judging me.
There are countless more reasons, I suppose. None any less worthy than the next.
We need to stop these things from happening.
We need to be the safe people for others to come to if and when these things happen.
It isn’t ok. It isn’t ok. It’s never going to be ok.