Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve certainly heard the news this week about a certain Canadian media member being accused of sexual assault by several women. As a result, discussions have cropped up about consent and anonymity. And, as could be expected, questions have surfaced about why none of these women went to the police.
I must first admit that I’ve wrestled with writing this all week. It’s never easy to come forward when you’ve been silent for so long. But sometimes certain issues come to light, or certain discussions arise that make you feel like you can’t be quiet any longer.
What I’m about to say is something only a handful of people know.
What I’m about to say is something I’ve never told my family.
What I’m about to say is something I’ve never told most of my closest friends.
I don’t know Jian Gomeshi. I’ve never met him. But I do know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted, because I was sexually assaulted.
The first incident happened seven years ago. I was at a Halloween party organized by a friend’s boyfriend at a bar on Crescent. I had been drinking, and didn’t know many people at the party. I’ve never had trouble meeting and talking to new people, and so this wasn’t much of a concern for me. I met a group of people that I began chatting with. When they invited me to come back to their apartment for an after-party, I foolishly agreed.
Red flag #1. I didn’t know these people. I had been drinking. I shouldn’t have gone with them. But I did.
When I arrived at the apartment a few blocks away, I excused myself to go to the washroom. When I came out, only two people remained. One girl, and one guy. Red flag #2. She lived across the hall, she said, and was going home to bed. She left, and I was left alone with this guy. Red flag #3. The guy and I chatted about nothing of consequence, and soon found ourselves kissing. I eventually stopped him, realizing that this was not something I wanted to do, and he was gracious... At first.
As I got up to fetch my coat, he tried to kiss me again. I tried to politely decline, explaining that I didn’t know him and needed to go home. That’s when he grabbed me and pushed me into his bedroom. He forcefully kissed me, and pushed me down onto his bed, pinning my wrists above his head. I squirmed, but he was much stronger than I was. I repeatedly asked him to stop, but he didn’t listen. He grinded his pelvis against me, and I could feel his obvious excitement on my hip. I panicked and mustered up all my drunken strength to push him off of me. I quickly gathered my belongings and rushed out of there.
I headed back to the bar where the party was, and saw a friend at the door. I was visibly shaken and upset. I told him what had happened, and he convinced me to call the cops. We went to his apartment to call the police and wait for them to arrive. I didn’t want to talk about what had just happened, but I felt like it was my responsibility to do so. I figured the cops would have my back.
When the police arrived, I explained what had happened. I couldn’t remember specific details like the address or the apartment number. I just knew it was somewhere downtown, a few blocks from Crescent. I had moved from the south shore to Montreal only a few months prior, and didn’t know my way around the city very well yet.
“You’ve been drinking this evening, miss?”
“And you went back to his apartment?”
“You know that guys have expectations when you agree to go back to their house.”
“And you’ve been drinking. Maybe you changed your mind. But men have expectations.”
The rest of my discussion with the cops wasn’t much more helpful than that. They decided that since “nothing” actually happened, and since I couldn’t recall where the guy lived, that there was no sense in filing a report. So I didn’t.
A year and a half ago, I was out at a bar downtown in early May watching a Habs playoff game with some friends. I didn’t have a bus pass that month, and decided to walk home after the game. It was about an hour walk, and I opted to use a busy, well-lit street as my route of choice.
When I was just a few blocks from my house, a man began making obscene comments at me. Given the fact that it was late at night, and I had no interest in this belligerent stranger in the street, I ignored him and kept walking. He approached me, blocking my path. I muttered something about not being interested and wanting to go home. He pulled a knife out of his pocket and held it to my throat. I looked around, and there were no cars or pedestrians in sight. He forced me behind a closed grocery store, pushed me face-first against a brick wall. I do not wish to get into details, but suffice it to say that what happened next was something I definitely did NOT consent to.
When it was over, I collapsed to the ground. By the time I had gathered myself, he was gone. I walked the rest of the way home. But I did not call the cops. I did not file a report. (NOTE: I did make sure to get myself checked out medically in the days that followed. I’ve been diligent since to ensure that everything checked out and there were no long-term negative effects to my physical well being.)
Physically, I am fine. But I’m far from okay. Nothing has ever been the same. I don’t trust men in the same way that I used to. I’ve had a series of dysfunctional relationships with unavailable men ever since. I’m addressing it, and dealing with it, but I’m a work in progress.
I’ve never spoken up about what happened because I thought people wouldn’t believe me. I’ve never spoken up about this because I didn’t want my father to find out what had happened to his little girl. I’ve never spoken up about this because I was drinking both of the times that I was sexually assaulted. Because I was walking alone late at night. Because I was wearing a skirt. Because I put myself in situations that I shouldn’t have. I’ve never spoken up because I’ve felt dirty, ashamed, and humiliated. But I am speaking up now because what I’ve finally realized, after all this time, is that it wasn’t my fault. I did absolutely nothing to deserve being sexually assaulted.
This is my story. I am one of many. I understand why women don’t come forward. I understand why women don’t go to the police. I am one of those women. I have chosen not to let myself be a victim, but rather to move on with my life and be awesome. That’s the only way that I feel like I can regain control.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to talk about the “big stuff”. If something really gigantic happens, or if something is really bothering me, the odds are good that I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t particularly want to be talking about it right now.
But I’m putting my name to a story for the women who can’t. I’m coming forward for the women who can’t. To them I say, I understand. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should handle yourself after being sexually assaulted. Only you can decide what’s the best way for you to deal with it, and what’s the best way for you to heal.
There is no right or wrong.
I support you and whatever you decide.
I am with you.
I am you.