I’m writing this in the dead of the night, trying to be quiet, making sure to not wake my fiance. I can’t sleep because it’s been two years to the day since one of my closest friends decided to rape me – because hey, he was drunk and he just really wanted me.
I’ve decided to write, again, about life and its bullshit. Maybe I just think that people actually care to read things like this, and it’s not just being thrown out into the void. I’m probably wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway. If you don’t care, here’s your cue to leave.
It’s been difficult to stay afloat lately, with the #MeToo movement and the exposure of more and more sexual predators every day. I am so glad that it is happening, and I hope that society can learn from a time like this… but it’s just so hard to handle. Everywhere I turn, there are reminders. Reminders of what exactly?
*** Strongest possible content warning: graphic descriptions of sexual harassment and assault ***
Talking about all the ‘hardships’ I’ve been through feels selfish, there are clearly people that have endured much worse than I. But…
The first time I was assaulted I was 17 years old. I’d naively trusted a stupid boy from school enough to go to his house. We were hanging out in the back yard, and he decided that he wanted to touch me, despite my insistence that I didn’t want to. No one was there to hear me, so he shoved his hand in my pants and whipped his penis out. I told myself that it was my fault for being there, for not fighting back harder, and for letting him do it.
Flash forward to first year. A guy from calculus wants to hang out after class, and I naively assume that he genuinely likes me, so I say why not. I asked him where he wanted to hang out, and he said he knew a place. He took me to the basement of the physics building, under a stairway that no one ever went by, with a couch underneath (for whatever reason, I still don’t know). My mind told me to run, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I stayed. I told him I wasn’t really interested when he started kissing me, but he continued, and before I had the time to react, he was shoving my face down onto his penis. I struggled but I couldn’t get away, so I let him finish and I ran back to rez.
Going into third year, I was worried about money. OSAP had screwed me, and I didn’t have any money to eat or live. So I reached out to faculty on campus, looking for anyone who needed help. I did find someone, willing to pay me under the table to help with “papers and things”. I was desperate, and needed to eat, so I believed him. I even stupidly went to drop papers off to his home when he asked me to. I was stupid. It was my fault. I could never have imagined what he had in store for me.
He asked me to come inside, and when I did step inside, he locked the door behind me and that was the beginning of the end. He raped me, and then he paid me for the papers. I didn’t know what to think. I’d gone there of my own free will and I’d taken his money, so I decided that it was on me. He started calling me. Intimidating me. Threatening me. He said that he’d ruin my university education. He told me he’d tell the police I’d accepted money for prostitution. I changed my number, but still, he found me again.
He demanded that I continue to work for him, and so.. with no other options (I thought), I did. I would do exactly as he said, and each week he’d have me driven to a high-rise condo in London, where men would take turns raping me while the man’s wife “kept me presentable” and attractive. I suffered chemical burns. I suffered haemorrhaging. I was overcome with guilt, knowing that I shouldn’t be letting this happen. I made up lies when friends asked what was going on. I couldn’t jeopardize my future, right? University is everything. He’d pay me enough to feed myself for the week, and in taking the money, I knew I had no right to do anything about what was happening. I was complicit. Clearly it was my choice. Eventually I mustered the courage to get out of there, asked a friend to go with me to confront them, and I was given hush money and told to shut up and never speak about what happened. Not that I felt I could. Because in my mind, I was disgusting. I had let this happen.
Riding a city bus, a man cornered me in a seat, stroking my leg and telling me how pretty I was. I laughed nervously, pulled away, and thanked him for the compliment. I got off the bus at the terminal, and he followed me. I got on another bus, and he followed me. I jumped off that second bus with no warning, no where close to home, and I managed to be rid of him. I had to walk an hour home, barefoot – because my heels had cut into my feet, all because I’d been too afraid to yell out for a bus driver at the risk of seeming impolite, of offending him or making him angry, or to get off anywhere near my home and be followed there, too.
I got drunk watching a movie with an acquaintance from my psychology class. I was in and out of being coherent. He fucked me anyway. I barely remember most of it, it’s black and it’s fuzzy. But hey, I didn’t have the capacity to fight, right?
I spent the evening with one of my closest friends out for drinks for his birthday. He offered his couch, and I passed out at his house, watching TV. I woke up with him inside me. I froze, and he didn’t know that I’d woken up. He finished, and wrote me a note saying that I’d fallen asleep and to come find him when I woke up. I huddled in the corner of the room, too poor to cab home, and with it being too far of a walk. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone in the middle of the night, so I stayed huddled, fully dressed in my coat, until the morning buses started running, and I ran for my life while he was still asleep,
It was 6:30 in the morning in downtown Kitchener when I was walking from the terminal to work. A man started following me, complimenting me, trying to hinder my passage, asking if I wanted to spend time with him. I told him thank you, but no, I needed to get to work. He continued to follow me, despite my insistence. He grabbed my ass, talking about how great it was. I ducked into Coffee Culture and stayed there, while he stood outside, speaking with another guy, clearly waiting for me. Eventually he left, and I ran the rest of the way to work and called the police.
I decided to walk the 10 minutes from my house to the grocery store and grab some things. Simple walk, one long block away. A walk I’ve done dozens, maybe even hundreds, of times. An older man started walking next to me on the sidewalk, asking what was good to eat around here, that he’s visiting from Italy. I tell him, and start to walk faster. He keeps up with me, telling me how attractive I am, and insisting that we get coffee. I tell him that I’m busy, and engaged, but he doesn’t really seem phased. He followed me into the grocery store, even, and grabbed me by the arm as he asked an employee for a pen to write down my number. He pulled out his phone, and told me he’d need to test the number to make sure he got it right. Finally, when he was looking away, I dashed to the back of the store, feeling ridiculous but afraid, hiding between canned vegetable displays.
These are the instances I can remember right now. They aren’t all of them.
Have you noticed the trend here? Of me being too afraid of men to be impolite, or rude. To say no. To fight. To try to just “wait it out” or “deal with it” until it’s over. And then blaming myself, because well, I could have stopped it. Couldn’t I have?
I’m afraid of men in general more than ever before. It’s been slowly building up over the years, but now I can’t be on the same side of a street, daytime or no, as a man if there’s no one else around. Every time a strange man looks at me or tries to talk to me, I get ready to run. Who can you trust? If you’ve seen the news, it seems like very few people.
I’m not special. This happens to millions of women every day. But that’s a problem, don’t you think?
If you’ve made it to this point… well, thank you. I appreciate your time.