May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month here in Canada. This includes sexual violence; it’s anything that uses sex in a way violates someone’s body, their choices, their sense of safety and control, and takes away their power. It’s also something that is terrifying to speak out about, but today I’m sharing my own story on here.
When I was younger, I had this friend that I had a crush on. We were close friends, and spent quite a bit of time together – we worked together & hung out with the same people. One night we were hanging out at my apartment, and started making out. One thing led to another, and we ended up on my bed fooling around. However, he did not have a condom, and I did not want to have sex with him. I told him this, many times. He would nod, but then a few seconds later, get on top of me and try and push his penis inside me like he hadn’t heard me or got so “caught up in the moment” he forgot. He said sex wasn’t a big deal and I should just learn to enjoy it. After the second time he tried, and managed to get a bit in, I was able to actually get out of the bed. But I was so young, I didn’t really understand that what he did was wrong . He apologized, I didn’t tell anyone, and we acted like nothing happened.
Women are taught to be nice. To not rock the boat. To be pliant and submissive and think of others’ feelings first. We’re taught to put other’s needs before our own, and that’s what makes us a “good girl”. We’re not supposed to set boundaries or say what we need – and to never say it without apologizing for being an inconvenience. We’re taught to believe we’re not worthy of having our own needs met. And we’re shamed, either publicly or in our personal relationships, when we break those rules.
Shame is so deeply ingrained in us that even when it’s not our fault, that’s the first place our minds go. Even today I can hear the doubts… “what were you doing there in the first place? You were making out with almost no clothes on – what did you think would happen? Why didn’t you just get up & leave?” But here’s the thing – this was someone I considered a friend. Someone I had talked to, shared secrets with, laughed with, trusted. I wanted to believe the best in him. I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t know that I had the right to kick him out of my bed, my room, my house – but what if I tried and he got angry? Or didn’t leave? It felt safer just to brush it off, play along, and smile.
I wish I could say that’s the last time it happened, but unfortunately it’s not. Different men, different situations, but the same sense of entitlement. Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are not about just sex. They are about power and the entitlement to take power away from someone. It’s about the feeling of being able to do whatever they want, and that they have the right to do so. Our society accepts this, even perpetrates it. It’s in questioning what the survivor was doing to “make” it happen, in making them “prove” it happened, and in making the entire process easier on the monster who violated someone’s power, trust, body and sense of self.
So to all the men out there who think she’s just “teasing” or “playing hard to get” & that you can do what you want anyways… fuck you. Fuck you for thinking you have the right to do whatever you want, to who ever you want. Fuck you for the PTSD that still rears it’s head almost a decade later. Fuck you for making me feel ashamed in myself, my body, my sexuality. And fuck you for being able to get away with it, unscathed.
I wish little girls were brought up to put their own needs before others. And that rather than abstinence, were taught about all the different things that can happen, both good and bad, in any sexual encounter. And I wish they knew that no matter what happens, it was not their fault.
The above image from the Calgary Center Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA). They are a great resource here in Calgary for anyone who needs support dealing with sexual violence. They have long term services, as well as a distress line you can call (the number is(403) 237-5888 in Calgary, 1-877-237-5888 toll-free in Alberta). They will also be hosting two local workshops this month – you can find out more info here.
As a note, this is in no way a sponsored post – I used to volunteer at CCASA, & my entire psych degree was based around supporting survivors of sexual violence. This is a topic I feel very deeply and strongly about.