‘I was sexually assaulted on campus.’ Assault is something that can happen on campus even between friends and peers. One student shares their story about how the University dealt with it.

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WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of rape and mention of suicide.

I was a Welcome Week representative in 2012, and I met John Doe*, a fellow rep, through some friends. We didn’t work directly together, but he hung out with us often. I thought he was funny, we had the same taste in music, but I never thought of him as anything more. My friends were close to him, and I liked my friends, so it all seemed great. It was after our fourth encounter with each other that he raped me.

It was the day of the Yates Cup. I had gone to a friend’s before the match for some drinks. I was happily drunk but felt the cold November wind hitting my cheeks as the game crept closer to half time. My friends texted me that they were at TwelvEighty and there was an extra seat for me.

As I entered TwelvEighty, I saw John and my friends. I had run out of money and waved my debit card around, asking for a drink. The bartender said that if I had no cash, I had to buy a pitcher in order to use my card. I did so and ended up drinking most of it.

John got up and stretched, and announced that he was going to go for a walk. I was beginning to feel nauseous and figured that joining him would be a good way to sober up. We walked until we found a stairwell. He sat on the stairwell while I fell on them. I remember his face getting closer to mine slowly. He kissed me and I could hear footsteps approaching. People passed by, the match was still going on. I felt exposed and uncomfortable.

I suggested to him that we should go into a private room. I wanted to talk and I wanted for us to be alone. I wasn’t thinking about kissing him more. To be honest, I genuinely wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, I was just drunk. I know I didn’t encourage him, but I clearly didn’t express myself as properly as I wished.

We went into a room in the arts quad basement. He turned off the light and I sat on the ground as standing had become too tricky.

He pulled his pants down and tried to shove himself into my mouth. I was frozen. Somewhere in the back of my mind the phrase “freeze, fight or flight” popped up, and I cursed myself for having the worst reaction.

“Get on that bench.” he said. At that point in time I was so dumbfounded that any short instruction seemed sensible. He pulled off my jeans. I realized what his intentions were, and mustered up the strength to cover myself with both of my hands and said loudly, “No. Stop. I don’t want to. No. Stop.”

I remember him pulling my hands away. He pressed his lips against mine, hard. I remember hearing him grunt, and the occasional loud cheer from TwelvEighty came through the walls. My insides were screaming for my body to get up, to punch, to do anything, but I was incapable of moving. I was scared of his strength. Not physical, as he was short and smaller than me, but his mental strength – the fact that he ignored my pleas frightened me.

Something began to buzz in the room: my friends whom I left outside at the game were attempting to find me. They kept calling. Eventually, he stopped. I had sobered up enough by then to hop off the piano bench, pull up my pants, pick up my phone. We left the room and he headed back to TwelvEighty while I made a beeline for MUSC. As I left he called out, “See you around, eh?”

Somewhere in the back of my mind the phrase “freeze, fight or flight” popped up, and I cursed myself for having the worst reaction. 

I went to the Student Centre and ran into my friends. The shock settled in minutes after and I told my friends what had happened. They took me to Shoppers to buy a Plan B.

The next few days blurred together. I showered for 45 minutes washing every inch of my skin, hoping that the harder I scrubbed, the less dirty I’d feel. I couldn’t sleep. School didn’t matter. I lived off-campus and I would leave the house earlier because I didn’t want to face my parents.

I told my friends later on that day. It was confusing to them because they knew him for years. They said they believed me, but within that week they also told me that he made a mistake and they would remain friends with him.

John Doe called me the very next day and told me he knew I told our mutual friends, and that I was wrong. He declared he did have consent because I took him to the private room. A few days after this, I was with a friend, who was also a good friend of John Doe, but was supporting me during this time. John Doe called me, and I put it on speaker so she could hear what he was saying. He warned me again not to tell anyone, and claimed I was being ridiculous. “Am I always supposed to ask a girl if she wants to have sex with me?” he said in a sarcastic tone. I was stunned. His friend looked at me with an unfathomable expression. I hung up.

My close friends were trying to convince me to report him, but even I was confused as to whether this was rape or not.

I even went to my old high school and confronted two of my closest teachers about what had happened. It hurt me to tell my friends and teachers. I’d see their faces register shock, worry, sadness, frustration, but I didn’t know what else to do. It felt as though I had such a big weight on my shoulders, and it had become too much for me to carry it by myself. I had to tell people who knew who I really was, who knew me before this happened, so I could cling onto my sense of self.

However, I also told people I regret telling. I shared what had happened with friends I wasn’t really close with. At the time, I thought that telling people would help bring some sense into this situation. However, the thoughts some shared with me confused me even more:

“Well, you did tell him to go into that room with you…”

“You were really drunk…”

“You are a super friendly person, so he just mistook that as flirting…”

“I’m not sure if this is considered rape because you probably enjoyed yourself once you started having sex, right?”

Another friend approached me at university one day and handed me a brochure explaining rape and that was when it finally clicked for me. I was raped. Some of my other close friends encouraged me to attend counselling, but it wasn’t until I saw the brochure that I did.

When telling the police, I had to replay every single thing in my mind. It felt like picking at the scabs of a wound that was trying to heal. We had to figure out how long John Doe and I were in the private room, and calculated that I was raped for 45 minutes. 

Two weeks after the incident, I went to see a counsellor in the Student Wellness Centre. My counsellor was nice enough but I felt rushed having to explain what had happened within my 30-minute time slot. It took me 10 minutes to stop crying. She referred me to the hospital and I headed there after my appointment.

Because I didn’t go there straightaway and had showered after being raped, they could not get his semen off my body. Instead, I underwent a physical exam and a mini counselling session. They took my urine sample and I had to take a pregnancy test. Afterwards, they gave me a handful of crushed up pills and water, telling me that these would wipe out any sort of STDs I could have contracted from him.

Within a month after it happened, I attempted suicide. To summarize it all into one sentence: I felt like a failure, like a used up rag that needed to be disposed. I am grateful that it was a botched attempt, and that I had friends around me who let me talk to them openly about it and made me realize it was not the way out.

One month after being raped, I contacted the city’s Sexual Assault unit and talked to a police officer on the phone. We arranged for them to meet me at a friend’s house, where they would interview me and fill out a report. At the time, that was the hardest thing I had to go through. When I told my friends or teachers what had happened, I was able to skip some parts. I was able to provide a summary. When telling the police, I had to replay every single thing in my mind. It felt like picking at the scabs of a wound that was trying to heal. We had to figure out how long John Doe and I were in the private room, and calculated that I was raped for 45 minutes.

I ended up going to the police station about a week afterwards and had an interview with the police. He said he met with John Doe and spoke with him. He asked if I wanted to take this to court, and added that it would take one year. I turned it down. I didn’t want this to drag on. Because I said no, it only says on John Doe’s profile that he was questioned for rape, but that’s it. The police officer patted me on the shoulder as I was leaving and said, “Take care of yourself. Next time, try not to get yourself into this sort of situation, like the drinking…”

The following summer, I found out that John Doe was going to be a Welcome Week rep again. I contacted friends involved with Welcome Week and was referred to the Office of Student Conduct. I went to their office and told them everything. They informed me that had I approached them right after it had happened, they could have done more. John Doe could have faced more serious consequences. I had no idea that I could have approached the Student Conduct Office. I wish I had known, and hope that more information is given to first years about it now.

The office asked me if I could provide a witness. I immediately thought of his close friend that overheard our phone call after it happened. I messaged her and explained the situation. She sent back a lengthy response, acknowledging that she heard what John Doe said, but that she wouldn’t be able to be a witness for me. She added that I seemed to be holding a grudge and keeping in some pent-up anger. She then closed the message saying that her and other friends were also upset about what happened, but they found ways to move on. Her closing sentence was wishing me all the best. I was disgusted, and still am as I type this.

I showed the office the message, and since she acknowledged what John Doe had said, that was all he needed. He told me that he would meet with John Doe and that he would be monitored at all times during Welcome Week. He also said that John Doe wasn’t allowed to approach me on campus, and that I could call security if he did. While that was comforting, that wasn’t the point of my actions. I didn’t want him to harm anyone ever again, especially first year students.

The conduct officer advised me to go to the Human Rights and Equity office, which I did. I met with someone who was extremely nice and warm. It was comforting to open up to such a wonderful person. She informed me of an upcoming event SACHA, the Sexual Assault Center for the Hamilton Area, was hosting at Mac, which was aimed towards friends of sexual assault victims. I attended the session with one of my great friends.

After being raped by someone who I thought was my friend, the most difficult part was letting go of my friends who still supported him. It genuinely crushed me to have my friends tell me they still considered John Doe a friend. One friend messaged me an apology this spring, saying that she finally sees how horrible John Doe is, and that she will always regret not supporting me. Her message was what I had wanted for so long, but when she finally sent it to me, it had lost its value. I had to go through the rest of my undergrad avoiding my Welcome Week friends and certain parts of MUSC where they hung out.

I would think about it at least once every single day for the first year. I would find myself taking the car and driving to a random parking lot to break down and cry without any interruptions. I’d cringe every time I heard a rape joke, pretend I wasn’t affected while inwardly accepting the fact that the joke would stay in my mind for the rest of the day. I began to join numerous clubs and kept busy. I picked up more shifts at work to avoid being home.

Some days, I would have such a good time with friends that it wouldn’t be until I went to bed that I finally realized I hadn’t thought about it all day. I learned to congratulate myself with every little step towards improvement. I dread November a little less now. I didn’t have sex again until a year and a half later. When I did, and I realized it is still pleasurable, I was elated. John Doe may have become the focus of my life and taken things away from me, but this was not one of them.

Sometimes there are setbacks, though. I recently went home with someone and was triggered by the sexual position he wanted us to be in. I ended up crying in his arms. I was lucky because he was kind and understanding. I am now seeking counselling.

Less than two weeks ago, a good friend of mine approached me and told me she had been raped. She brought a guy home who asked her if she wanted to have sex. When she said no, he proceeded regardless. As she was telling me what had happened, I was trying to control my emotions, to be her rock. But how could this have happened? How could someone assault such a kind-hearted human being? What had she done to deserve this? I felt heartbroken all over again.

While I will never be able to fully understand what she’s going through, it’s safe to say that I have a general idea. The pain from being in the position of a victim’s friend was different, but still prominent.

These situations made me realize how often people question what rape really is. I now know that, put simply, it is any form of sexual activity with another person without their consent is sexual assault.

The statistics are disgusting: one in four women in North America will be raped. While the media normally reports rapists as being strangers in parking lots (which does happen often, unfortunately), that is not true for the majority of rapists. 80 percent of the time, your rapist is someone you know. It’s a close friend, or acquaintance, or family member.

I hope people can learn from the experience I’ve had dealing with this crime on campus. There are resources on campus to approach and consult if you have had a similar experience, but it still isn’t enough. If you have been in a similar situation, please contact the Human Rights and Equity Services department at the university.

*Name has been changed.

The author of this article has asked to remain anonymous. If you have any questions, email thesil@thesil.ca.


 

RESOURCES ON AND OFF CAMPUS
If you or someone you know is in need of a support service, below is a listing of local centres that are able to provide a variety of services and couselling.

On campus
Human Rights and Equity Services
Provides confidential complaint resolution according to the University’s Sexual Harassment Policies.
(905) 525-9140 x. 27581
hres@mcmaster.ca

Meaghan Ross, Sexual Violence Response Coordinator
(905) 525-9140 x. 20909
rossm4@mcmaster.ca

Student Wellness Centre
Provides a wide range of counselling options and medical services and testing.
(905) 525-9140 x. 27700
wellness@mcmaster.ca

WGEN
Provides confidential support for all victims of sexual assault.
(905) 525-9140 x. 20265
wgen@msu.mcmaster.ca

SHEC
Provides confidential peer support, referrals on and off campus, anonymous and confidential pregnancy testing.
(905) 525-9140 x. 22041
shec@msu.mcmaster.ca

Off campus
SACHA
Provides a 24-hour support line, counselling services and public education.
(905) 525-4573
(905) 525-4162 (24-hour Support Line)

Hamilton General Hospital, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre
Provides a 24-hour support line, counselling services and public education.
(905) 521-2100 x. 73557
sadvcarecentre@hhsc.ca

Hamilton Police Services
Takes crime reports from city constituents.
(905) 546-4925

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