I want you to know that you hurt me. That time I spent with you meant something different for me. You were supposed to be my friend, someone to help me stay connected with home and not feel so lonely in my first year away from my friends and family. Instead, you took the first chance you got to violate an innocent young girl who just didn’t want to feel alone and out of place for one night. One night to watch a comforting movie and laugh with someone that I had known for longer than 3 days. Instead, you acted in a way that showed me that my body is not my own. You taught me that the world is not a safe place, that people are not to be trusted. You violated my most basic human right to choose who touches me and when. You pressured me to take my clothes off, you wouldn’t listen to me saying “no” until the “no” became a coerced “maybe.” You removed each layer of clothing and you ruined everything I thought I knew about the world and the people in it. You took my first week of university and you made it the worst week of my life. You took my shot at succeeding and achieving everything I wished for myself and turned it into a test of survival.
For two months I failed at functioning on campus. I failed at going to class and being a good student, at making friends, at exploring life without parents close by, at being a normal student. For two months I struggled just to be in the place where you told me that I not only didn’t get to choose what would happen, but also where I learned that I’m not worth more than one night. I’m not even worth an extra confirmation of consent. I was there to please you, and it tore me apart. I gave up after two months, and I had to move back home and tell everyone there that I had failed. I had to awkwardly half-explain why I was no longer at school, mumbling something about anxiety and not being ready. That wasn’t true. I was ready, I was so ready. I was going to be an amazing student. I was going to study to maintain my grades and join clubs, make friends, become a don, excel in my program and placements, and graduate on time with a BA and a B.Ed. The girl who had been so sure of everything for her entire life had to go home and tell everyone who expected great things that she had become a quitter. Those people don’t know what happened to me, they don’t know what I went through. They think that I made the wrong choice. That I overestimated my abilities and wasn’t actually ready to live away from home. I knew I was, they still think I wasn’t.
That one night robbed me of a full year. That one night cost me my ability to study. I am now a student on reduced course load who struggles to go to class some days and keep up with assignments. My identity as an academically successful person was shattered. I went from being upset about getting an 80 instead of a 90 to forgetting how to study. I had to spend so much time and energy on maintaining my mental health while at school that academics became a second thought. I wasn’t there primarily to study, I went back to prove that I wasn’t a drop-out. I wanted to prove that I could still do what I wanted to do when I was 17. I needed to be able to show people that I didn’t make a wrong choice because look, here I am, doing the exact same thing, and doing it so well watch me!!!! No one really cared, just me. I still care.
I’ve drifted so far from what I initially wanted when I came here, and I know that a lot of people (most people) change their majors a million times and that not everyone actually did know exactly what they wanted to do when they were in high school, and that university is a time of self-discovery. But to me, each change feels like another nail in the coffin of that 17 year old girl who moved to university with her nerves and her nail polish, ready to take on the world. Every time I stray from her path, I feel like I’ve failed at proving that she really did make all of the right choices. If she did everything right except choosing friends, then why am I still changing courses, quitting programs, and getting bad marks? If she really knew what was right for her, why are things still going wrong? I have spent every day since September 5th, 2014 trying to prove that it didn’t change anything. I can’t accept the growths that have come out of that experience because I still feel like everything that changes is another thing that I wasn’t strong enough to stop. I froze in that moment with your hands on me and since then things continue to change without my permission.
You tore me apart and walked away to have a normal experience. You can literally do anything that you want to because you have a clean record. Do you know how lucky you are? You committed a crime and walked away clean. I will carry that night around with me every day for the rest of my life. It will colour every decision I make, every relationship I enter, until I die. But please, continue to do what you want, go where you want, and achieve what you want because nothing is stopping you. I still look around corners on campus for fear of you being there, I avoid going to the gym at night, school events make me nervous because I never know how involved you are and if you’ll be there. I am counting down the days until you graduate, until the giant rain cloud that is your presence leaves this school and I am free to do as I please.
I want you to feel like I do. I want you to have panic attacks when you see me because I remind you of what a terrible person you are. I want my potential presence to stop you from attending school events and things in this city. I want you to feel so much pressure from your guilty conscious that you switch schools and leave me alone to excel here without the stress of you. I want you to think about how you destroyed me every time you touch a woman. I want you to go years without physical affection because you’re afraid to make the same mistakes again. I want you to google all of the jobs that require negative vulnerable sector police checks and feel so lucky to still be able to do those jobs. I want you to really consider what jail time would mean for your future. I want you to think about the thousands of dollars I lost in tuition and residence payments that year, not to mention the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on trauma therapy. I want you to truly understand what you’ve done, and feel lucky that this experience doesn’t colour every moment of every day forever like it does for me. I want you to feel pain for each tear that I’ve shed and each panic attack I’ve had. I want you to know that I have felt suicidal on three separate occasions and that it’s because of you. I want you to know that this past November, the only thing that kept me from driving my car off the road is knowing that I would likely live through it and have to pay to fix my car.
I want you to spend every day for the rest of your life remembering that you are someone who has committed sexual assault, because I will spend every day for the rest of mine remembering that I am someone who has been sexually assaulted.