I feel like it was just yesterday that I was writing a blog about the exposé on Jian Ghomeshi. I grew obsessed with the case and wondered why a woman like myself, “who is one of the 50% of women in Canada who have never experienced physical or sexual violence”, would be so affected by the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. I felt a deep, visceral connection to the women who stepped forward and I chalked it up to the fact that we, as women, have a shared experience and consciousness in a male-dominated world. And that my empathy towards survivors of sexual violence is because we all share the same pain.
This was all very polite, euphemistic talk for what I really knew to be the truth. By taking myself out of the equation and insisting that I have never been a victim of female-targeted violence, I was hiding my own story and truth. And the truth is I have.
I have experienced physical and sexual violence.
A few years ago I was in a rehearsal hall with a male director who wanted to show the women what it meant to be degraded and humiliated. Apparently, we didn’t “get it”. There was no stage manager in the room; just me, the other women in the cast, and this man. He wanted us to sell our bodies to him. He lined us up facing the wall and we took turns grabbing our body parts as he slowly looked each of us up and down. It was very quiet in that room. I got angry. I was the only person who told stage management about what happened. I was told no one else would go with me because “they were comfortable with their bodies”. I felt betrayed. Some people made sarcastic comments about how much I hate him. And they are right. I do hate him.
I’ve had a sexual encounter go too far, too fast. I expressed my hesitations and then I had to say “stop”. Thankfully he did. But then he was angry with me. I felt bad.
I was 16 when I saw a man on my roof, peering into my bedroom as I got ready for bed. I got in trouble for not drawing the blinds at night. I felt like it was my fault.
I was 14 when a man groped my and my friends’ behinds in a video store. I told my mom, who told the video store, who called the police. Then my mom called my friends’ moms and told them what happened. The next day at school, my friends told me that my mom was making a big deal out of nothing. I felt embarrassed. I was scared they wouldn’t want to come over anymore. My parents told me I should have said something the first time he groped me instead of waiting until the second time. I felt ashamed.
I was in grade school when I got into a physical fight with a boy in class. He was a kid that radiated with anger and was always looking to pick a fight. I think I looked at him the wrong way that day. When he threw me to the ground, I got angry because I had to admit that he was stronger than me, even when I was fighting with everything I had. A hall monitor asked us what happened and our stories didn’t match. The monitor let us go back to class and nothing else happened. I felt from that moment on that it would always be my word against someone else’s. My defense mechanisms went up. I think that’s why I get that evil look in my eyes when I get cat-called or whistled at or groped on the street, or when I get yelled at for not wanting to talk to men. My walls are up and after reading all the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, now I’m just pissed. And I’m not going to pretend I don’t know why. Because I do.
I love men. I’m about to marry one of the best men I’ve ever known. I know men who stand up for me and other women, and who treat me with mutual kindness and respect. These men in my life make my light shine beautifully and confidently. I would do anything for them.
And there are men that I hate. Men who get away with so much shit. Men who abuse women for decades because they are powerful and because they can. One of them was elected the president of the most powerful country in the world.
I could have easily been any of these women targeted by Harvey Weinstein. That trauma would have affected me for the rest of my life and since I have an enormous ego, I don’t know if I would have it in me to come forward. I hope that I would be brave enough to do so, but I cannot say for certain. And that makes me angry too.
There are people who operate under the delusion that violating women is ok. Part of that delusion is also our failure to admit that we are part of this story. We pretend that we exist in the blank spaces between these stories because the stories that we see on the news have nothing to do with us. Violence towards women and the LGBT, the persecution of ethnic minorities, the hatred of one another which is based on nothing but fear: these are stories that we live in and that we contribute to, and we need to look within ourselves and admit that. Then we need to challenge others. And speak up against this bullshit. Because if we do not, we risk living in a Margaret Atwood dystopian nightmare, a world that feels eerily close to home.
So now that I’ve shared my story about how I’ve been the subject of violence due to my sex, do I now have to get up and sit at a different table labeled “victim”? Nope. It’s the opposite in fact. Admitting this makes me just like everyone else.
- Post by Elena Juatco, SExT Creative Facilitator
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