“Sex assault at XXX University sparks police warning”
“RCMP looking for suspect after second assault at XXX”
“XXX student assaulted on campus”.
These are just the first three headlines I found when entered “XXX sexual assault” into the Google search bar. I guess that was when it really hit me — I was becoming a news story.
I am writing this so that finally someone hears a side to sexual assault that isn’t acknowledged as often as it should, the side of the person it happened to. Finally I can say what happened. That what is being referred to as the “second sexual assault incident,” stops being just that, an incident, a story and starts being seen as what it should be, a harsh reality into campus life.
I guess I should start with what no newspaper has managed to capture, an actual element beyond the x-ray of facts, an element that is just too mundane for any newspaper to capture.
When I turned around to take out my keys and saw a man standing behind me it never occurred to me that he was there to harm me. Call me naïve but I actually waved and was about to wish him a good night, I thought he was a neighbor I had simply never met or another student.
If you’d like to read what happened after that, you can read one of dozens of news stories. I know I have. That’s the thing: when you’re attacked it becomes public interest to warn everyone else. You as a human with actual feelings, are forgotten about. You become a subject; a subject for a journalist, a subject for the police to interrogate and dig into, a subject who doesn’t have feelings but simply the ability to recall a nose, hair and a pair of eyes.
An attack like this isn’t personal, I know I didn’t do anything to deserve this, no one did, but the way a campus reacts is to an attack is. I already feel violated as I walk around campus hearing conversations about “that girl that was attacked”, or while I sit in class and have my peers participate in a discussion about an attack that happened to me. The fact that I am a student, an individual who goes to class, studies, has a life and her own stories is forgotten about.
I sit through a class, where the professor actually warned against walking home at night, wearing skirts, and going out at night. I wanted to raise my hand, stand up and say,
“This isn’t my fault. Who are you to tell me how to live my life? I shouldn’t have to worry about walking home at night. I wasn’t asking for it and I most definitely do not want to become a news sensation.”
What students in this one class never talked about, and what no newspaper will tell you, is how your perspective changes. How you just become angry. Every time I see myself referred to as a victim, I get angry. I am not victim and I am not a survivor. I am a person. Labeling myself as either acknowledges that this event will change something about the way I live my life. I know this happened to me, but I am okay, or I will be. I am not a weak Cinderella-esque character, who relies on others, I have never been that woman and I never will be.
It makes me angry how we live in a society where I should have to fear walking home, and more bluntly where, I have to fear men because I am a woman, where, rape culture isn’t halted but rather perpetrated through television, song lyrics and simply through our words.
“Dude, I totally raped that midterm.”
Naw, “dude” pretty sure that’s not what you did.
So here, a voice of the “the woman who was attacked”, not just a news story, and not just a number.