Caution: this post includes a discussion of rape myths and sexual assault that may trigger. Please be safe. Links within are more detailed and triggering.
I like to think that life finds a way to put us precisely where we need to be at the moment we need to be there.
This isn’t to say that it’s all written in the proverbial stars. I’m a huge believer in choice, in the ability to take the cards we’re dealt and play them any way we see fit. We can bluff our way through. We can fight to win against the odds. We can fold and sit the hand out. But sometimes, the forks in the road where we can choose those options seem unusually timed.
A few weeks ago, I happened to be discussing the Dalhousie scandal with my husband. Something he said drifted along the lines of a school not being willing to protect the women who were harmed by the events, but to shield the men instead. This jarred a memory for me of my second year in university, which I shared with him. I was taking Crime & Deviance, and recalled a lecture where the professor brought up rape. I could still hear the professor going on about women ruining the lives of “good college boys” and “leading men on”. I could remember a male student (who gave me a brief moment of faith in humanity) chiming in and saying, “Well, yeah, but no means no, right?”
“How cold is your shower?” the professor sneered.
Three months later, I was sexually assaulted in my dorm room. That lecture is why I’ve been silent, save for a few trusted people.
Back to that well-time crossroads: perhaps ten minutes later, I saw an open call from Ciara at Lost At Midnight, seeking people’s comments on why they were eager to read Courtney Summers‘ forthcoming book, All The Rage. I have been waiting impatiently for this book since its announcement. I have so much respect for what Courtney does as an author, and as a bonus, she’s a superstar I’ve regularly exchanged pleasantries and fandom banter with on Twitter. I nudged Ciara impulsively, asked about full-length guest posts. No promises were made.
In my head, the opening of All The Rage haunted me, running in parallel with memories of my own. Just write, I told myself. See what comes out. When I was done, my hands were shaking and I felt sick. I momentarily considered hitting delete.
I had a choice, like Romy. I chose to finally break my silence, once and for all.
It wasn’t just about the actual events of that January day. I think, for me, that wasn’t enough to drive me to speak. It was about that lecture. It was about how I paid the price for challenging rape culture back then, and how survivors are still paying the price now.
My guest post at Lost At Midnight explores how rape culture silenced me to where I didn’t even feel I could ask for a dorm room change. I stayed in the same room for the next 18 months. I could not ask for help until my GPA fell and my dreams of graduate school imploded. Read with care (and I hope you do choose to read it).
Sadly, mine isn’t the only story I’ve been reading today:
- A York university student has come forward, questioning their sexual assault policy and response (read her letter to the university here)
- In law school, “rape week” (or the teaching of criminal law in relation to sexual assault cases) has become a heated debate on whether it’s reasonable to listen to survivors’ suggestions on how to teach it respectfully and with care
For all those who aren’t ready to break silence, or may never be, my heart is with you. For those who can speak and choose to, I am grateful for your voices.