- Written in “survivor solidarity” by a 20-something, average Haligonian.
Two-and-a-half years ago I was sexually assaulted, and it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.
In many aspects of my life, I am changed. There were times when I didn’t think I could ever be happy again. There were times when I doubted myself so much that I almost lost the people I love. I have to live with what happened every day. But now he has to live with it as well. The man who assaulted me was recently found guilty of his crime.
Some say this brings closure, but I don’t think that this book is one that will be closed anytime soon. I don’t blame the many women who don’t go through with the court proceedings, because they can be difficult, long and sometimes feel utterly useless. But I’m not writing today to discourage you. I’m writing to tell you that you have the strength to do what I did, even if it doesn’t feel like you ever could. Sometimes we just need others to help us find our strength.
My story starts on campus. Security services and the human rights office did everything within their power to make me feel safe at my university. Then came the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. The investigating officer was incredible, to both myself and my loved ones who were involved in the investigation. Without saying it, I knew they believed me and my story. Once the charges were laid, I met the Crown attorney assigned to the case. They were supportive and kind, and knew how hard it was for me to take the stand. I was protected by these people, and now so are countless other women.
The entire time, I have had incredible support from both the Department of Justice Victim Services and Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. Victim Services guided me through the court system. They accompanied me to court on the day of my trial, giving me the support I needed from the gallery. They were also able to talk to me about my testimony, which I couldn’t do with my loved ones who also had to testify.
I began seeing a counsellor at Avalon shortly after my assault. It took me about three months in denial before I finally agreed to see someone. My counsellor helped me through the emotional turmoil that I felt in the immediate aftermath of the assault, to a changing perspective of my entire world until I finally felt like myself. She guided me through the darkness I was feeling, always without judgement. I continue to confide in her today, and have endless appreciation for how she has helped me through.
In media, we often hear stories about blaming and shaming—the hard judge, and the broken woman who should have known better. I don’t need to get into how unfair the system can be. There are plenty of people who are talking about that in the wake of the Ghomeshi trial. But the thing is, it doesn’t always go like we often hear of. My experience is unlike the ones plastered in our media, in large part because of the support I was so lucky to have.
I say lucky, but I didn’t obtain this support by a lottery. These are supports available to anyone who is a victim of sexual assault. Sometimes it can feel like we’re seeking support because we’re weak. Nobody wants to feel weak. But there is nothing weak about seeking help when you’re only doing more damage to yourself by waiting. The key is finding the people who do it best; with kindness, respect and without judgement. Let those people help.
Sometimes we need to lean on others before we have the strength to overcome adversity. We need to walk before we can run again.