- Aziza Asat
- “Jonathan Olney” is the pseudonym of a man living in Halifax who wants you to listen.
Yesterday at work, one my co-workers was talking about the Ghomeshi case. This trial is about Ghomeshi’s alleged actions. Not about what three women did before they went the courts. But he mentioned that he didn’t understand why Lucy Decoutere and the other women who have so far testified in the case stayed in contact with their alleged assailant.
To be honest, I used to be like him: a guy who didn’t get it. Until I had the shit kicked out of me by someone who was very close to me.
The instant those fists railed against me was the instant I was on a path to understanding why so many women rally around those who publicly say they’ve been assaulted. Why? Because they fucking know what the deal is.
They do it because if it hasn’t happened to them (and it probably has), it happened to someone close to them. To so many people close to them. The amount of women who told me what happened to them when I told them what happened to me was staggering, if not frightening. Women I had known all my life who told me about how they had been assaulted, attacked, raped and just lived in fear walking down the street.
I still recall the day I heard Lucy Decoutere talk about what happened to her on CBC Radio’s “The Current.” I started crying because everything she said about what she did, and how, and why, made sense. No, you don’t believe what just happened and you will do everything in your power to rationalize and justify and excuse. Because in that moment, and moments after, that didn’t happen to you. It happens to other people. Not you. You won’t be, can’t be, one of those people who get hit. You wouldn’t be stupid enough to be with someone like that. Not you.
I am writing this anonymously, because I still worry about retribution. If an intelligent, articulate, and incredibly loving person like my co-worker can’t wrap their head around the hows and whys of the actions of an assault survivor, no matter how well-intentioned, then I dread to think how the general public would act. I dread to think how much I would be put on trial in the court of public opinion, even though all I did was survive. Every act I did before the moment when that person pounded my body with their fists, and every act I did after would be put to scrutiny.
I understand that they would be because people want to understand why. Why would someone do that to another person? That’s what I asked myself when I was left bloodied and my eye shut closed. I blamed myself. There is no way that the person who left me in need of stitches would be “one of those people.” There is no way that this person who had loved me, been so wonderful in so many wonderful moments, would be the one who left me in such fear that I couldn’t take public transportation for months or go to certain parts of the city without waves of punishing anxiety pounding through my veins.
Two days after my assault, I went to work with a huge black eye, and cuts and stitches on myself. The men at my work asked me, “What does the other guy look like?” while the women around me looked at me with worry and concern. I walked around jumping at every little noise, scouting crowds for look-a-likes of the person who gave me these bruises. At one point I walked into a store, and a clerk, who barely knows me, looked at me with concern and extended a hand gently to ask me, “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
I’m not here to “mansplain” anything to anyone. I think the women who are talking about this (and the individuals of all genders who support them) are doing amazing work. I bow to them and thank them for their thankless jobs. It’s the rest of us who need to listen more intently.