I was sitting down at Second Cup. She sat beside me. I was angry. I was sad. I was heartbroken. I wanted to punch someone. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything will be better. I wanted to weep because I know that not everything will be better.
She was at a party and a person she trusted took advantage of her.
I was on the phone talking to her. The same feelings I had came rushing in again. This time, it was a stranger who took advantage of her. I was furious.
Taken advantage. Had his way with her. Sometimes, we use euphemisms because we cannot handle the full weight of certain words.
Sexual harassment. Sexual assault. Rape.
The sad part is that her story is not new. I have been blessed with being surrounded by amazing women whom I have the honour and privilege of calling friends. And I have heard their stories. And it breaks my heart. A friend of mine had a first date with someone who touched her inappropriately and forced himself on her. What bothers me is that unfortunately, this has become such a norm that at first, she didn’t agree with me, when I said that the guy sexually assaulted her. “He’s just handsy,” or “he’s just horny,” becomes a familiar refrain.
Recently, on Facebook and Twitter, the hashtag #metoo has been trending and reading the stories of so many women I know and admire and care for has been both infuriating and heartbreaking. No one should ever endure that. No one should ever be touched in such a way that it violates their personhood.
So many women I know have suffered some degree of sexual violence. But I know that there are also a lot of men who have had to suffer in silence because of the sexual violence inflicted upon them. There are so many in the LGBTQ+ community where sexual violence is a daily reality.
There’s a scene in the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” that has stuck with me ever since I saw it. It haunts me. On the walls are the words “We are not things.” It struck me because too often, we don’t value other people as human beings. We don’t see them as someone who has hopes and dreams and fears, just like us. We see them instead as tools to be used for our benefit.
This mentality lends itself to people using human beings as tools to achieve their pleasure. And let’s be real… the majority of the people who commit sex crimes are men. The rape culture that has unfortunately pervaded most of our society has allowed men to get away with a lot of things. By normalizing sexual deviancy, victims are made to feel like they’re the crazy ones for seeing sexually deviant acts as wrong. They’re made to feel as if they’re over reacting or their accusations are untrue or trivial.
When they finally decide to speak up, too often their perpetrators suffer no consequences for their action. The police are still working on my friend’s rape case. He works at Parliament Hill. The case is not advancing. The justice system often fails the very people they are supposed to protect. It’s no wonder that many women are silent. When they are already suspicious that nothing will happen and they hear a story of a woman who actually went to the police and receives the treatment she is currently receiving, it doesn’t help.
My Facebook timeline is filled with stories from women I know who have been on the receiving end of a crime. And it hurts my heart to read their stories. I wish I could give each and every one of you a hug and to let you know that I am so proud of you. I’m proud of you because I know how hard it is to tell others about what happened. I’m proud of you because it takes a lot of courage to overcome the shame that often accompanies such acts. I’m proud of you because vulnerability is one of the most bravest things you can do.
I’m grateful for people like you who encourage and empower others to do the same.
I long for the day when we would never hear of such crimes ever being committed. But until then, we need to change the world we live in. Men, we need to make sure that other men know it’s wrong to treat women as objects. When we are in our “Guys Night” events, we need to make sure that we let other men know that we will not laugh at jokes that seek to demean women or objectify them. We need to teach our children that girls are capable of anything and everything. We should not allow boys to grow up thinking that they’re better than girls because of the simple fact that they’re boys.
Until then, let us listen to the voices of those who are oppressed. Let us weep with them and mourn with them in the hopes that one day, we can also rejoice with them when the day of justice is at hand and when injustice is no more.