In light of the recent media attention on the lack of action and a comprehensive sexual assault policy at UVic, I have had the opportunity to do some thinking. The more I read, the more I learn, the more people I talk to, the bigger the issue seems to be, and the more upset I become. It seems every day there’s a new instance of sexual assault victims being dismissed, of someone being attacked, of women being disrespected.
I used to walk home by myself at 4 a.m. after partying. It was one of my favourite things to do. I would watch the shadows move, spot constellations, listen to the night sounds, take in the absolute calm. I don’t do that anymore. I got tired of worrying my friends and family, and eventually, I got scared myself. I used to believe the best in everyone. I can’t do that anymore.
I never thought I would grow up to be a person who allows fear to dictate her actions. And I know, if I were braver, I could ignore my fear, push through it. Take drinks from handsome strangers and skip home in the dark. But that would be naive. As a woman, I cannot afford to be naïve. Not when I know better.
But that’s just it. I’m tired of knowing better. I’m tired of living in a culture where I carry around the pocket-sized dog attack deterrent my dad gave me for Christmas because he couldn’t think of any other way to keep me safe. I’m tired of texting my friends every time I walk home from the bus stop after dark. I’m tired of constantly worrying about my drink at the bar. I’m tired of sneaking furtive looks at the probably very nice guy walking behind me on the street. I’m tired of wearing a puffy jacket to make myself look bigger. I’m tired of getting phone calls at dinner time from the people I love and listening to them cry for twenty minutes because they don’t know how to support a friend who was assaulted on a university campus.
Above all, I’m tired of people not taking my concerns seriously when I try to explain how furious I am about the measures I have to take.
And the worst part of this is that I know I’m lucky. Relatively speaking, Victoria is one of the safest places I could be living. One of the safest places in the world, and still, I have to do these things. Still, I cannot afford to trust people. It’s heartbreaking.
But this is the reality that I live in. And so if I, or any other woman, am ever in a position where I need to report a sexual assault, I want to know that my university, at least, will stand behind me. My university is the place that is educating me, making me who I am. It is the place I should be free to take risks, expand my mind. A place of higher learning, of safety.
Yet, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Because if I am ever in a position where I need to report a sexual assault, I’ll know that I, like many before me, will most likely not be taken seriously or given the support I need. Most likely, very little will happen to my assailant and I may even have to continue to attend class with them. And so why would I, or anyone, ever report an assault if my experience is going to be invalidated and I’m going to be left on my own?
I love UVic, but right now I don’t have any faith is this institution’s ability to protect students. And that, is heartbreaking.