I was sitting across from her in a small room plastered in grey.
“Do you love him?” She asked looking into my eyes, searching for hidden clues and waiting for me to reveal the truth. I desperately wanted to be believed, but my story was far from the vicious assault incidents I have always imagined to be what violation of my body should look like. I had been assaulted by my friend.
My surroundings and upbringing have cultivated a safe space for me to tell my story. On Monday October 9, I met up with a friend whom I had met on Tinder a year before. Some may point fingers here and argue that I should have figured out what would happen if I went home with this friend. We had been intimate at a point in time after all; this time should be no different. However, we established previously that there would be no more sexual contact between us as two friends, and in my friend I held my trust.
He was a newcomer to Canada and I was helping him with his research assignment at Starbucks, just like any other day. Having him by my side made me feel warm and I was happy with whatever we were. He noticed my tired expression (I was feeling sick that day) and suggested going back to his place. It has been so convenient for me to accuse myself for being so naive to his intentions. However, in the moment I read his invitation as affection and in friendship ways followed him home.
In the next moment, we were in his apartment and when we sat down on his couch, the energy shifted in the atmosphere. Suddenly he had his hands on my face, urgently trying to make out with me. In the next moment, his hands were where they should not be. I remember saying no several times and pushing him away. I also looked at him straight in the eyes so that he knew that I was scared and I did not want this. But when silence is what you’re known for, people can take advantage of your passiveness and get what they want. My body’s reactions were not reflective of my mood; I really did not want this, but I gave in and we went all the way.
I texted my friend that evening. “I’m okay but something happened today”, I started the conversation hesitantly. In the next 2 hours, the truth began to unravel as I realized how my body had been violated by my so called friend. I could not come to terms with the truth at first because he had sugar coated our connection as more meaningful than it actually was to him. I had been manipulated and I was still unsure of my truth. I desperately wanted to believe that he cared about me and I meant something to him. However, I had never been so objectified in my life.
On Wednesday October 11, I made a brave decision to report my case to the police. Later, the questions I was asked left me feeling shameful and embarrassed about my situation.
First, I phoned into the station and reported the incident. An hour later, 2 officers came to my house for an interview. I explained everything in as much detail as I could, at least based on my memory. As I got to the serious parts regarding consent, I recalled a statement that I will always regret.
“I turned to him and said as long as I enjoy it” I said, suddenly realizing what I had done to myself. So it has come to this moment, my one year without a partner. In the plight of my loneliness, I had put my safety at risk to give into hypermasculinity and aggression just to reap the minimal hints of affection that any man could offer me. Having realized my classic move in an effort to compromise, I broke down in front of the officers. I realized how much I had degraded myself just to keep a “friend” in my life. However, the most devastating realization was watching the nature of my personality backfire on me, to witness the disintegration of mutual trust and support and to see myself scrambling to find a flimsy middle ground between myself as a victim and my perpetrator. With the best intentions I believe, the police officers were shaking their heads having realized the complexity of the situation. Yet in the moment’s suspension of weighing all sides of the issue, we completely missed the point.
When I went to the station, I was interviewed by a detective who recorded my case in audio. I gave her the same recount that I gave the 2 officers before.
Then she asked me a question that sent me shivering. “Do you love him?” she asked me. I was so shocked I did not know how to answer. In my head, I traced the memories I had with him and these photographs of memories were circling around the little room I was in. Mortified, I could only say that I cared for him. I mean maybe I did love him? Why would love be an exception to consent, if consent is built on affection? I could not say yes to my perpetrator’s hostility.
“Did you enjoy it?” she inquired. I nearly snorted considering how absurd these questions were. It was becoming more clear to me that I had been assaulted, and whether the experience had been pleasurable for me was no longer the point.
“So is all this is just you feeling that you’re not getting what you wanted from him in return? I would be very hurt too”. The question made me realize that the criminal justice system has not comprehended how consensual sexual relationships work. It began to feel pointless for me to continue with my assault story. For so long, I have gone to counselling, been to the bottom and up and isolated myself because I have been ashamed of my feelings. Having a detective ask me this question made me realize how important my intuition was and how valid my feelings were. However, my report of the assault was not emotionally driven. Rather I was reporting a case of sexual violation on my body, where my innate emotional nature became a gift wrap that anyone could use to conceal the intentional truth of my perpetrator’s action. He could hide behind my wall of sensitivity and insist that my feelings toward him had compelled me to report a perfectly consensual act. In my head, I could almost hear him tell a one sided story of my emotional distress, his comfort in the form of physical touch, and my regret later on that has motivated my report of the so-called assault. Suddenly I felt so betrayed by a friend I had trusted, even loved to some degree and fell into my depression once more.
I will always be the kind of person who needs to share my personal experience because relating to other people is how I learn and thrive. I have been lucky to survive the assault without injuries because his intentions to sexually assault me were not bold. In fact, the assault was very much under the radar that even to him it did not seem like an assault. Perhaps the incident surprised him too and he tried to deny what his mind and body did in the heat to disrespect mine. Detachment is a common coping mechanism and we both used it to understand the incident. In great sincerity I understand sexual urges arise, however that is not an excuse to engage in unwanted sexual behaviour.
Today I know that sexual assault comes in all shapes and forms. The fact that my assault story was not filled with dark alleys, strangers, weapons and violence means that I could have trouble trusting the men I know in my life. Anybody could have ill intentions that I do not know of, and in my head anything could happen. Being assaulted by a male friend may make it more difficult for me to engage in any sort of sexual activities with my future partners. It hurts that I have come to associate masculinity with untamed sexual urgency, lack of self discipline and a failure to be a living example of human decency.
Sometimes I feel awful for reporting my perpetrator to the police station. The same evening that I reported my assault, the detective spoke with my former friend and no charges were laid. I could only imagine the impossible stories he made up on the spot to detach accountability away from his body and away from his conscience. There are days when I feel weak and worthless, however I remind myself of the things I have accomplished. When nobody, especially not my perpetrator thought I had the nerve to stand up for myself, I achieved the unthinkable and reported the case to protect my own self identity. In that symbolic move, I stopped defining myself with the one who assaulted me and began to define myself with my accomplishments and the goals I will someday attain. I will always be stronger than what people think.
I do not blame the police officers or the detective who interviewed me. They were not there to witness the event and they were not the victim who felt it in her heart. I am not even angry at the man who assaulted me. Perhaps my obsessive behaviour, checking his photos every few minutes and whispering his name at night indicate that I did love him. And even if I didn’t, we all deserve to become the best men and women we could be. Besides, I know that I am indeed stronger than that.
Unfortunately, I do not know what a healthy relationship looks like, but if there is consent then it sounds beautiful to me. There are plenty of good men in the world who would never touch me without a clear yes and I look forward to meeting them. I am grateful for being able to openly discuss stories like this and someday we could live in a society where everyone is safe, appreciated and of course, dearly loved. Thank you for reading my story.
For students at UWaterloo, please see UW Counselling Services for healing and guidance. UW Women’s Centre and Glow Centre are also great resources.