Stories are written by people who don’t necessarily work or study in fields related to sexology. They convey emotions, perceptions, and subjective perspectives. Opinions voiced in the stories are those of their authors, and in no way represent the position of Les 3 sex*.
☛ Ce témoignage est aussi disponible en français [➦].
Translated by Zoe Yarymowich
I come into work. A job I chose. A job that sometimes makes me want to scream and cry, but also to smile and above all, to keep going. Each day is unpredictable and makes me feel a jumble of emotions that, despite their intensity, teach me a lot about myself.
One minute, I feel like giving up on everything, the next, I can’t imagine myself without this job. One day, I leave the office feeling hopeless toward humanity, and the next day, I leave feeling proud and optimistic for a better future.
Helping women who are victims of sexual violence. That’s my job.
Each day, I dedicate myself to strong and courageous people who have experienced grave injustices. Women who, every day, fight society’s stigmatization and trivialization of violence. Women who, despite the fact that they are not always believed when they disclose, are there, in my office, overcoming the consequences of their sexual assaults in the hope of reclaiming their bodies and spirits.
I chose this job. I chose to give everything I have in terms of know-how and interpersonal skills to help them, even if only a little.
I finish work, I head simply to the grocery store. As I wait patiently at the cash registers, I hear two individuals who are looking at the cover page of Gilbert Rozon and his sex scandals exclaim:
Pogo #1: “No but, let’s face it, there are a few girls in here who surely just wanted attention!”
Pogo #2: “I know, what a bunch of idiots, it’s bullshit. At that point, they deserve it.”
Ouf. I feel it rising.
It rises in me like an overflow, like gagging that I cannot control. I feel like screaming a bunch of insults at them and asking them fourteen million questions to understand what is going on in their heads to affirm such atrocities. Despite the volcano of rage erupting in my body, my professional head formulates the first palatable intervention that comes to mind:
“Do you honestly think that’s the kind of attention a person wants to get, considering your reaction?”
Pogo #1: “Frustrated **** that one.”
Fight #1: Fail.
I come back home. I get a small glass of wine to soothe me from the two pogos at the grocery store. I open my Facebook. Another panoply of sexual aggression allegations coming out in the media.
There is a sense of pride that washes over me.
A feeling of pride towards all these women who spoke out, despite the fear of consequences, despite the exposure of their vulnerabilities, and despite the judgments made by society. At this moment, I dare to believe that we’re witnessing a societal change, where the public will truly understand the extent of sexual violence and the urgent need to act.
Not so fast.
That’s when I notice the comments associated with the news stories that denounce the sexual assaults. Among these are listed:
“She only had to not sit on his lap!”
“Why didn’t they say anything before? It’s easy to gang up on someone to put them down and ruin their career!”
“It’s at the point where we can’t even cruise, shit society.”
Speaking of shit society.
I don’t know what dominates more of my mind between contempt, anger, despair, or sadness when I see these comments. It is sad to think of all those victims reading these comments and being discouraged from ever speaking out, one day, about what happened to them to get out of the shadows and the suffering. While those who inflected the words and actions are publicly defended by these types of comments, the individuals who suffered them are revictimized in the public arena.
I have no energy to respond to such comments. I opt to go to bed. Despite myself, a whirlwind of unexpressed arguments leaves me with a bitter taste of frustration before I fall asleep from exhaustion.
Fight #2: Fail.
10:30 A.M. the next day.
I conduct a workshop on sexual assault at a high school. I present the teenagers with various scenarios where they must decide whether or not there was consent. First case: a young teenager, at a party, who is dancing and says yes to a drink. A few hours later, someone isolates her in a room and sexually assaults her.
“Miss! She was dancing and drinking at a party, what was she expecting? If you don’t want to flash, you put on a turtleneck and stay in your corner!”
“If she hadn’t been drinking, she might have been able to defend herself. At that point, it’s kind of her problem…”
“Yeah, but the other person, if they were drinking, maybe they didn’t know what they were doing…”
It’s a knife straight to the chest.
At the age of fourteen, they have already internalized the myths conveyed by society. I manage my face, formulate an argument that goes against their propositions, and explain my point of view.
I ask them THE famous question.
What is the key element that we find in all of these sexual assault situations that explains why they occur? Listening to numerous responses without finding exactly what I am looking for, I retort:
A person that assaults. Without that person, there would be no aggression. Therefore, the full responsibility lies with them.
Very quickly, they understand the magnitude of what they have just said. I see in their faces that they have understood the impact their words can have on a person who has been sexually assaulted. Their eyes round, their heads raised and their puzzled facial expressions give me the impression that their bodies are communicating a greater openness to what I am trying to tell them. Suddenly, it seems to make a lot more sense.
Fight #3: Feels Like a Win.
I am back at the center. I meet with a woman who, after several years of silence, decided to make a criminal complaint. I find her courageous, strong, and inspiring. I testify my support and my availability to accompany her in her efforts. It is a good meeting, moving and liberating.
That’s when all the events of the last two days play in my head. I can’t stop myself from thinking about the way she will be received by the tribunal, the way her family will react to revealing several years of incest, the way she will react if this procedure is not concluded by a trial, or worse if the case is rejected for lack of evidence. I can’t stop myself from dreading the reactions of her peers or the influence of social media on her decision.
These thoughts should not be in my head.
I dare to think that one day, we won’t have to keep legitimizing victims, because we will finally put the responsibility on the person who committed the acts.
I dare to believe that one day the population will understand that asking for consent before acting is not scrapping seduction.
I dare to believe that one day, the first thing that will come to mind when a woman at the center tells me that she wants to come forward will not be to apprehend the reaction of her entourage.
I choose to fight against sexual violence, day after day.
I am aware that my battles are far from over.
But the more we are, the more chances we have to win.