A Letter to Survivors of Sexual Assault

In honour of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here’s a letter to those that have experienced sexual assault. It is all the things I wish I could say to you over a hot cup of coffee in a quiet, undiscovered (but somehow accessible?) coffee shop.

I believe you. Every last word. You are not “crazy.” What happened to you is.

It’s not your fault Ever. If you’re a survivor of multiple assaults, not one of them has been your fault. I’m sorry that this has happened to you, no one deserves to go through that, and nothing you did could warrant sexual violence.

You are strong. So fucking strong. Even if you don’t feel strong. The fact that you are reading this, (er uh, sharing with me over fake coffee) makes you strong. Being sexually violated can be devastating, and completely debilitating. Just living through it makes you strong by default.

Your healing process is 100% yours. There is no proper timeframe for recovering from abuse. There is no limit to grief. If you are having trouble doing the things you used to do–are feeling depressed, angry, unfocused, cloudy, confused or indifferent, know that you are healing. You are refuelling. You are resilient–you’re a fucking butterfly-in-the-making, cocooning from violence, preparing to come out beautiful when ready. You will heal as you know best–how you do that (and who you allow to be part of your healing) is entirely up to you. My guess is that any way you do it, you’re doing what you need to to get by.

Flashbacks and anxiety are common. This is a frequent reality for people that have experienced violence. It’s your mind and body’s way of processing your assault(s), of helping you cope. You are not alone, many survivors have flashbacks, anxiety, and/or night-terrors related to their assault. Some techniques that might help you through these feelings include grounding, breathing exercises and calling a crisis line for support.

*This upcoming point is about power-and-control dynamics as they relate to violence. Some people who have experienced violence might find this overwhelming. If so, scroll down a point.*

Sexual assault isn’t about sex, it’s about power. You might feel confused about what’s happened–especially if you’ve been assaulted by a family member, boyfriend (or girlfriend) or spouse. And rightfully so–why would someone who loves you force themselves on you? Were they just extremely horny?

There is a prevalent belief that sexual assault is one person being sexually aroused by another person and then forcing themselves on that person. This is inaccurate: One person is sexually aroused by power, and  then forces themselves on that person. Ergo, the person that has been assaulted has nothing to do with the assault,because it was not about them, or their sex appeal, it was about the assaulter’s plight for power.

So, your partner, or family member that has sexually assaulted you did not do so because it is how they express love. They did not do so because you were “looking all beautiful and batted your eyes” at them, or because they just “lost control” because they were so turned on. In fact the opposite is true: They did so because they found a way to gain control over you.  This is not your fault. You did nothing to deserve this, nor are you the reason it happened. It happened because that person decided to force themselves on you, because they wanted power.

If you want it, there is support for people that have experienced violence Everyone deals with trauma differently, so you are the best judge of whether or not you want (or are ready/ in a safe enough place for) support.Support comes in different forms, from online forums or phone conversations, to individual counselling, advocacy, or group sessions. I’m in the Ottawa area, so all of my resources are specific to this region, but if you are ready, you can reach out, wherever you are. Calling your local community centre and specifying the type of help you want is a great place to start.  If that seems overwhelming, you can try to put down what you’ve experienced on paper, or record yourself if that’s easier, or make art.

If you feel like talking, here’s a list of crisis lines in Ottawa: https://carleton.ca/health/emergencies-and-crisis/emergency-numbers/ ( and here is a list if you prefer to speak in French, or other languages).

And lastly, I wish you kindness and positive people in your journey of healing. I wish you hope. I wish you well-being. That’s what you deserve. ❤

Things Guys Should Know About All The Feminist Hashtags


In light of the Jian Ghomeshi fiasco, trends such as #IBelieveLucy and #BeenRapedNeverReported are showing up, in support and solidarity of women. These hashtags are wonderful for raising awareness and allowing women the space to disclose, as did #WhyILeft and #WhyIStayed before them (pertaining to abusive relationships and domestic violence). These trends are helpful, and are great ways to expose issues with patriarchy head-on. All the same, I have tried to put myself in a dude’s shoes, and picture what it’s like to scroll through my newsfeed, seeing that Ghomeshi now has 9 women coming forward with information. I’ve tried to feel the cringe as I see the #BeenRapedNeverReported trend happening, and have some things I’d like to tell you, guys:

  1. Ghomeshi is not you. Thank god, who would want to be that guy right now? Ghomeshi is a public figure, a person who is being accused of sexual assault, whom everyone gets to watch, as more news unfolds. With more info and women coming forward, people are increasingly questioning his motives and credibility (as they should), and if you side with him, you are indirectly supporting his actions. You indirectly think (or at least, appear to think) that his actions are acceptable. Many people have “liked” his status who don’t condone violence, but still found him relatable enough to agree with. To me this means these indirect supporters either think these women are lying, or they found something in his post that resonated with them.If you found Ghomeshi’s post relatable, well, maybe it’s because you like kink. Maybe you’ve had a “jilted ex” who slit your tires once. Maybe you feel bad because the guy just lost his dad, and you know how hard it is to lose someone. Either way, you are not him. It is my sincere hope that you are not being accused of assault, that you do not choke women without their consent. This is where you and Ghomeshi likely differ.
  2. Believing these women does not make you against Ghomeshi, it means you believe these women. We do not need to have “People who like Q, and hence Jian, forever and ever, xo” in one corner and “Feminists and supporters of these women, who think they’re telling the truth,” in another. A third, more inclusive option exists, which involves remembering that Jian, the self-deprecating, charming radio host and C-List celeb is separate from Jian, real person, who is accused of punching women without letting his teddy bear watch. They are separate entities, and need to be recognized as such. So, you can like what you heard from Ghomeshi, radio personality host, and still believe these women.
  3. Women very rarely lie about these matters It’s a curious thing, that we have decided as a culture that women so regularity lie about being assaulted and the like. Why is this at the forefront of our minds, and why is it Ghomeshi’s immediate defense, when the false reporting rate is only anywhere between 2-8% (depending on region)? Guys, it’s so fucking tough to report these things. If you do decide to report,It means writing out what happened, then being questioned, then followed up with, then often told “Sorry, it’s he-said-she-said, because [you didn’t do a rape kit within 72 hours], or [you didn’t report right away] or [you don’t have physical evidence] or [you don’t speak the language well] or [he’s saying you made it up (Of course he is!)], so we can’t do much more about it. Try getting counseling.” I’m serious, this still happens, and not being believed is horrible. In most cases, ain’t nobody want to go through that unless they have to (read: their lives, or the lives of their children, are endangered).

Other barriers to reporting include: fear of job loss, security, permanent victim status, reliving, shame, self-blame, embarrassment, having to face the abuser, etc etc.

To put it in perspective:Only 6 out of 100 women that are assaulted, report it. See reasons above.

Due to the ginormous hassle that is reporting assault or abuse, people very rarely lie about it. It’s way too much work, and liars are usually pretty lazy.

Cat calls suck, think about it. The issue with cat calls (#StreetHarassment) are not about girl’s inability to accept a compliment, or about girls that don’t know how to be grateful. It’s about the fact that guys very often feel like they can just comment on how we look, and that it’s really creepy, most of the time.

Yesterday I was waiting for a friend at the mall when a guy walked up behind me and whispered, “You know you’re fucking gorgeous, right?” I felt my body freeze, as I thought about how he had to deliberately bend over to speak in my ear, and that I hadn’t even seen him. I stared at him without responding. He smiled slowly and said, “Can’t you hear?” I said nothing and left.

Fuck, why? I don’t know you, you don’t know me. I haven’t been eyeing you from across the room. I haven’t bought you a coffee. I’ve never seen you in my life. What makes you think you can whisper in my ear and ask me if I can hear? Go away.

Cat-calling or similar methods are a creepy form of entitlement, even if what you’re saying is “nice” in other contexts. It’s unexpected and daunting. Until it happens 300 more times, then it’s just tiring.

  1. These are problems with patriarchy, not you. Ghomeshi and related issues, are problems that arise when individuals take power and patriarchy too far. It’s a pretty pervasive problem, that manifests in different ways across the world, and hence deserves adequate attention. Issues involving patriarchy, such as the ones discussed above and millions of others, do not exist to make men feel guilty, or hated, or threatened. They do not assign blame to all men, but rather recognize a common societal issue. While patriarchy exists on a very personal level very often, issues upheld with the patriarchal system should not be mistaken for misandry. It is not meant to fill you with personal dread, it is meant to see a bigger problem, and give women a space to talk about it.

Next time you feel overwhelmed by the amount of women-related issues on your feed, I encourage you to avoid the urge to defend yourself. This isn’t about you personally. And instead of siding with Ghomeshi or thinking that women lie about assault, consider that it’s patriarchy that is telling you that. You have nothing to lose by believing these women, because you are not the one who assaulted her, and everyone benefits from your support.