29 years old
On October 7th, 2014 I got on a transit bus in Vancouver. I was heading to a singing lesson at school and immediately as I sat down I noticed a gentlemen starring at me. Within the first few minutes I was on the bus, he got up from his seat and came to sit down beside me. His first words were, “I want to know you.” I began to talk to him and try and answer the questions he had for me. I recognized though that this was not a normal situation and so I did my best to not give him too much personal information but he persisted and didn’t stop asking his questions until I gave him answers that satisfied him. I remember wracking my brain, trying to remember all I had learned in my verbal counselor training about “boundaries” and trying to utilize those tactics to keep myself safe. But at some point, my fear began to grow and I just tried to do whatever I could to keep him calm. He was very confusing to me – some moments he seemed friendly, other moments he was a little more aggressive and sometimes he even seemed confused. Eventually, the physical boundary was crossed and his hands were on me. Nothing happened that was too intimate, he had his hands on my back and his fingers in my hair. He kept trying to hug me. It could have been a lot worse of course… I think I thought it wasn’t a big deal at the time. I got off the bus and went to my singing lesson but I was pretty shaken up, so after my teacher did some music therapy with me she took me to counseling services, then they told me to call a hotline, then the hotline transferred me to the police and then two officers came to see me on campus to take my statement.
For the first few months after the incident, I tried to pretend like nothing happened. I felt really embarrassed about the situation. I felt like it was my fault and whenever I tried to talk about it with someone, their questions often implied I must have done something wrong to have gotten myself into that situation. I don’t think they meant to imply this, but I have realized this is how we deal with these things as a society.
The victim blaming, shame, guilt, fear, paranoia were all repercussions of this experience and they felt just as bad as the incident itself. I’m not sure what the answer is to this issue. It certainly isn’t to point fingers at anyone and play the “blame game”. I think the first step is to realize that you are not entitled to anyone else and they are not entitled to you. Nobody has the right to touch you if permission has not been granted. Omission of permission should still be treated as a ‘no’.
(These are real letters from real woman who have sent me their stories to share with all of you! They have not been altered, edited, or changed in anyway and if you have a story of your own to share email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)