*Warning: Adult themes, and descriptions of abuse. While I try to remain candid and not unnecessarily graphic, could be triggering to abuse victims. Reader discretion is advised.*
I am taking a little break from my series about church abuse to write about a different topic, (though it is still somewhat tied to the subject,) to talk about another issue that is close to my heart: date rape/abuse, and the credibility of the victims.
For those of you who don’t know, (ie. American readers,) there is a big scandal being talked about here in Canada right now. A popular radio personality on a national news channel was fired a few weeks ago, and is suing the company, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for fifty million dollars as a result. The reason for the termination? The CBC gained access to, as they put it, “graphic evidence of physical violence against a woman.” Soon afterwards, more women came forward, and to date there are at least nine women who have spoken out against Ghomeshi, three of whom have bravely decided to press charges. The first women to speak publicly about it began to do so online, and as they did, a flood of people started commenting, taking one side or another. I have seen much of both sides, and what truly shocks and disturbs me is how many people have taken mr. Ghomeshi’s side, and declared that these women are liars, who have a vendetta against this poor Canadian celebrity.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me who he is. He could be the guy down the block, and my response would still be the same. I am more willing to believe the women in these cases. I know that sometimes there are women with vendettas, but I don’t believe it happens nearly as often as people think. Ghomeshi declared that he was being unfairly punished because he likes rough sex,, and is into “kink’ and BDSM. He says that every one of the cases was consensual. I don’t declare myself a direct authority on those things, but I will tell you one thing I do know: People who participate in those worlds are usually under a strict code of ethics, and if I may be so bold, I say if there is any doubt whatsoever, if you cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that both individuals are completely ok with the situation, then consent is not possible. Even in cases where the sex is what most would consider normal, even in the cases of sex between husband and wife, consent needs to be understood and observed at ALL TIMES. If either female or male partner expresses that they felt pressured or weren’t ok with what happened, then the partner needs to take that seriously, and do some serious reparation in their relationship. The fact that Jian is refusing to take responsibility, or even acknowledge that these women were violated by his treatment of them, speaks volumes to me.
But why do I believe these women so strongly? Why do I cringe every time I see this man’s smug face in my newsfeed, why do I check back for updates every couple of days, waiting for news that the investigation has resulted in his arrest? I hope for justice for these women, because I understand exactly where they are coming from. And this is where it gets personal…
When I was twenty years old, I pressed criminal charges against a man who molested me multiple times when I was a child, then attempted to rape me when I was eighteen. I filed the charges as a result of therapy sessions with my counselor, who was of course a mandated reporter, (required by the government to report any abuse against a minor,) and gave me the option to be involved in the process. After being interviewed as the police precinct, I decided to press charges. After months of being contacted with updates and being hopeful, I was told that they could not prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, and my file was closed, with no charges laid on the man. Around this same time,a boy in my church young adult group started showing interest in me. He seemed so nice, honest and genuine, the fact that he was six years my senior seemed of little consequence. He took me to an expensive restaurant on our first date, held doors open for me, was perfectly courteous. Having also had a really bad falling out with my parents, and basically being abandoned by them at the time, I was aching for love, essentially starved for affection. I was also under a heavy load of guilt, feeling like I was tainted, unwanted and not believed about what happened to me as a child. So when this guy started pushing for sex, even though I had always had it in my mind I wanted to wait for marriage, I agreed, and let him have sex with me.
The first time, it was hollow. After it was over, I ached, and he drove me home. I cried myself to sleep, feeling completely broken. It was then that I discovered that there was no going back.
After the first encounter, this guy wanted it all the time. Barely a day went by that he didn’t insist on having sex, anytime, anywhere. He would pull his pickup truck to the side of the road to have a “quickie,” pull my pants down on the living room couch, even tell me to go to his room while his extended family were in the other room for Easter Dinner. It seemed like all he ever really wanted to do, and while I complied, I hated both myself and him for it. There were many times I said I didn’t want to, even a few times were I had stayed home due to terrible back pain, and he told me to just lie still and let him get off. That was seriously what he said. He forced himself on me, and ignored me when I whimpered in protest.
Then came the conversation I had never imagined having. Somehow, the topic of bondage came up, (I think I was telling him that I was worried about a friend who was engaging in these activities with a man who was about eleven years her senior.) He admitted to me that he thought those things were really sexy, and that he had felt that way since he was a child, playing cops and robbers with his female cousins. (Yes, I am aware of how sketchy that sounds.) He then started a campaign to get me to try it, bringing it up constantly. Everytime I said no, he would pull a pouty look, sometimes he would give me the silent treatment or try to bribe me, or even suggest that it was the “only thing he would accept for his birthday.”
Not really realizing what I was getting into, I agreed. He said that as soon as I was uncomfortable, he would stop. That night, was one I will never forget, though I often wish I could. I am happily married to a different man now, with a beautiful son and another on the way, and those images still haunt me. I can still play it back, as if it were a movie.
He used handcuffs first. I will spare you the details, but he insisted I be naked, an other than when I was molested as a child, I have never felt so alone and vulnerable. He seemed upset that he couldn’t get me to climax. I just tuned out, trying to pretend I was a lifeless doll, with no feelings, no attachments. Just a hollow shell. After this, he crooned at me what a good job I did. I started to panic. He then had me put a lace skirt on, and tied me up. Hogtied, I could not move, but I was shaking everywhere. Not an inch of me was still. My breathing was laboured, and image after image of the man who abused me as achild went through my mind, until this man abusing me now and the one doing it then merged, and I couldn’t tell where one left off and the other began. He knew I was shaking, but rather than stop, he just kept going, kept talking. He stepped back and pretended to take pictures, holding his fingers up like a camera and making pretend clicking noises. He talked about how next time he would have me pose and take real pictures, after I was more “used to it.” I couldn’t talk. My voice had gone away, but I know that he felt my shaking, saw my frightened eyes. He saw, and he relished in it.
He took the skirt off, and untied me, but then immediately pushed me against the bed and had sex. I vaguely remember feeling guilty for not enjoying it, so I faked it. All I can tell you in my defense is that I thought that was all I was good for at the time. I felt nobody wanted me, and since I had already “given it away,” I might as well let him do whatever he wanted. I was also terrified of him. I had learned that his ex wife had a restraining order against him, and he had been arrested on assault charges. (Of course, he had a different story.) He had access to guns, and while the police had confiscated them, he was fighting in court to get them back at the time. He was obsessed with guns, and knowing how to shoot them. I overheard him one morning on the phone with his best friend, saying he wished he had just “killed the b****, (his ex wife,) “When he had the chance.”
This guy had been isolating me from many of my friends, particularly male ones, but one couple in particular, who I was fighting with pretty intensely at the time, as they both knew he was bad news and wanted me to get out of the hostile relationship. They eventually came up to Canada from the States, and sat down with me for some hard, serious talks. Once they left, I broke up with him…but he wouldn’t let go that easily.
He turned it up to full gear, first trying to bribe me with gifts, then talking to friends and trying to talk them into convincing me. Some of the people believed him, and did try to talk me into going back to him. He even went to my pastor behind my back, telling him only half the story and painting himself to be the innocent victim of a needy girlfriend, and him a slave to his passions. He threatened suicide, which I called him out on. The friends who I had pushed away before didn’t understand, (many of them,) and weren’t speaking to me anymore. I was basically put in a situation where I was forced to move in with my sister, and no one would help me move. Desperate, I stupidly reached out to this guy once again, telling him firmly we could not date, but that I needed help to move.
At first, he was charming and helpful. He was back in the honeymoon phase, acting like he did when we first dated. He was understanding and kind. I was even toying with the idea of going back to him.
Then all hell broke lose. On the way back, he pulled over into a dark, secluded park. He told me he needed help re arranging some things in the trailer that were rattling around. I figured I hsould help him, got out of the vehicle, and folloed him into the trailer. The next thing I knew, the door was shut behind us. He pushed me onto the camping bed, firmly pinning me with his hands and knees. “Now you owe me,” he hissed.
I didn’t fight. I did try to reason, hoping I could bargain my way out. I tried to use the excuse of no condom. As it turned out, he had “saved one just for this.” As it also turned out, he finished too soon for his liking, and had done it twice by the end, the second time he was not properly protected. The three weeks following that night before my period arrived were some of the longest of my life.
The police even arrived in the middle of the second round. Turns out the park was closed, and his license plate wasn’t on the car I had an opportunity to tell that I had just been raped, but I didn’t really know I had been raped at the time. I didn’t clearly say the word no, and I didn’t fight back. But I didn’t say yes either, and he used force to hold me down. He knew I didn’t want it. But he didn’t care.
Shortly afterwards, I left Canada for a month, and stayed with the aforementioned couple for a month, trying to sort out what had happened to me. While there, I read a book called Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. (Excellent read, by the way!) I saw patterns in many of the descriptions, and was finally willing to admit that I had been caught in an abusive relationship. When I returned to Canada, I broke away from him for good, and to this day I have no contact with him.
When I tried to tell people what happened, I received alot of distrust and questions. Alot of people who I had assumed were my friends, told me how I was just as much, if not more in the wrong than he. That I was making him a villain, trying to get attention, looking for sympathy because I had just gone too far and regretted it. The number of people who truly supported me was surprisingly small. So I eventually stopped talking about it as much.
There is more to the story, details of how I later found out he was trying to date other naive young virgin girls in the church. I did try to reach out to them and their families and friends to warn them about him, and thankfully, he no longer attends the church. As I said earlier, I have healed some. I am happily married to a wonderful, gentle and kind man. But as I also said, I will likely always bear the scars of what that man did to me. I realize that I could have made better decisions, and the women in Mr Ghomeshi’s case probably could have, too. However, I will not participate in victim blaming behaviour. I will not stand there with a list of reasons they do or do not qualify for being victims. I chose to believe them. I chose to applaud them for being brave, and telling their stories. I chose to raise my son to treat women with dignity and respect, and to know that even in a marriage, anything less than a yes means no.
Ladies, if you are reading this, please know that I believe you, and I am standing with you. From the heart of one broken girl to another, let us help heal each other, not tear one another down. When one has committed crimes, as I believe Mr. Ghomeshi has, it is in the best interest of the boss to make the job place a safe environment. So thank you as well, CBC, for doing the right thing, even in the face of a lawsuit. People have speculated that perhaps they knew earlier, and could have done something. This may or may not be true, it is not for me to say. However, I chose to applaud the CBC for taking action and being transparent now. I know I may not change everyone’s mind, heck, I might not even change anyone’s mind. If I reach one person, however, be it victim or innocent bystander, then telling my story will have been worth it.
Thanks for reading.