Unlike many others, I got straight As my first year at McGill, and started fucking up my grades only after. So when people tell me that grad schools don't often look at my first year, I have to wonder, will they also consider the grades that trauma, substance abuse and institutional betrayal took away from me?
Two years after being sexually assaulted, and one year after reporting it, I've had to pack up and travel across the world for a semester abroad -- with the sole purpose of keeping myself sane and staying away from McGill's toxicity.
In September 2014, I lay on a stranger's bed, too drunk to understand what was happening to my body, and watched my limbs being maneuvered into different penetrative positions for what felt like many excruciating hours. Since then, on any given day, I think of the bloodstained toilet paper, of being too sore to sit down, of the hangover the day after, the emergency room, the antibiotics, the kidney infection, the speculum.
Too many evenings, I have woken up dizzy and hungover from downing too many Advils and too much rum in the afternoon. I still have an extra pregnancy test from the package I bought at the time, thinking that I would need it in the case of being raped again. I've kept it even though it's expired. I remember too many things. I wish I would wake up one day in a psychiatric unit and be held down under electroshock therapy so I won't have to remember anymore.
After I found myself in the same class as my assailant, I disclosed the assault to nine different people in charge at McGill. One after another, they misled me, blamed me, shamed me, discouraged me from reporting my rape all together, or made empty promises to me. I still don't know what the outcome of my case was. I still don't know if there ever was any form of investigation.
No campus is safe
I've written about my experience extensively elsewhere, but here's the gist: I begged for help, over and over, but nobody listened. Many staff, administrators, and faculty aware of the situation stood by silently and watched me suffer. As a result, I did what people do when everything else fails: I went public and wrote about my experience, only to watch the most traumatic moments of my life get dissected by the lowest of the low on the internet.
Here's another catch: McGill's Charter of Student Rights, section five states that "The University has an obligation to maintain safe and suitable conditions of learning and study."
That right did not apply to me.
A lot happens when you become your university's poster child for rape. I've been getting more media requests than I care to reply to, met activists from universities across the country, and have been sitting on panels nationwide to voice what is actually happening on our campus with regards to sexual violence.
While I do appreciate the recognition I get for my work, I can't help but wish that the spotlight could have been on something I actually tried to accomplish. What am I getting credit for right now: getting raped? Getting ignored? Being lied to? Being reduced to a moral story, a PR disaster, a statistic? For years, I had intentionally avoided anti-sexual violence advocacy because I knew every minute of it would be like picking at a scab -- and I was right. "Rape victim" was never something I wanted to be known for.
Getting raped at a university that doesn't give a damn about you is expensive. If it hadn't been for my parents' financial support, I would have dropped out two years ago. I don't have the money to waste on lost tuition again, and I can't, for the sake of my future, have more failed or withdrawn courses on my transcript. But most importantly I know that, to quite literally save my life, I can't go through what I went through again.
Consent is not enough
While people have been supportive, I couldn't care less if more people told me that they believe me. The administration, my professor, my advisor: they all told me that they believed me and that they were all sorry for what happened to me. Rarely has anyone actually doubted my story. Did these affirmations actually make a material difference when I reached out for support from the McGill administration? Absolutely not.
I don't care about active listening, tea videos, poster campaigns, "I love consent" buttons and consent weeks when I'm asking for concrete, material support. Instead of effectively jerking off to feel-good "prevention" campaigns with very little impact, I want to see energy being redirected to standing up and holding abusers and institutions accountable. I want sit-ins. I want alumni to withhold donations. I want people to contact administrators, politicians -- I want them to demand change.
I want McGill to take responsibility for all the harm it has done to me and simply apologize. I want McGill to reimburse me for lost tuition, for therapy, for medication, for all the cab rides home because I gagged and blacked out as soon as I stepped foot on campus.
I want this institution to consult those who've been through the reporting process in regards to the sexual assault policy at McGill. We know best what we need. I want McGill to have crystal clear reporting procedures and redress regulations. I want McGill to make sure there won't be another student on this campus whose access to education will be taken away because of rape, and that no student falls prey to sexually abusive professors.
But aside from what I would like to see, do I have hopes that McGill will actually do the right thing? Not really. All I can do is to look forward to April 2018, when I will leave this city immediately after my last exam, and pretend my entire undergraduate career was a bad dream.
To survivors and victims: I'm sorry that McGill fails you so miserably. I have no words, there are no justifications. But please know that I've been fighting for you, for us, and they can't stop me.
To first years: if you get raped and do report and get taken seriously, you've hit the jackpot. So let me know if you do get that lucky.
To those close to survivors and victims: if you have not, in any way tangible way, shown your support -- be it by signing letters, speaking up, providing emotional labour, coming to panels, contributing to survivors' legal funds -- take your allyship and set it on fire.
To rapists and abusers -- professors, staff and students alike: welcome back. Roam wild and free, your playground is open and the meat is fresh.
Finally, to those administrators that made me suffer and to those that watched, to those that are happy to diss Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby but stay silent when violence takes place within our own community: your lack of concern about this toxic campus, your reluctance to speak up and support actual victims is sheer violence and is exactly what makes this campus a perfect breeding ground for predators. You may not be a rapist, but you are an accomplice to many, many rapists. Quite frankly, I don't know which one is worse.
This article originally appeared in the McGill Daily.
Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.
Image: Flickr/Jane Fox
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.