#BeenRapedNeverReported: I refuse to stay silent

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Photo: flickr/Andy Melton

#BeenRapedNeverReported: I just did it.

When I read that Jian Ghomeshi had been fired, initially, I was shocked because I deeply respected his work. Then I read his statement on Facebook and something didn't seem right.

The repeated use of the words, "it was consensual" raised a red flag for me. Abusers are masters when it comes to explaining their actions as a misunderstanding: it was consensual; it only happened once; she seemed to like it; she never said no; I only gave her what she was asking, and on and on.

So, when I woke up on November 1 and checked my twitter account and discovered a tweet by Sue Montgomery with the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported, I found myself typing.

Two minutes later, I tweeted my own #BeenRapedNeverReported tweets: "I was 5 yrs old. It was either surrender or go back to my room after a very scary nightmare. I surrendered" and, "#BeenRapedNeverReported I was 20 yrs old and drunk-he was a cab driver-he raped me and then drove me home and threw ten bucks at me..."

I sat there for a few minutes, watched my tweets take off into tweetland and get retweeted over and over. Numbness took over my body and my five year-old self rose inside my head: "here you go again causing trouble."

Then a private message from a CBC Montreal reporter came up. Would I be willing to do an interview about my experience? A hour and a half later I was in front of a mic and camera telling my story.

My adult self-kept thinking, "you are out of your fucking mind." I was just winding up an election for school commissioner, and only three days away from the Election Day. Then something changed.

I speak out today because I refuse to keep staying silent and to carry the shame that should be carried by my abuser. I have struggled with depressive episodes that keep me paralyzed on the floor of my room with flashbacks so overwhelming that I have to call in sick, or isolate myself until the "episode" is over.

How can I explain a sleepless night spent in a hyper-vigilant state of flashbacks so severe that I can feel the heaviness of someone entering my bed and the old reflex of turning on my side and scrunching my eyes pretending to sleep, hoping that it will not hurt too much and be over quickly?

Trauma is a sledgehammer that smacks you in the middle of the head.

I am tired of making excuses to hide my own private torment. The childhood sexual abuse I was subjected to is always dismissed by my family, and is perceived as a mistake partly due to my abuser's age. The fact that he also abused others indicates his predatory qualities, typical of pedophiles.

I struggle with the fact that, as a lesbian, I went through a hard time with my family as they alienated themselves from me. I will never understand how they see my sexuality as problematic yet welcome and support my abuser.

Breaking the silence on the trauma of abuse, as hard as it is, is a deeply empowering experience.

The social media movement #BeenRapedNeverReported is a technological equivalent to the consciousness raising of the late 1960s where women gathered to speak out about being raped, being victims of conjugal violence, having an abortion and so forth. It was considered quite therapeutic at the time.

My only fear with this latest movement is that as hundreds of women and men speak out about sexual assault behind the anonymity of twitter, they are not necessarily receiving the support to manage the after effects of denouncing their abusers.

I was able to denounce my predator because I have worked through a lot of the abuse-related issues with the support of my partner and friends.

Speaking out is a continuation of my healing process, though I don't know if we ever heal completely from the atrociousness of sexual assault. It will likely take me a lifetime to come to grips with it. Incest is further complicated by other factors such as family alienation, therefore the trauma is much greater.

In reading women's and men's experiences of sexual abuse a common aspect stands out: the realization that even if we press charges we will still not attain justice.

A year ago, I made an attempt to press charges. I met with a lawyer and an organization that helps female victims of assault. Through my hometown police officer -- the investigator was in fact a childhood friend of mine -- I had contacted other victims of my predator giving us a strong case, but it was too much. The numbness, flashbacks and fear forced me to once again put it on the backburner.

Let's face it, the courts and society in general benefit abusers more while survivors are re-victimized if they speak out.

I think it is time to turn the table on our abusers, re-appropriate their excuses for our own.

I denounced my abuser because he never said I couldn't talk about the assaults in my 40s; he never said "No"; I only denounced it once; I thought he liked it, and he probably got what he was asking for.


Mary Ann was born and raised in Thetford Mines, Quebec, but has called Montreal her home for the last 27 years. She lives with her partner Diane of 20 years and her cat that controls her life. Notable publications include "My Partner's Clutter Was Getting out of Control" and "Rainbow bombing, Western style: The spread of the anti-gay movement."

Mary Ann works for the McGill University Healthcare Centre. She is presently General Secretary of the Executive Committee of her local Union representing 5,000 members which is unionized by the FSSS-CSN. Recently elected School Commissioner for an inner city neighborhood called Verdun.

A 30 year activist: student activism, feminist, anti-poverty and social housing advocate, LGBTQ rights and so much more.  

Photo: flickr/Andy Melton

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