Burn the systems to the ground.



I don’t feel inclined to stay quiet and feel ashamed about this anymore. I’m struggling too much with the recent news and the state of the world for survivors. For others who have been through this, you are not alone. I talk about it to let others know that it isn’t their fault.

CW: sexual violence, systemic violence/oppression/disbelief

Why am I triggered right now in the wake of the Kavanagh situation?

Why do I often wish I HAD stayed silent about my experiences of abuse and NEVER told a soul?

Because of the Children’s Aid Worker who asked me “Don’t you know how to protect yourself? Are you afraid for yourself or your children?” in a sneering, sarcastic voice

Because of the Judges who told me that my experiences of violence were irrelevant to family law, who implied I was lying because I hadn’t reported to the police, then accused me of making accusations to gain an advantage in court (after I reported)

Because of the OCL Social Worker who told me that I needed to get counseling for my anxiety and heavily implied that if I didn’t stop “coaching” my daughter to say bad things about her father that she’d have grave concerns about me creating conflict and that I’d lose custody.

Because of the OPS detective who closed my case TWICE without telling me and completely failed to investigate or take notes and then lied to cover himself.

Because of how traumatic it was to have my confidential psychiatric records photocopied and handed in an envelope to my abuser in a court room.

Because the trauma of testifying in court to get custody and protect my children was so intense that I barely remember the three days I spent doing it.

Because the trauma of listening to my psychiatrist speak about the abuse and its impacts in court was so much that I had to leave the courtroom crying due to the intensity of the flashbacks.

Because our family Doctor lied in court and then discharged me and my kids from her practice accusing me of being a bad parent with terrible boundaries as a result of the “parental conflict” that was being caused entirely by my ex. As a result my kids had no family Doctor for 18 months.

Because of the school principal who blatantly lied in court to support my ex saying she “didn’t recall” my daughter crying and screaming and refusing to leave with her father after a particularly stressful incident at home.

Because of the Children’s Aid Worker who told me that I should be “calmer and more neutral” about the transphobic behaviour of my ex.

Because of the Children’s Aid Workers who implied that if I didn’t stop reporting (and if other’s didn’t stop reporting) that they would get ME into trouble for making too many reports.

Because of the judge who clearly wrote in her final order that she didn’t believe I was abused.

I’m tired of the world implying that I’m “too crazy,” “too emotional,” “too sensitive,” “too angry,” “too anxious,” “too controlling,” “too whiny” “too radical” and just plain TOO MUCH when I talk about my experiences.

#whyIwishIhadnotreported  #whymetooisnotenough


But why didn’t you report it?


I wanted to write a short post about why survivors of sexual assault don’t report and often don’t tell anyone.  More specifically, why I didn’t.  There are as many reasons not to report and/or tell as there are different survivors.

To distinguish the terms, reporting means telling someone in authority, for example the police, law enforcement or people in a position of power.  Telling, could mean talking to a friend, a family member, a doctor, counselor, religious leader etc.   Reporting is often done to accomplish some goal related to punishing the perpetrator or holding him accountable.  Telling is often done for the benefit of the survivor, finding support, discussing options, being believed and validated.

It can be very dangerous to mix these two concepts.  Because the people you might report to (the police for example) are not likely to, nor is it fully their job to, support the survivor.  In my opinion, it should be their job to BELIEVE the survivor, but even this cannot be guaranteed.

Some women choose to tell, but not to report.  And some survivors neither tell, nor report.  It’s important to remember that this choice should always be made by the survivor and she should not be pressured into reporting.  Sometimes the question “why didn’t you report it?” can feel extremely judgmental and can shut someone down even further.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons women, and folks in general, tend to stay silent when they experience sexual violence

  1. Real or perceived stigma associated with being a survivor of sexual violence.   We live in a rape culture society that tends to blame the victim and most survivors instinctively know this.   In many situations, there is also a great deal of internalized sexism, internalized judgment and internalized guilt and shame related to being abused which created a sense of stigma that might not have actually existed.
  2.  Fears of not being believed.  Many people stay silent, to avoid giving other people the power to judge whether they are telling the truth of not.
  3. Fears related to what they were doing at the time of the assault.  For example if the woman was drinking, if she was out late at night, if she willingly went to the perpetrators house etc.   Many survivors assume that because they consented to one thing, it means they automatically deserve the assault that happened, or that they will not be believed because they “put themselves in the vulnerable position” or were “asking for it”
  4. Fears related to oppression.  A woman may feel afraid to come forward if she is marginalized in any way, for example a Woman of Colour, a person with a disability, a person with a mental illness, a queer person, a trans person, a sex worker or someone using substances.  These folks may feel they will not be believed due to their experiences of oppression.
  5. Not recognizing what has happened as sexual assault.  When people are abused, it isn’t always immediately clear to the survivor that what happened was assault.  This is especially true when survivors are children or when abuse happens in a relationship context.  Often abusers are very kind and meet the survivors needs in some ways, while simultaneously being abusive in other ways.  This confuses the survivor and leaves her struggling to understand and define her own reality.  Also, some people (children for example) literally lack the vocabulary to define what they have experienced.
  6. Not having the option to tell.  For example, not knowing that reporting is an option, or not having a safe person to tell.  Or not trusting anyone enough to tell them.

This list is not exhaustive, but is meant to illustrate some of the complexities related to this topic.

When I was abused as a child and teenager, I neither told nor reported.  I didn’t tell anyone because of a combination of the reasons above.  I didn’t have the words, I was confused about my relationship with the abuser, I didn’t know reporting was an option and most of all I feared judgment and had deeply internalized shame and guilt about what had happened.  I blamed myself.

As an adult, I didn’t report because I was confused about my relationship, because I minimized the abuse as “not that bad,” because I disassociated and coped with self harm, because I had a mental health diagnosis I feared that I would not be believed, because I had children with the abuser and other reasons.

When I was assaulted single times by perpetrators I was not in close relationships with, I didn’t tell because I was ashamed.  Because I felt like it was my fault because I agreed to go with them.  I didn’t want to face the stigma with people I knew and because I worried people would not believe me or would judge me.

In the end, in all the situations I have faced, I have eventually either told, and in some cases, told and reported.  Reporting sometimes felt necessary for various reasons, including protecting other potential victims and attempting to receive external validation within systems, that the abuse actually did occur.

This blog is a way of telling my story and encouraging, or showing, others that telling is an option.  There may be a stigma attached to surviving sexual violence, but there are also communities of survivors and allies out there who will believe and who will validate.  There are safe people.  There are people who believe survivors.

Believing a survivor may seem like something trivial, but it makes all the difference.  Believe me!

P.S I mainly use the word “woman” and the pronoun “she” when describing survivors because the majority of survivors are women and gender non-conforming folks, and the majority of perpetrators are cis-men.   But I want to validate that survivors and perpetrators can both be any sex and/or gender.

A Dance with Disaster


Two years ago I met a guy in the social dance community.   It was a community within which I felt safe and I’d never had any problems there.  I had made friends and it didn’t seem unusual to go for ice cream with this guy after the dance.  Dancing makes you hungry and late night snacking is a part of the ritual.

We went twice for ice cream.  On two different weeks and we texted minimally.  On the third evening, I agreed to hang out after the dance.  Again, I was expecting to go for ice cream or snacks.  He wanted to go to his place.  I somehow thought we’d park the car near there and then get ice cream nearby.  He lived near a busy street where there were lots of restaurants open late.

It was late, maybe 12:30AM.  He asked me to come into his place.  Every voice inside me was yelling “No, don’t go with him!”  But then I shut myself down, I told myself “You can’t always be expecting the worst of everyone, you have to trust people, this guy is from the dance, he’s most likely safe”

In other words, I had that moment which so many survivors describe, of knowing that something wasn’t right.  But, like I’d done in the past, I ignored it and went along with what he was suggesting.

He lived in a bachelor apartment inside an older house.  The couch was so close to the bed they were almost touching and there was barely any space to move around.  We sat on the couch and I started talking nervously.  I told him that I’d recently separated from an abusive husband, that I had been sexually abused.   I was trying to give a clear signal that I wasn’t interested in fooling around with him.    He listened without saying much.

Then he started kissing me.  His hand was on my thigh, pushing up my red and white dress.  I froze.  In my head I was gathering strength, making a plan.  Finally, I said “No” very clearly.  But he didn’t stop.  He kept kissing me and touching me.   Again, I froze, I went into my head and continued planning.   I said “No” a second time and a third.  The kissing and touching continued, his hand touching my underwear under my dress.

I realized at this point that I was in trouble.  He was bigger than me, likely stronger.  We were alone, nobody would likely hear me scream.  Thoughts were rushing through my head.  By the third “No,” my brain was ready to check out.  I was on the verge of disassociating, my energy was used up and my old responses were kicking in.

He picked me up.  Lifted me in his arms and placed me on his bed.  He was on top of me kissing me.  And I had a moment of clarity.  My internal voice spoke firmly (I’m paraphrasing my internal dialogue):

You cannot disassociate right now.  If you disassociate you are going to be raped.  You barely know this person.  You have to fight.  You have to escape.  You do NOT want to be raped tonight.  You have to stay in the present, you can’t zone out!  This is your chance to protect yourself.   This guy didn’t listen to words, you have to use force!”

I gathered my strength and I pushed him as hard as I could with both my hands.  He stopped, lay down beside me, hands still touching my legs.  He seemed upset, as if I’d been leading him on.  I don’t remember him speaking.  I could just tell he was angry.   I breathed one more time, regenerating some strength.  Then I told him I had to leave, jumped off the bed, grabbed my coat and purse and ran.

I ran down the stairs.  I ran out into the street.  My car was parked a few blocks away, but I barely remembered where.  It was late, after 2:30AM.   As soon as I hit the fresh air I was crying.  I was shaking with the exertion of defending myself.  The PTSD was overtaking me, everything was happening and I was still trying to find my car.

I took out my cell phone, and called the guy I was casually dating.  He often stayed up very late and I prayed he would answer.  I called a few times, no answer, left a panicked message and finally located my car.

My friend called me back as I was driving home.  I remember crying on the phone while I was driving.   He stayed on the phone with me for a long time, until I was finally able to sleep.

He was so angry.  He wanted me to call the police, but I knew that was basically useless.  I was also really embarrassed and I didn’t know the people in the dance community to know.  I felt like somehow I’d be the one who would be shamed.  I knew on one level I could, and probably should, tell one of the organizers, but I was too ashamed.  I wanted to keep it a secret and just try to forget about it.   I didn’t want to call the police, because I hadn’t been raped.  It wasn’t “that bad,” and I’d escaped without injury.  I’d just forget about it and move on.

But I was traumatized.  I had flashbacks for days, weeks.  I felt embarrassed, I felt like somehow everyone could know that I’d been assaulted.  It was a similar feeling to when I’d been a teenager and was convinced the whole world knew, when in reality nobody did.

I struggled to wear that red and white striped dress again.  Because when I wore the dress I could feel his hands moving it up my thighs without my consent.  I shuddered just looking at the dress.

I also felt a sense of empowerment, that I was able to defend myself rather than disassociating.  It was the first time in all my years of experiencing sexual abuse that I’d ever physically defended myself. But it was small comfort.  If there was one thing I didn’t need in my life it was to be sexually assaulted again.

The worst part is that I still see this guy.  He’s still a part of the dance community.  He’s on facebook, online dating sites and if I’ve seen him I’ve blocked him.   But I can’t block him from the dance, not without telling someone.  And what’s the point now?  It’s been over 2 years and what if they didn’t believe me?   Worse, what if they think I’m exaggerating or making a big deal of nothing.  So I see him from time to time, I ignore him with all my strength, I walk away, I dance in a different part of the room, I try to imagine him disappearing.  But honestly,  when he’s there I never feel 100% comfortable.

People often say that sexual assault only lasts for a few moments.  Why ruin someone’s life by accusing them of assault and reporting them to the police over something that only lasted moments?   Why ruin someone’s reputation?  Why report at all?

Well, sexual assault doesn’t last only for a few moments.  Not for the survivor!  For the survivor it never fully heals, it’s never fully forgotten.  It’s like a stain on your favourite dress, one that you can’t ever get out.  Or your favourite dress that you can’t wear again, because the stain is the memory of the assault.  It’s  just there, in your closet, to remind you of a night you’d rather forget.

It is “that bad.”  It just is.

It was “just” sexual abuse…


I’ve been thinking about the barriers I faced in coming forward about being sexually abused, as a child and as an adult.  For people who have not experience sexual abuse, the most immediate response to someone disclosing is often: “why didn’t you tell someone?”  or “why didn’t you tell someone sooner?” or my personal favourite “why didn’t you fight back/scream/run?”

The reality is I didn’t even realize I was being abused until long after the abusers had intertwined their lives with mine.

The reality is that abuse in relationships does always not look the way you might expect it to.

The reality is that I spent a long time, as an adult, in counseling, volunteering at a women’s centre etc…stating to other reasonable adults “it was ‘just’ sexual abuse.”  I made all sorts of excuses for why it didn’t count, why it wasn’t important, why it wasn’t real abuse, why I didn’t deserve help, why other people had it worse off, why I was making a big deal over nothing, why I didn’t want to tell anyone and ruin his life etc.

Because they never hit me, it wasn’t abuse.  Because they didn’t threaten to kill me, it wasn’t abuse.  Because I said yes some of the time, it wasn’t abuse.

I was (and am) pretty mean to myself and a lot of my perceptions were just plain wrong.

I think it takes a lot of strength and courage to really come face to face with the fact that your romantic relationship is unhealthy, abusive and actively making you sick.  It’s not something that comes easily, turning your back on the father of your children.

I told myself the abuse didn’t count.  I knew I felt uncomfortable, I knew it very early on in both relationships.  I saw the red flags, but somehow I interpreted them differently.  I wanted to believe that things weren’t really that bad.  I wanted to believe I could help the abusers change.  That they were depressed, that they needed me.  That their needs were more important than my own.  I wanted to believe that love would be enough.

I did start to talk about the abuse.  I did tell people.  In some ways, I wasn’t really challenged by those people.  I think many of them instinctively knew I wasn’t ready to leave.  They knew I needed time to come to the realization that it was abuse and that I needed to get out.  For the most part they didn’t push me.  I was still ambivalent about the abuser and I still wanted things to “work out.”

One day someone I volunteered with called me out.  I mentioned something about it being “just” sexual abuse.  She challenged me.  She sat there and said “what you are saying doesn’t make sense.  It’s not ‘just’ sexual abuse.”  I think it was the first time someone had openly called me out on my own denial.  This was in the month or 2 leading up to my decision to leave.

At the time I left him I still believed it was “just” sexual abuse.  I told almost nobody why I was leaving.  I thought that moving would solve the problem, because since it was “just” sexual abuse I would be safe.

I was wrong.  Sexual assault is not about sex.   It’s about power and control.  It’s about a level of narcissism that exists in this world that allows one person to disregard the consent of another person.  Within any type of relationship it’s about manipulation, it’s about gaslighting, it’s about making the victim feel crazy, worthless, broken, damaged, and most of all dependent on the abuser.   The sex is a tool of control.  It rarely happens in isolation.  Emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, threats, coercion…it’s all part of the same package.  Even if the package is wrapped in a disguise that makes you believe that sex is the only issue and that otherwise the person is “basically a good guy.”

At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t respect your consent sexually, they don’t respect you.  They aren’t “basically a good person.”  They are a person who does not value your basic right to say yes or no in a given situation.  They are a person who puts their own needs before yours, and possibly even denies your needs are real, valid or even exist.

It’s a long road back from that place.  The place where you question whether your needs are reasonable, valid or even exist.  It’s a long way back from the place where you believe that your consent is not relevant, where your needs are not relevant.  Where you are blamed for not wanting to consent, even in a situation where there is no trust, no safety and almost no relationship left.

I’m writing this to tell you:

  1. if you have been abused, it’s never “just” anything.  Your experience is valid and real.  If you are uncomfortable, afraid, hurt, feeling crazy then trust yourself.  It’s abuse.
  2.  if you have been abused and even if you have not, please remember that there is no specific way an abuse survivor looks, copes or experiences violence.  There may be no physical marks, there may be denial, there may be almost no signs at all.  Trust yourself, if you have the feeling something isn’t right in your relationship or in the relationship of someone you care about, reach out.  Get help, talk it over, ask gentle questions, be there to support yourself or the person you care about.
  3. believe the survivor.  If you are the survivor, believe yourself
  4. if you still blame yourself, or the person you care about is blaming themselves, tell them it is not their fault.  Repeat step 3.  Repeat step 3 again.  Repeat it again and again and again.

I believe you.  It’s not your fault.  It counts.  It’s is real.  You deserve support.