When I was sixteen years old, I witnessed a sexual assault and a year later I had to go to court to testify against the three men that were being charged.
Going to court was the most intimidated experience of my whole life! It was a tiny little courtroom, and the witness box was barely big enough for my chair. Seventeen-year-old Christa sat fifteen feet in front of the defence team, I had to look at the three people that scared me most in the world, and tell the court what I saw and heard.
The whole event is one of the most impactful moments of my life. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about some aspect of what happened, but there is one moment in particular that I replay in my mind over, and over, and over again.
One of the lawyers asked if I thought that it was a sexual assault or not and I answered: “I don’t know. I have gone over this in my head a million times, and I don’t know.” This is the moment that I can’t let go of.
If I were given the power to change anything in my life, it would be that moment.
I wish I could go back and stand up and scream: “HELL YES IT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT! I would never want that to happen to me, and I am sure that you wouldn’t want that to happen to you, or your daughter, or your mother, or your sister!” …But I didn’t say that, I said I didn’t know… And I beat myself up for that.
The statistics of the number of people who are accused of sexual assault and are not charged are haunting! And I hate that (in a very small way) I contributed to those statistics….
But I have to forgive 17 year old Christa; I have to accept that what happened has happened, and it has shaped who I am. I have to accept that at that time I didn’t know. I have to accept that I was uneducated and unaware, and didn’t know any better.
What I have a hard time accepting is that at the age of 17 I should have known. I should’ve known about sexuality, about healthy sexual relationships, and about consent… But I didn’t know because I was never taught! I was just thrown into the middle of a sex filled world and had to figure it out!
In school they teach that “abstinence is key!” and “abstinence is the only 100% effective birth control!” and “abstinence is the only way to stay 100% safe from STIs!”… And then they kind of whisper, “but if you are going to have sex, be safe.” The only consent that they teach you is to not feel pressured by your boyfriend… But what does consent really mean? How do we apply that to real life situations?! We never learned anything about that!
Why did I graduate high school being able to draw a diagram of the DNA replication process, but I did not understand consent or healthy sexual relationships? One seems vastly more important and more useful than the other.
Since that event, or maybe because of it, I have educated myself and have become a proud feminist!
Everyone needs to understand sexuality and consent. They need to understand that it is their choice to be sexually active or not. No matter what their decision is embrace it and love it, and accept other people for their decision!
All I am asking is to please, please, PLEASE educate yourself, and educate those around you. Please love yourself and love your sexuality. Please respect everyone’s decisions around consent and sexuality (or really anything) and don’t pressure anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do. Please stand up for things that you feel passionate about. Please don’t be afraid to stop things that you feel uncomfortable with. Please don’t blame the victims of sexual assault, the only person at fault is the abuser. No one deserves to be abused!
It is one of my biggest fears to sit down on the subway and look up and see one of those men sitting across from me. I often imagine what I would do or say to them if I were to ever run into them. Would I do nothing, paralyzed by disbelief? Would I get up and change seats? Would I tell them that I don’t know how they live with themselves? Would I tell them that I forgive them?
I have to trust that something positive has come out of this negative situation. I have to look at everything as a growing and learning experience. Maybe if it weren’t for that event I wouldn’t be as passionate as I am now, maybe I wouldn’t stand up for women the way I do now, maybe I wouldn’t be the proud feminist that I am now.
I have to pray for the girl would was abused. My heart goes out to her, and I would give anything to take away her pain and her hurt, and allow her to forget and move on. I hope she has overcome it, and is stronger from it. I hope that those men understand that what they did was wrong and have asked for forgiveness. I hope that they have learned from what they have done and have grown as human beings.
There are amazing resources to learn more about sexuality and consent.
Emmeline May wrote an amazing article on consent. Everyone should read it! Her brilliant comparison of consent and tea makes it easy for anyone and everyone to understand consent and how to apply to every situation!
Jackson Katz has an amazing TEDtalk explaining how feminism is a man’s issue.
Laci Green has amazing YouTube videos about consent and sexuality. Check out her channel.
And if you are confused or questioning anything…. GOOGLE IT! Question, research, and educate yourself.
In grade-nine gym class, girls are taught self-defense while the boys play dodge ball… Why are we teaching our girls how to defend themselves against attacks… why are we not teaching our boys not attack girls?! And boys get sexually assaulted as well…
Boys who think it is fun to cat call girls or slap their bums in bar, it is NOT a compliment, IT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT, and should not be tolerated! Stand up for yourself and stand up for others!
And finally, I need to get this off my chest: I am sorry. I am sorry I didn’t know any better. I am sorry I didn’t do anything to help you. I am sorry that I wasn’t a better witness. I am sorry. I hope that I can be forgiven, and I hope I can forgive myself.