By Kiarra Swaby
Featured in our fall 2019 issue
Trigger warning: sexual assault
It has been a year since that moment changed your life forever.
It is something you live with every single day and have never spoken about publicly until now.
This is something you have wanted to do for a while, not only to get it off your chest but to share your story and raise awareness.
Oct. 31, 2018: another typical school day.
As per usual, you left your house around 8:40 a.m. to head downtown for 10.
Often while travelling, you take the time to listen to music and observe your surroundings, but on this day, your head was elsewhere. An unsettling feeling appeared to be looming on the back of your mind, making you oddly anxious and uneasy. Having had this feeling many times before, you knew it could only mean one thing: something was going to happen.
Exiting the subway station, you attempted to block the feeling out of your mind and stay focused on meeting up with your friend who had just texted you, asking where you were.
That is when you then felt someone tap your shoulder.
You thought nothing of it until you felt another tap. Guessing it was your friend, you turned around and saw a man, leaving you startled. He definitely was not your friend.
That week, you were getting compliments from strangers so you thought no different. You paused your music and as suspected, he gave you a compliment. You thanked him and continued walking to school.
That is when he began following you asking more questions.
You both reached your school, telling him you were now off to class, expecting him to leave — he did not.
Instead, he followed you, grabbed your hand, and lead you up the school steps
That is when you froze, feeling powerless. Everything you were ever taught in case you were in danger was forgotten. You could not speak, you could not move, the only thing on your mind was fear. Fear if you spoke up he would hurt you, fear if he had a weapon in his pocket, fear of not seeing your family and friends again.
So you obeyed.
He began to lead you through a different part of the school you had rarely ever been. Typically the hallways are constantly congested with student traffic, but ironically on the day you needed someone most, they were empty — as if this moment was pre-planned.
You remained quiet on the walk, trying to figure out where he was taking you when a washroom appeared. You thought this was your chance to finally get away, but before you knew it, he had pulled you in, locked you in a stall and began kissing you.
Attempting to wiggle free, you felt his hand sliding up your waist, resting on your chest.
Pushing him away, you looked down at your watch as a way to stall and plan an escape. That is when you noticed he had pulled his pants down.
You insisted you needed to leave right away to make it to class on time. Initially, he did not let you go, but after resisting again, he stopped what he was doing, adjusted himself, and lead you both out of the washroom.
He continued to walk with you, hand in hand through the hallway, stopping periodically to kiss you.
Finally reaching your class, he asked for your number and made you promise to meet up with him later.
Complying, you told him what he wanted to hear and he left, leaving you standing outside your class.
Immediately, you went to the nearest washroom and began to cry. However, the tears were not because of the assault. You knew the biggest lesson your family had always taught you was to speak up but instead, you did the exact opposite. You felt like a failure.
Not knowing what to do or who to tell you called your boyfriend.
You made him promise not to tell anyone what happened, collected yourself and finished the day as if nothing happened.
In my case, the support I received helped me speak up to get my attacker arrested, yet that is not always the outcome.
Sharing what happened is by far the hardest thing to do. Not knowing if anyone is going to believe you, getting in trouble for not doing enough, and the probability of the suspect not being caught are some of the most common reason why victims hold back.
However, if these fears continue to keep us quiet, we allow criminals to walk free. There truly is no guarantee your attacker will ever be caught, but by speaking up, you may possibly save someone else from becoming the next victim.