Sexual Assault: A survivor's story
By Ciara Rickard
Kathy is 23. She is in her fifth year at Brescia College and is now a part-time student completing a degree in English. She is a native of St. Catharines and a survivor of sexual assault.
Although we will not use her real name, or that of her assailant, Kathy's story is very real.
On June 23, 1995, Kathy was sexually assaulted by a man she knew and trusted. Though their past relationship had been relatively brief, David had never done anything to warrant distrust on her part; but on this summer night, almost two and a half years ago, he violated her trust and changed her life forever.
"I was living at the King's Inn during the summer of '95 and was one of the first students to live there. I spent a lot of time talking to the owner and became friends with him and the managers and was introduced to a guy who was trying to start a convenience store in the Inn," explains Kathy.
Their initial meeting was purely on business terms and they began to spend a lot of time together talking about business and politics and other common interests. They became friends and their friendship developed into a casual relationship, which led to consentual sex, one time. When David's convenience store didn't work out, he dropped out of the picture and Kathy didn't hear from him until she got a phone call at 3 a.m. about a month later.
"He wanted me to come for a walk so I went and met him outside. We went for a walk around downtown London, he took me to Tim Horton's and we talked for a while. Then we walked to my building and played pool downstairs. He started flirting, making suggestive comments and trying to pull up my shirt, but I just ignored him it didn't really concern me at the time," says Kathy.
She later went up to her apartment, assuming he would go home, but he went with her, so she let him into her apartment. The conversation eventually led to kissing and 'fooling around,' but Kathy made clear twice at this point that she did not want to have intercourse and David did not present any argument.
"Then he turned me over and started to rub my back and that was fine, I just thought I was getting a massage. Then he got on top of me and started to enter me. I reached to try to get away from him and asked him what he was doing but he didn't answer. I said 'this is not what I want, get off me.' I told him to get out, but he didn't listen."
It was at this point Kathy realized David was not going to listen. Out of fear for her safety, not knowing what he was capable of, she let him finish and did whatever she had to do to get him out of her apartment as quickly as possible. For several weeks after, she told no one except a counsellor and a couple of doctors.
"I let it go, I didn't tell anyone because I was ashamed. I thought it was my fault, that I shouldn't have even had him in my room," Kathy admits.
It was a phone call from David about a month later that finally prompted Kathy to report the assault. The very next day she called the police and gave them a preliminary report. After she had given them a full report, they called David down to the station. He denied the allegations but they arrested him on the spot anyway.
David was charged with sexual assault and convicted over a year later when he pled guilty to the charges. A few months later he received an 18-month conditional sentence, which is essentially like being on parole: he serves no jail time but must abide by certain rules.
"I couldn't function. For close to a year and a half, throughout the entire trial, I would just watch TV and eat. It's known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: I had nightmares and day dreams I would just zone out," she says.
"I was on medication for anxiety. I couldn't eat sometimes and other times I couldn't stop eating I felt like I had to fill a huge gap inside of me."
Kathy lost touch with most of her friends during the ordeal and her relationship with her fiancée, which developed after the assault, could not withstand the stress of the trial.
"It's made me stronger, so much stronger. I'm confident that I can deal with anything that happens to me. But it's also made me more distrustful of people and it's hard for me to meet people," Kathy adds.
The experience has made Kathy something of an activist. She plans to write about it when she finishes school and has already done much writing and speaking out, which has helped her healing process.
"Talk about it," is Kathy's advice to other survivors of sexual assault. "Keep talking about it. Tell it to every person who'll listen to you 'til you don't feel the need to talk about it anymore. That's the only way to heal. Keep reaching out, don't stop talking. Don't let anybody tell you you're wrong or that it's your fault. Believe in yourself."