Woman shares her story of sexual assault and why she welcomes the initiative

An awareness campaign, aimed towards men, is providing comfort to one 22-year-old Calgarian who said she suffered two alcohol-related sexual assaults.

The “Don’t Be That Guy” poster campaign, which was launched in Calgary by Sexual Assault Voices Calgary in the fall, includes three different images.

The posters were distributed in bars, C-trains and LRT stations across the city and carry the same overall message; “sex without consent = sexual assault.”

The young woman said she has been “taken advantage of” and is glad the campaign has come to Calgary.

While she never reported the alleged assaults, The Calgary Journal is providing her anonymity as is required by the Criminal Code to protect victims of sexual assault.

Though the Journal cannot verify her story, friends of the source have corroborated the events she described.

Stranger assault

The university student said that two and a half years ago, a stranger downtown assaulted her. She said she arrived very drunk at a bar downtown with some friends.

Our source said she remembers chatting to a group of guys and when her friends had gone to the washroom, she went outside to talk to one of the men.

“I hardly remember anything about the guy,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to recognize him if I saw him. I just remember that he was white and around the same age as me.”

After leaving the bar, she said her memory gets hazy and believes she blacked out and passed out in an alleyway close to 17th Avenue.

She said, “I vaguely remember him kissing me but the next thing I clearly remember is waking up in an alley alone.”

She said she doesn’t remember whether she had to pull herself back together or not but recalls feeling sore and bruised.

Our source said she then wandered around disoriented until some policemen found her and took her back to her friends.

She found out that her friends had been frantically looking for her and told the police she was missing.

She tried to return to the bar where a larger group of friends were waiting for her but the bouncers wouldn’t let her in because she was too drunk.

“After that I just remember feeling angry and then crying uncontrollably but I didn’t know why,” she recalled.“That Guy” campaign uses blunt, straight-forward images to get it’s point across.
Photo courtesy of www.sexualassaultvoices.com

Poster campaign

The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign came out of Vancouver and is partnered with local police as well as women’s support groups.

Kimberly Williams, PhD, assistant professor of women’s studies at Mount Royal University said that part of the problem with sexual assault is that people think rape occurs between strangers and women are taught to only really be aware of strangers.

She said this is a wrong assumption because stats show that most sexual assaults happen between people who know each other. She said she believes ladies “feel comfortable going out with friends and assume they’re not going to rape me because they know me.”

Williams said another reason why these kinds of sexual assaults are not considered rape is because many people still hold to the notion that women are responsible for men’s behavior.

“The fact that the girl is drunk, or dressed provocatively is the reason the man couldn’t control himself. This is frankly insulting to men,” she said.

Williams said, “The ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ campaign contains powerful visual images that get a strong point across,” but said she believes while the message is aimed at men, it will still only reach women.

The reason for this she said is, “I don’t think a lot of guys think of themselves as possible rapists, they don’t realize that any kind of sex without consent is assault. If women get the point and understand the threat, they can talk to men, their brothers, fathers, friends and it can spread that way.”

Second assault

Our anonymous source said that two days after the incident downtown, she took the morning-after pill, Plan B. “It is supposed to work up to 72 hours,” she said. “I think the website says its effectiveness is only 85 per cent after two days but I still thought those were pretty good chances.”

A few weeks later our source said she was shocked to discover that she was pregnant. She said that she decided early on that she wanted an abortion and went through with it weeks later.

She said she still struggles with the decision emotionally as she is Catholic and said she used to be adamantly pro-life.

“After the whole incident, I think that any sensible person would realize what alcohol does to them and would stop drinking altogether, but I found myself drinking more to deal with everything,” she said.

Our source said that her drinking got her in to trouble again almost exactly a year later. She said that almost the same thing happened to her again except this time it was someone she knew.

“I would frequently black out when drinking and I had another big one where hours of the night are missing,” she said.

She recalled once again showing up to a club drunk with some friends, buying a drink and walking to the dance floor. The next thing she said she remembers is lying in the spare bed at a friend’s house.

“I don’t remember at all how we got there,” she said. “I have blurry memories of the friend of the guy who’s house it was’ touching me and asking me to do things with him but I felt like I was half asleep and said no, that I didn’t want to.

I even remember saying the reason I didn’t want to was because a guy had taken advantage of me before.”

The next day the guy was gone and our source’s friends joked about the incident. She said the guy told her friend “something had happened” but she was too disgusted to ever enquire any further.The posters are found in bars, and hope to raise awareness of alcohol-related sexual assault.
Photo courtesy of www.sexualassaultvoices.com

The Facts

Danielle Aubry, executive director of the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (Hyperlink http://calgarycasa.com/) said she agrees with the “importance of talking about the issue whether it’s arguing or debating or trying to understand.”

According to Aubry:

• 6-8% of sexual assault cases are reported and around.

• 60% of the sexual assault cases that the CCASA encounters are alcohol-related.

Canada’s Department of Justices defines sexual coercion, which is a form of sexual assault as:

• Pressuring someone to engage in sexual acts by taunting, belittling, making fun of or harassing them.

• Lying to someone, or threatening to tell lies about someone in order to get sex.

• Exploiting or taking sexual advantage of someone, including victims who are younger or intoxicated.

That number includes our anonymous source, who said she didn’t want to report these incidents to the police because she was worried about being accused of making false claims and wanted to put the incidents behind her as soon as possible.

Aubry said that people need to be made aware and see that, “Wow this is a crime. Someone walks away from it and doesn’t think anything of it but the other person is affected for the rest of their life.”

The aftermath

Our anonymous source said she is very happy about the campaign reaching Calgary: “Of course seeing the posters reminds me of those horrible incidents, but lots things remind me of it. At least they are raising awareness and hopefully it will clear up some ignorance.

“I really don’t think people think of it as sexual assault when a guy ‘hooks up’ with a drunk girl because it is so common and people think she deserves it.

“Rape or sexual assault is sex without consent. You cannot consent if you are blacked out or passed out.”

Our source said she only shared the incidents with close friends and never told her parents because she didn’t want to upset them or for them to think any differently of her.

She said her friends were very supportive when she was taken advantage of by a stranger but not when it was by someone they knew.

“They would shrug it off like it was nothing, they have even said afterward that he is a really nice guy, which enrages me. I don’t know if they think I just say I was blacked out as an excuse or whether they just think its OK to have sexual contact with someone when they are too drunk to know what’s going on,” she said.

“For a long time I felt like I deserve to be treated like that and it took me a long time to realize I don’t. I know I need to take responsibility for myself and have cut down a lot on my drinking but even when I do drink too much I know I don’t deserve to be treated like that. No one does.”

jonyons@cjournal.ca