author: michelle jones | copy editor
Clothes don’t provoke. The excuses need to end.
In response to the current me too campaign we think, as a staff, that it’s important to boost the voices of those affected. Our own Michelle Jones wrote this article in 2014. Originally titled “A sexual assault at the U of R”. Though this piece was originally printed in op-ed, it is fitting to print here, given the circumstances. – John Loeppky
I have been attending the U of R for six years and have never worried about my safety when on campus – until now. I left the Carillon office in Riddell Centre while working on this issue to use the washroom at approximately 8:30 p.m. When I went down the hall to where the second-floor washrooms are, someone ran up to me and slapped me in the rear. I turned around expecting it was someone I knew playing a joke, or my boyfriend, who said he was going to stop by if he could. I was extremely surprised to find a man and a woman I didn’t know standing there laughing. What followed is what surprised me even more, if that was even possible. The woman said, “Sorry, was that okay?” I was completely shocked that she would even ask such a thing.
I told the girl that it was absolutely not okay, and she then said, “Well, you wear jeans and boots like that, you’re asking for it to happen.” Another woman was saying this to me. The thing is, the jeans and boots I was wearing were not at all provocative in any way. No different than any other student here, that’s for sure. And, even if they were, I think there has been enough discussion around this particular issue that it should be known that it is not okay to touch someone without their permission, especially based on what they are wearing. The scary part is I was alone in a hallway with them and they were blocking the way out. I had no idea if they were going to pursue anything further and immediately feared for my safety, since I couldn’t see anyone and they couldn’t see me.
This is the first time anything like this has happened to me, and I have to admit that it is extremely disturbing. It left me pretty shaken up. I felt so violated. And, for a split second, I considered what I was wearing and whether or not I was sending out the wrong message. I recovered my senses just as quickly and realized that nothing I did and nothing I was wearing provoked that attack.
When is this stigma going to end? Why is it that women have to take into account what they are wearing to ensure their own personal safety? And, considering I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a jacket, and boots, there is no reason why that should say to someone that it is okay to touch me without my permission. Why is the onus put on us, and not on the perpetrators? It’s one thing to read articles about this in newspapers or online, but when it happens to you, it all of a sudden turns into a very scary reality. I realized at that moment how easily I became a victim and how anyone could become a victim. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen with this confrontation. When you are faced with a situation like that, I know now that your mind goes blank and you forget anything you’ve ever learned when it comes to self-defense. I don’t know what I would have done if it became violent. Luckily, it didn’t, but it can easily happen.
So, to the people responsible for this attack – and that’s exactly what it was, whether you were serious about it or not – if you are reading this, I hope you realize what you have done. You violated me and tried to make it my fault based on my clothing choice. I no longer feel safe walking around this campus alone in the evenings because of you.