Trigger warning: Sexual and emotional assault
A boyfriend comes home from a night of partying. She hears him stagger in and she hopes he’ll just pass out tonight and leave her alone. But he doesn’t. Instead, he starts touching her. She says no. But he won’t stop. He climbs on top of her. This time she says no while pushing him off. He stops and seems to fall asleep, only to wake back up again and continue. She finally goes limp, gives in, and hopes he’ll be done soon.
A man goes in for prostate surgery. Already feeling vulnerable and afraid. Looking for care and compassion from those around him. Yet what he experiences is anything but. They are rough, pulling, pushing and prodding. Telling him it’s his own fault if there are complications because he didn’t follow the doctor’s orders. There is rough handling, aggressive behavior, and demoralizing, dehumanizing treatment. While fully exposed and vulnerable, there is unwanted touching and an experience of physical pain that should never have been.
A woman goes to a bush party with a group of friends. Enjoying the warm weather, the new country she’s in, and all the fun memories she’s making. She ends up a bit further away from the rest of the group than she had intended. A man who has been watching her for most of the night approaches her. He’s getting a bit rough and grabbing her even though she says she’s not interested. He hits another person close by to show her he’s not messing around. He grabs her arm and tells her he’ll kill her if she screams. He kidnaps her, dragging her confused, disoriented and afraid. If she screams, he’ll kill her. If she runs, he’ll kill her. If she tells anyone, he’ll kill her. He does what he wants to her that night and she can’t find a way to make it stop.
A husband and wife are so in love with one another that they decide to have a child together. The union of their two lives to make new life. How can anything be bad if this is the kind of love that they feel for each other? Yet the constant guilt trips, the emotional rejection, the isolation. She’s beginning to see a different picture of her life than the one she thought she was living. This doesn’t have the cliché name-calling and hitting that she thinks goes along with abuse, yet the feeling of being beat down is so real. She has lost herself in this manipulative and emotionally toxic and abusive relationship.
Friends get separated at the party and they aren’t sure where anyone ended up at the end of the night.
Laughs are had while standing near the bar picking who’s going home with whom at the end of the night before anyone has even met.
Insults are said, harsh words are thrown, tears are shed. Forgiveness is begged for, promises are made, and heartfelt hugs are exchanged. “I love you,” is whispered. “I love you, too,” is returned.
The people telling about their experiences are all different ages, nationalities and genders. But their experiences are the same. They were all assaulted. They all felt silenced. They all deserved better.
We all deserve our voice to be heard when we say yes or no. We deserve to have a voice to tell our survival story. We all deserve love, a caring touch, and a compassionate heart. Not only on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, but always. It’s not something you have to earn; it will be given freely.
If you feel that you are being abused and feel that your voice is not heard, speak to someone who will listen. Call 911, Victim Services 250-837-9260, and both men and women can call the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter 250-837-1111. Men can also reach out to the BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse at http://bc-malesurvivors.com. You will always be heard and you will always be in control.
If you think someone you know is being abused emotionally, physically, sexually, financially or otherwise, call any of the crisis numbers listed at www.revelstokecymhsu.ca. The people on the receiving end of the call will allow you to ask questions and get guidance on what to do next.
If you are not sure if the way you’re treating someone is abusive, take a moment to check in with yourself, a trusted friend or family member. You are in control of your actions and there is help. Contact a counsellor, a crisis line, or Victim Services.
Stacie Byrne is the Project Lead for the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Local Action Team, which is a part of a larger provincial collaborative working together to support people between the ages of 6-24 years old and their families with mental health and substance use challenges. The Collaborative works with Service Providers and the community to share how all of the pieces of the recovery puzzle fit together and what is available within and outside of Revelstoke.