Victims of sexual assault are all unique. Though they are not all solely victims, it is impossible to deny the importance that the trauma has had on their lives. The Social Eyes has decided to give voice to these survivors of sexual violence. We have changed their names to protect them.
By Mélodie Nelson
“I feel like I’ve judged myself harshly, because I drank.” – Eleanor, 23.
Eleanor grew up in Montréal. She knew all the best alleyways, shortcuts, and bike paths. “My mother raised me to be afraid of nothing. She had enough confidence in me to make me believe I could do anything.” Her mother is the person she admires most in this world. “She went back to school after having me. I was often babysat by my grandmother. I’m proud of all that my mother accomplished.”
In the summer when she was 17, after spending the evening at a friend’s place she went home intoxicated. She travelled through the alleys she knew by heart. It was a ten-minute walk between her friend’s place and home. “Maybe it showed that I’d had too much to drink,” she surmises.
A man attacked her from behind. “I didn’t hear or suspect a thing.” She knows that she fell, and that she defended herself. “I might have just punched into the emptiness. He raped me. It didn’t last long.”
Eleanor managed to get home, wobbly and dizzy. The next day she told her mother everything. “She convinced me to file a complaint. She was in action mode. She didn’t want to see it happen again. She also wanted me to be reassured.”
At her neighborhood police station, the meeting did not go well. “My mother wasn’t allowed to accompany me. I felt judged, because I had been drinking and I wasn’t yet 18. The policeman told me it was unwise to take dimly-lit streets. I should have stayed with my friend. Or not been drinking. Or not be who I am.”
There was no follow-up on her complaint. “I didn’t think it would be like a movie, where they arrest the rapist and he disappears from my life. But I got the sense of being unimportant in the eyes of justice.”
She was also very troubled by her mother. “I overheard a phone conversation between her and one of her friends. She was crying. She was angry for me.”
“I hated my breasts, my thighs, my body.” – Chanel, 38.
Chanel’s family history is full of violence. Her grandmother spent time in prison in France for killing her grandfather. Clumsily shooting at the ceiling, the bullet ricocheted and mortally wounded the man who had physically assaulted her and perhaps her daughters as well. Chanel never learned the whole story: her family was left shattered over the incident.
Chanel got to know her grandmother after she left prison. “She was successful in giving herself a second chance, in rebuilding her life, and becoming someone.” She admires her. When she talks about her grandmother, she gives her cute pet names.
When Chanel began to show physical signs of becoming an adult, one of her father’s friends raped her.
“I hated my breasts, my thighs, my body. I just wanted to disappear.” She didn’t want to exist anymore.
Chanel hated any male who looked anything like her aggressor. “I hate men. I love my dog. I love my husband. I think he’s a nice man. I think he’s an exception.”
She still doesn’t like her own body. “I look at myself in the mirror and I know that I’m pretty, but it’s caused me too much trouble to be the way I am.” She has two sisters. “I was relieved when I saw that they aren’t like me.” One of them is very thin, without curves. The other rebels against all physical standards, which she feels are degrading.
Chanel doesn’t want any children. “I’d be too afraid that it’d be a girl.”