Tuesday, 28 October 2014

People are complicated.

I want my blog to be a space of lightness and whimsy, because as we see time and again, there is plenty of darkness out there. I need to make an exception though, and like John Oliver, I promise that if you make it all the way through, lightness and whimsy will follow.  The last few days have been weird for me. I have been silently raging about the public discourse on the events surrounding Jian Ghomeshi. And following a nasty bout of depression that left me incapacitated for 3 months, I made a pact with myself and with Jeff to avoid any silent raging that may lead me down that rabbit hole again.

When I was in elementary school, I was inappropriately touched by a teacher. While there were other kids present, no other adult witnessed it. I was teased by the other students for years, but I didn't ever say anything to an adult about it because 1) I was scared that I would be punished, 2) I felt that the teasing of my peers meant that I should suck it up, and 3) everyone noted how much they liked this teacher, how much he had done for the school and the athletics program, and I was a bookish, quiet, 8 year old girl who was in said athletics programs. I was also in a classroom full of girls that sought out his lap during storytelling and hugged him before the weekend. Who would listen to me?

When I moved on to grade 4, he was made the grade 4 teacher. It was a horrible year for me. The next year he left the school. Soon after, my parents divorced and I was able to retreat further into my books, trying for all the world to become invisible. I put on weight and wore baggy clothes. I hated myself and my body. By the time I was in my late teens, I was ready to talk to someone about it. But being ready to talk doesn't mean that others are ready to listen. Action, it seemed, was my only recourse. If he had done these things to me, I should file a police report, I shouldn't allow him to do it to others, I should do the responsible thing. But instead, I shut up. I didn't want to talk to the police, and though I was made to feel that my silence made me an accomplice somehow to his potential predation of others, I also couldn't face him and the community as an accuser. I already hated myself, I didn't need anyone else to hate me too.  Besides, I had already seen him several years after the fact at a science fair with some female students. They buzzed around him, much like some of my peers had, and I rushed to the toilets to vomit. A court case? No way.

In my first month in my first year of university, I ended up in a very dark place after a date with a significantly older student left me lost and confused in a suburban Montreal apartment. I had consented to the date, and I had consented to watching the hockey game at his place, but I did not consent to what happened next. How could I have been so naive? How could I have been so stupid? Now I had no money, no way to get home, even if I had known where I was and how to get to my dorm (Remember the time before cellphones? Yep, this was then). So, is it rape if he drives you home afterwards? Maybe there was just something about me. I was the common denominator.

Jump to my late 20s. My mum forwards me a newspaper article about the teacher being arrested because of a number of recent and current students accusations of sexual misconduct. The RCMP were seeking witnesses and other victims.  Twenty years had passed for me, but in that instant, I was 8, I was vulnerable and I was terrified. Was this the time to take action? Ultimately I chose to come forward, but not for myself. After years of disordered eating, self harm and a destructive relationship, I had finally stopped hating myself and punishing myself for things that were not my fault. I needed to help give these girls a voice, to show them that life can go on. I needed to sit on that stand as a 'well educated, professional woman' because anything less, it seems, makes you at best unreliable and suspect, or at worst somehow deserving. I needed to sit there as someone that makes a living sparring with lawyers, and walk the world through why this man, a community pillar, a great teacher and a skilled coach was also, in fact, a very bad man.  Even though the process took 6 years, and had me fly across the country, I stuck with it. And even though there were something like 14 counts, ranging from aggravated sexual assault to sexual interference, all but one was dismissed - mine. Was it because the others did not happen? The judge stated that she believed something happened, but the burden of proof that was required was only met in my case. Because I spend my days sparring with lawyers as an educated, professional woman, I was able to get justice. But you will never see me going through that again for my university 'date'.

All this to say, we don't ever know the whole story. All this to say, the system is skewed. All this to say, that in this day and age, if that teacher had posted to Facebook that a jilted former student who didn't make the relay team was going to start a smear campaign against him and that all that really happened was that we used to role play parts from "Lolita"...would it have made him more sympathetic in this story?

Life is complicated, people are complicated. Here is a video of Finnegan as a puppy being adorable.  It is not complicated.



1 comment:

  1. So proud of you Shanna! It did take along time but you stuck with it and for you justice did prevail. You can also get some satisfation that he can no longer teach and thus you have protected other little girls! Love you always. Mum