I need to tell you that my heart is racing as I think about posting this story. I need to tell you that I desperately want to edit it. Edit out my fear, my vulnerability and my shame.
I also need to tell you that the sharing of these stories is a fucking powerful thing. I need to tell you that your silence is not protecting anyone. The importance of these stories is that they happen to so many people - men and women - and somehow no one thinks it can happen to them until it does.
I need to tell you that I am beginning to confront my fear of speaking up. I am starting to believe that things could be different - I am starting to believe that a "sea change" (as Chris Gilpin calls it) could be underway. I am watching people step forward, speak out, boldly standing up for safety and accountability in their community.
This story is the beginning of my involvement in the struggle for building safe space at Van Slam.
Edited to add: The perpetrator in my story is not the same person as the perpetrator in Jess' story. I share it in the hopes that people will begin to address the culture of violence in the slam, instead of trying to attach blame to a single person. I share it in the hope that we can begin a process of establishing safety and accountability. Also, if anyone wants to know who the person in my story is, please feel free to contact me backchannel.
In late 2006, I had moved to Vancouver from Ottawa and had quickly become immersed in the poetry scene. That fall, a poet who I already knew asked me if I wanted to go out for dinner with him, which we did. After dinner, we went to join some friends at the Brick House and had a couple of drinks (we were drinking pitchers, but I probably had three beers). One of the people at the Brick House was a friend of mine who was staying at my house.
The man who I had gone to dinner with told me that his buses weren’t running any more, and asked if it would be okay if he stayed at my place. He shared a cab with myself and my houseguest to get to my apartment. When we got there, he insisted that I make the raspberry chocolate martinis that I had mentioned earlier, and we proceeded to have about three or four martinis each. Each time we finished one, he insisted that I make another round. At this point, I was extremely intoxicated and decided to go to bed. My houseguest was staying on the sofa bed in the living room, and I suggested that the other man stay on the floor in the living room. He insisted on staying on the floor in my bedroom instead.
Once we were in my bedroom, he insisted that it would be better for him to sleep in my bed. I climbed into bed and he climbed in after me. We turned out the lights. A minute later, he told me that he had taken off his clothes and was naked. I didn’t say anything, as I was confused and surprised and drunk. Then he climbed on top of me and I could feel that he had an erection, and I was scared and confused. I thought “he’s going to have sex with me without a condom” and I was really freaked out. I didn’t want to get pregnant or get an STI. I told him to put on a condom and he grabbed one from the bedside table drawer. He put it on, and then he penetrated me. I was numb and confused and desperately wanted it to be over.
The next day I woke up and I was very groggy and confused. The man acted as though everything that had happened the night before had been completely normal. When I went to the bathroom, I was bleeding profusely from my vagina as a result of the forced penetration, which continued for several days.
The next day (two days after the incident), I went to the poetry slam. I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of seeing this man. I told a few people that this man had raped me, and they mostly kept the man away from me. I told the man that what happened the other night wasn’t okay with me and wasn’t what I wanted. I never saw him again in Vancouver, but I heard that he moved to another city and is involved in their poetry scene. I had told a few people about the basics of what happened and that I had been sexually assaulted by a poet, but I never talked about the details of the incident with anyone. To this day, thinking about that night makes my gut lurch. To this day, I am afraid of the idea of seeing him in public. To this day, I don't know how I should have done things differently in the aftermath - how I could have kept other people safer - whether he has done this again and again, and how I can make sure that he doesn't.