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Portrait of a young woman in Montreal

by Melanie Proulx April 5, 2016
Portrait of a young woman in Montreal

A Concordia student’s personal account of sexual harassment

I was on my way home from school in the evening and waiting in the metro when suddenly I had the sensation of being watched. I turned around to find a strange man standing right next to me, his eyes glaring at me. I jumped and heard my heart pounding as I stared back. I tried to get to the nearest exit but he raised his arms up and prevented me from getting around him, as if he was playing defense in a game of basketball.

Photo by Jeffrey Zeldmen.

Photo by Jeffrey Zeldmen.

That’s when he uttered, “cops aren’t around, what are you going to do little girl?” and began walking towards me again. I started to run the other way but he grabbed my bag. I screamed and pulled on my bag as I hard as I could, forcing him to let go.

I ran as fast as possible out of the metro and onto the streets. When I was out of breath, I looked behind me and saw that he was gone. I called my boyfriend in tears asking him to come pick me up.

All this happened a few weeks ago and I’m still afraid to be alone in the metro, and I’m afraid to walk home alone at night. Though my friends have recommended I go speak to a counsellor, I hesitated for a while, feeling embarrassed by the situation. According to the United Nations, sexual harassment consists of “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

Sexual harassment is a reality many women have to live with and is tremendously frightening when it happens as it catches you off guard on a day like any other. According to Northwestern University Women’s Centre, there are numerous potentially harmful effects which survivors of sexual harassment may experience including depression, anxiety, shame, withdrawal and isolation.

Survivors tend to become more alert, anticipating a sense of danger, and feel unsafe in public according the same report from the women’s centre. According to the website Feminist.com, some survivors feel a sense of embarrassment—as I did—and hesitate to seek to help and many survivors often blame themselves. This guilt can be consuming, but it’s important to remember that it’s a symptom of the incident. Fortunately for me, I have an amazing support system of family and friends, in which I was able to comfortably share my thoughts and emotions.

 

[Resources]

  • If you are in immediate danger on campus, call 911 or security at (514) 848-3717—option one.
  • Sexual Assault Resource Centre (GM-300.27). Monday—Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can reach them at (514) 848-2424 ext. 3461 or ext. 3353.
  • Visit the Centre for Gender Advocacy at the SGW campus for support at 2110 Mackay St. between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at (514) 848-2424 ext. 7431. For peer support call (514) 848-2424 ext. 7880.
  • For 24 hour support, call 1 (888) 933-9007.

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