Escape

A Story and An Apology: Why Rape Culture Sucks

When I opened the door to my dorm room in Gage at 2am, I never expected it to be the police. I also never expected to have my most up-close perspective of rape culture and how it is capable of humiliating, shaming, and degrading the most innocent of people. That night, it really hit home that rape culture is not ok.

“Is your roommate Sarah Dawes*?” one the police officers asked. The police officers were tall and tired looking. Working night shifts must be terrible.

“Uh.. yeah. Her room is right there.” I pointed to the left while buttoning up the jeans I had thrown on. The room was still blurry; I had been asleep 30 seconds prior.

“Your roommate is extremely intoxicated. We have had to escort her up here, and she is facing going to prison for public intoxication. Are you willing and able to take care of her?”

Suddenly, everything felt very real, and I fully awoke from my sleepy daze. Sarah? The same Sarah who rarely went out? The Sarah who I know for a fact had never smoked weed because ‘she wasn’t into that’? The Sarah who listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers while whistling horribly off-tune every morning at 8am? She didn’t seem like the type to be escorted home by the police. Jeeze.

I peeked over into the living room and saw Sarah laying face down on the couch, hysterically crying, with her dark hair covering her face. The police told me she had been in a cab by herself, unable to walk on her own, without any form of identification or money. She still hadn’t paid the cab driver, and the only thing she had told the police was her name. Or rather, it was the only thing she was capable of saying. She was a crying, blubbering, drunk mess. Like, really drunk.

By this time, my other roommates had woken up. I was still chatting with the police, giving them my information and ensuring them that I was sober, over age, and willing to take care of this poor girl. My roommates walked over to her, in as much disbelief as I was.

“Wait, this isn’t Sarah!” one of them said, holding the dark-haired girl’s face in her hands.

“WHAT?” I believe all of us said in unison. A real life plot twist – how common is that?

I ran over to the couch, and sure enough I had never seen this girl in my life. Who was she? Why was she claiming to be my roommate? And why was this suddenly my problem at 2am?

I just want to take a second to elaborate on how drunk this random girl was. She reminded me of an infant who couldn’t hold her head up, letting it bob around by her collarbone. She was only able to grunt and cry, and was continually spitting her saliva rather than swallowing it. She did not care that the spit was going into her hair, and I doubt she could have lifted her hand to wipe away the hair from her face anyways.

At this point, with no other options, the police decided that they needed to remove her from our apartment. She didn’t even live here! They said they were going to take her to jail now – they had no choice because she had lied about her identity and didn’t have her wallet on her. I wanted to stop them, saying “no, just leave this poor girl here, she doesn’t need prison on top of all of this!”, but it wasn’t my place. Plus, conveniently, our toilet was out of order at the time and I knew it was only a matter of time before she vomited. Having a random girl blow chunks in my apartment without a working toilet? No thanks.

But the police ran into a problem: this random girl could no longer walk. And this was the moment I began losing respect for the tired policemen. They tried to drag her across the floor. They insulted her about how embarrassingly drunk she was. They commented that they had never been that drunk in their lives; how they knew better. They implied that they were better than her, a poor crying girl face-down on the floor of a stranger’s apartment. Quite frankly, they were assholes.

And that was when the vomiting began. All over my apartment floor! Chunks of ham and salad and humiliation kept ejecting from her mouth. It was vile, but honestly not as vile as the way the policemen continued to treat her.

I’ll make the rest of this story brief. Sarah turned out to be a friend of my roommates who had gone out with them earlier in the night. She was completely fine until she had disappeared to a “VIP” area with a bunch of older men and took drinks with them. In other words, she had been a victim of drink spiking. That’s right, not a stupid girl who had gone way past her limit, but a victim of another person’s crime.

In the end, she had taken by ambulance to the hospital, not prison. This was only because my roommate (the real Sarah) said she would not press charges for the fraud and paid the cab driver so that her friend was no longer a thief. Even though my roommate asked for the police to have her tested for drink spiking, that never happened. This random girl ended up being totally ok, except for her lack of memory, potential sexual assault in the club, and being treated like a complete criminal for having done NOTHING WRONG.

I am embarrassed of the actions of the policemen, who neglected their duties to protect the innocent. I am embarrassed that they made the assumption that she was a drunk, when she was really a victim. I am embarrassed that rape culture shows at ugly times to make girls feel like it is their fault that others are awful human beings. Rape culture sucks.

More than anything, I am embarrassed I did not call them out on their sexism and patriarchy. I promise to never again be a bystander.

I wrote this article for 4 reasons:

1) I am a woman in a man’s world, and I hate that
2) No person should ever be treated as a lesser human being because of the actions of others
3) I am embarrassed for being personally responsible for perpetuating rape culture
4) I hope the UBC community will forgive me for my oversight and asshole-ery as a Sauder Frosh Leader

It is hard to admit when you are wrong. It is hard when the press attacks your faculty (who you consider your family), when strangers vandalize your building (your dream school), when friends stop talking to you. It is hard to realize that you’re a jerk, especially when you claim to have “just been following tradition” and “not using critical thinking skills” – which are, incidentally, the very skills we enroll in university to develop.

Yes, I am still doing my volunteer hours for the “Frosh incident”. Right now I am working with the Sexual Assault Support Center at UBC to help give myself some perspective. I won’t defend my actions in the slightest for September. I was wrong. I truly am sorry for the pain I have caused those who have faced sexual assault and were triggered by the news story, the UBC community that was attacked by the press, and my Froshees who I promised to make them feel accepted and loved at a huge transition point in their life. I have failed a lot of people.

I have also learned. I learned that words can hurt, traditions constantly need to be re-evaluated, and that leaders should be the opposite of sheep following the herd. I have
learned that women face struggles more than I ever realized, that one in four women in Canada will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and the language we use plays a huge role in perpetuating rape culture. I have learned that I, as a woman and a leader, refuse to be passive in this issue any more. Which is why I wrote this article, this story, and this apology. To the UBC community, I sincerely hope you accept it.

*
Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual involved
A Story and An Apology: Why Rape Culture Sucks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *