Our first event of the season on the streets of Calgary was very encouraging but also very eye opening. At CCASA everyone is so knowledgeable, understanding, and willing to talk about the issues of sexual violence, so it was easy to forget that not everyone is as open and willing to talk. Still, I was really eager to get out into the community and talk to the younger generations.
In order to reel people in to do our survey, we needed to be really strategic about our invitation. Since we knew that this issue may be uncomfortable for some or could trigger others, we always mentioned what our survey was about, allowing everyone a chance to back out without feeling any pressure. We needed to make sexual violence comfortable… not that way but rather just okay to talk about.
I was able to grab the attention of this one guy who couldn’t have been any older than 20 as he walked by. He was one of the first people I was able to stop with my catch phrase. I handed him the survey and watched the passerbys as he was filling it out. This street was jam packed with people. So crowded, in fact, that it was hard to go anywhere other than with the flow of the mass of people.
After he filled out the survey he looked at me with rage. He was so upset he started yelling so loud that people were looking at what the commotion was. He was angry because the questions we asked about sexual violence were too black and white and should not be asked in public because it would make people feel uncomfortable.
I was in shock. That was the last response I had expected to get. I knew some people would be unwilling to do the survey but this fellow filled out the survey and then got upset. Since that response was completely unexpected, I stood there speechless as he lashed out. I’m not a very quick thinker in stressful situations. As I watched him walk away, all the “I should have said this…” and “I should have said that…” thoughts came rushing in. I was so frustrated with myself that I wasn’t able to stand up and say something to this jerk.
His words have stuck with me. The questions were too black and white. The issue of sexual violence is black and white. It is either sexual assault or it is not! There should be no gray area when talking about this issue. Sexual violence should not be talked about in public because it could make people feel uncomfortable. Imagine all the survivors out there of sexual violence living in silence, unable to come forward due to the lack of understanding in our culture. This crime thrives in silence and we need to get people talking about this issue if we ever want to eliminate it from our society.
When I look back at this incident I am very grateful it happened. It was an experience that reinforced why I am so passionate about the issue of sexual violence. It opened my eyes to the mentalities and hostility towards efforts to confront sexual violence that our society has. This experience validated everything we have been working for.