Peer Pressure or Social Coercion

by Jillian Siemieniuk

This past year at University I witnessed a situation that made me feel extremely uncomfortable. It was nearly the end of the final exam period in April and people started to drink before returning to their hometowns for the summer. There were 7 of us…5 males and 2 females. We were all in one of the boy’s residence rooms drinking and having a good time. I noticed one of the guys getting touchier with the other girl. From an outside perspective she seemed a little uneasy, but everyone was around and it appeared she felt a little bit better. She texted me from the other side of the room where she was sitting next to him and said he was making her feel uncomfortable. I noticed he was quite intoxicated at this point in the night.

A few minutes later, all the other guys started moving everyone to the room attached. After the 5 of us were in that next room, I realized what they were trying to do. They said ‘leave them alone and let them have their fun’. I knew these things happened but I couldn’t help but feel astonished. I told them she felt uncomfortable and she doesn’t want to be alone with him but the only responses I got back were telling me not to be such a ‘bitch’ and to lighten up. One of the guys then stated, ‘it’s not like anyone is going to get ‘raped’ on our watch’. This comment made me want to cry. This was one of my good friends telling me this and all I could do to respond to it was be silent. I then left that room, against the 4 of their wishes and returned to the room the other 2 were in. When I got in there, the boy was extremely close to her as she was trying to lean as far away as she could. She saw me and jumped to her feet with joy, at that moment I could tell I was her outlet. I took her into the hallway and she instantly hugged me, thanking me for not leaving her alone with him. Although this guy was quite intoxicated, I truly believe he was still responsible for his own actions. If you still have control over yourself enough to make someone feel uncomfortable like that, then you still have enough control to stop yourself from doing it. Being intoxicated, by anything, is never an excuse for ultimately, disrespecting someone. It is also very disappointing that no one else took a stand with me to stop it. They were all just going to watch it happen because they thought it was fine, in their eyes it was consensual and she’s drunk so she wants it. That’s not the case and no matter how much someone drinks or what they are wearing doesn’t mean they are implying consent. Under the Canadian law, someone under the influence cannot legally give consent.

A lot of people my age don’t understand the words sexual assault. To most people I know, ‘rape’ is more commonly used, and often used as a joke. . It appalls me how much the media in our society affects the teenage life. People often only think it’s serious if there is penetration without consent. . The fact that someone feels uncomfortable by what another individual is doing and the fact that they feel out of control of their own body is reason enough for a red flag to go up. Everyone should feel 100% in control of their own body and mind. No one deserves to feel belittled or worthless due to someone else’s actions. We need to educate ourselves on this issue. It is not about what we can do to prevent ourselves from being sexually assaulted but more about what we can do not to sexually assault someone. Bottom line, it comes down to respect. We all have a right to our own bodies, not the right to the body of others. I am only fluent in French and English but I can understand ‘no’ in every language.

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