I was sexually assaulted by young boys and this is why we need to talk about it

[TRIGGER WARNING for explicit discussions of sexual assault. Full disclosure: A version of this story was originally submitted to xoJane, accepted but never published. So, here it is.]

Anyone who meets current, 20 something activist me, would probably describe me as crass, outspoken, potty mouthed and abrasive. I talk smack about the patriarchy for a living and am pretty darn good at it. But teenaged me was shy, awkward and determined to remain in her parents’ good books.

 I went to a Catholic school run by nuns and stayed out of trouble by having a long-distance boyfriend. Living in a small town, there were few employment opportunities for high school kids. I was stuck in that “Can’t get a job because I don’t have any experience but I can’t get any experience until someone gives me a job”. So I did what most high school students in my situation did: I did a ton of baby-sitting.

I baby-sat my little cousins, I baby-sat these adorable rich kids down the street and I baby-sat two boys who one day, sexually assaulted me.

I am a goddamn believer

(Warning: This post contains discussions of sexual assault. Practice self-care as needed.)

Nearly 7 years ago, I co-founded a group dedicated to creating a sexual assault centre at Carleton University.

Today, that centre opened.

I am filled with a whole hell of a lot of emotions.

The unintended consequences of being a rape apologist journalist: Upholding Rape Culture for Beginners

[TRIGGER WARNING for discussions of sexual assault. Take care of yourself, y'all.]

I started my weekend off on the wrong foot this morning by reading a truly vile, pedophile-apologizing piece in the Washington Post.

Interestingly, when I posted the piece to my Facebook feed this morning, it was called "Sex between students and teachers should not be a crime". It has since been changed to "The unintended consequences of laws addressing sex between teachers and students". It's clear that I'm not the only one who went ballistic this morning.

Oy! Where to begin?!

Advice for university newbies

I was the first person in my family to go to university. Moving to the big city to go to school was equal parts exciting and shit-your-pants-terrifying.

This time of the year in Ottawa means a barrage of terrified teenagers wandering around lost, desperately trying to look like they know where they're going.

Seeing as though I'm on my way out of university (Cue the dancing ladies), I figured I'm a good position to offer some advice to first year university students.

My Week in GIFs

It was an intense week for Hollaback! Ottawa. So intense in fact that my capacity to form complete sentences on a Friday morning is well,... less than optimal.

I shall let GIFs do it for me.

Trolls, haters and safety online

The issue of trolls and haters has been at the front of my mind lately.

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at HOLLA :: Revolution and although I spoke primarily about haters within feminist movements, I had to at least call out the reality that trolls and haters are par for the course if you identify as a feminist in public space.

Around the same time, Maclean's featured an exposé of sorts on Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) in Canada.

And today is #TwitterSilence.

Then, of course, there's the far-too-lengthy discussions of Hugo Schwyzer's infamous exit from 'the internet'. I won't link to anything related to that, because haters and trolls live for clicks, re-tweets and sharing of their stories.

That's the heart of the issue, here.

Back in 2008, in my Blogspot days, I pondered the 'engage or ignore' approach when it comes to trolls. It's something I still struggle with, although I feel like I've landed on a quasi-permanent position. Namely, not to fall for their bait and waste hours of my life engaging with them, but at the same time, still exposing them for their ridiculousness, hilarity and/or scary tendencies.

Like all forms of violence, trolls and haters thrive on our silence. And that's the point. Haters can keep on hating, abusers can keep on abusing and misogyny can keep on rolling if we're unable to respond. Our silence enables them. And I refuse to enable these asshats.

As a womyn who lives her feminism in her public life, private life and online, I have learned that my feminism brings all the trolls to the yard.

Report: Street harassment in Ottawa is prevalent and under reported

As site director of Hollaback! Ottawa, I've been busy over the past few months researching street harassment in Ottawa. We held an open forum in May and created a subsequent survey and the result is a report that was just released this morning.

What's interesting is that the stats are horrible and therefore in line with the national average. Namely, 97% of respondents experienced at least one incident of street harassment in the past year, 44% had experienced an incident on transit in the past year and 90% of us didn't report it.

You can access the full report here.

I'm really happy with it and truly honoured that so many people felt comfortable sharing their story with us. I'm hopeful that it will serve as a launching point for an overdue community-wide discussion on the issue. Fingers crossed!

Unmasking the truth

I am really, really pissed off about Bill C-309.

I wrote an Op/Ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen citing exactly why. Check it out.

Still not convinced that it's a bill that has nothing to do with hockey riots and everything to do with crushing civil liberties? Then read this piece by Marni Soupcoff or this piece by Dana Stuster.

If you still don't agree with me, then I have no idea what to tell you.

Consequences of rape culture

I believe very strongly in public education and prevention work, particularly in the context of sexual violence. What I've learned in my decade or so of doing this work is that most people are completely unaware of the reality of sexual violence. Yes, there are people who know that rape culture exists and are totally fine with the status quo, but I firmly believe that most people have no damn idea how bad things are.

It doesn't help that many of us who do this work speak about the issue from a strictly theoretical standpoint. Want to make things real for people? Make it tangible.

This became abundantly clear to me when I heard Lindy West's response to the various rape threats she received for speaking out about rape jokes. Lindy is all kinds of badass for enduring this crap. (MAJOR trigger warning for this link. Trolls did not hold back)

After watching Lindy go through the various rape threats she received, I decided to do my own exercise in 'keeping it real'.

I gave myself 5 minutes to write up as many examples as I could about the impact of rape culture on my life. It wasn't hard.

Think rape culture is some abstract concept with no relevance to womyn's lives? Think again, Buster.

I drive a classic car. Here's how to talk to me about it without being a giant jackass

After a decade of ownership, trust me, I get it. My car is hilarious, unique and old. But with summer here and therefore, my baby out of storage and on the streets, I feel it is time to lay down some ground rules once and for all.

Since I cannot speak directly to the people who honk, stare, wave, gesture, etc. to me when I'm driving, I will state it here.

How to interact with a womyn who drives a classic car: 

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