Boys Will Be Boys


It’s actually kind of hard to write about this. Ever since the incident, I’ve tried to refrain from thinking about it, but I feel like it’s time to truly get it off my chest. Let’s see where this takes me.

What happened to me didn’t happen in Montreal. In fact, it happened last year when I was doing a year abroad in Europe. It happened on October 7th, 2017, when I was thousands of kilometers away from my family and friends. In other words, I was alone. I was alone because I hadn’t made personal and emotional connections with the people I had met in the short month-and–a-half that I was there. I did that night, though.

What happened was that I went out clubbing with 5 other exchange students. We had spent the whole day together and it was truly an amazing day. I’d met incredible people that day and I was so excited to finally go out clubbing for the first time since arriving in Europe. Everything went amazingly well in the beginning. I danced and drank and laughed with my friends. I talked to strangers, met a group of people who were supposedly all named Florian!! It was a great night, until I met this man.

I met him when one of my friends and I went outside for air. They were two Germans. Both 23, therefore 6 years older than me. I had drunk a bit, so when they started talking to us, I forgot that the legal drinking age was 16 and told them my friend and I were 18, so that we wouldn’t get in trouble. I realized my mistake but it was too late to correct myself. That’s probably where I made my first mistake.

My friend and I decided to go back inside the club after we talked to the boys, and went back to our friends. The guys followed us inside. I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I had thought one of the guys was rather attractive, and I was still very new to this whole ‘going out and drinking’ thing. My friends and I clearly saw that the guy was also interested in me, and they all told me I should kiss him. So I did. But then I felt weird, and uncomfortable. It didn’t feel right kissing this stranger, so I pulled away quickly and told him that I shouldn’t have done that. He didn’t seem to care and tried to kiss me again. But I pushed him back and told him that what I did was a mistake. After all, he was 6 years older than me. For some, that might not seem like much, but at the time, it was for me. Again, he didn’t seem to care. That’s when I asked one of my friends – who became a very close friend of mine after this night – to step outside with me so I could get away from him. I was feeling more and more uncomfortable the longer I was with him.

Here’s where things went downhill for me. When we were outside, I saw that the two German guys had followed us outside again. I quickly took out my phone and pretended to be talking to someone. When I saw him getting closer, I moved further away. My friend stayed back to try to get them to stay away from me, but the guy who I’d kissed didn’t listen, and his friend grabbed my friend to stop her from coming to me. I could see her fighting back, so she could get to me, but he wouldn’t let go. That made it easy for his friend to get to me.

He was around 6ft3, whereas I am only 5ft. It was impossible for me to stop him from grabbing me. He kept touching me in places I did not want him to touch, and I kept trying to push him back. I told him no, heck I even yelled it! I screamed at him to leave me alone as I pushed him back. Yet he wouldn’t listen. He just kept on coming onto me.

No one helped.

There were people watching, and yet no one did a single thing. It wasn’t until another friend of ours stepped out to see where we were, and my friend ordered him to come help me, that the guy took his hands off of me.

I broke down after that. I felt violated. I felt used. I felt dirty. I didn’t even want to look at anyone as I rushed into the club and told everyone we were leaving. The ones who had stayed inside didn’t understand, but they followed me out of the bar and that’s when I started shaking. I cried harder than I’ve ever cried before. My friends inside the bar heard what had happened and chased down the guy to make him apologize for what he did to me. Surprisingly, they found him and he did apologize.

I never saw him after that.

I called my parents crying when I got back to my friend’s house, and that’s when I truly realized what kind of world I lived in.

Though my mom was practically crying with me because she was so scared for her little girl, my brother told me that what happened was normal; that it happens to too many people unfortunately, but I just have to be careful. My dad agreed with him. They told me it’s how boys are, and I just have to be smarter than boys when I go out, and be careful.

That was the first red flag.

The next day I took the train back to where I was staying with a host family, and cried the whole way back. I couldn’t help it. My family’s words had stuck with me. I felt like what had happened was my fault. I shouldn’t have lied about my age; I shouldn’t have kissed him. If I hadn’t done that, none of it would have happened.

When I got back to my village, my host dad picked me up from the train station and brought me to a local festival. On any other occasion, this festival would have interested me; in fact, I would have loved it! But not that day. No, in that moment, I was on the verge of tears, and the more people I passed, the more frightened I became. I couldn’t look anyone in the eyes. I didn’t want to sit at the tables in fear that someone else would touch me. I just wanted to go back to my house and go to bed, and try to forget the hands that had touched me. My host father saw how uncomfortable I was, and, when he saw I was about to cry, he brought me somewhere with fewer people.

He practically made me tell him what happened, which was humiliating for me. But I thought if I opened up to him, he would understand. What he said next made me question everything. He said, “But it’s your fault what happened. You gave him hope and then turned him down. You shouldn’t have kissed him in the first place if you didn’t want anything to happen.” I remember each word cutting like a knife. It took everything in me not to cry. I walked home after that, and cried the whole way up to the house.

It was my fault. Everything was my fault. If I hadn’t kissed him, it wouldn’t have happened. Those were my constant thoughts for a long time. I couldn’t shake those words out of my mind.

It took a while before I started to accept that I wasn’t the one responsible. I was the victim. I told him to stop, I told him no. Even if I kissed him, no means no. It does not mean, convince me. It does not mean, maybe. It does not mean, yes. He had no right to do what he did. He had no right to place his disgusting hands on my body. My brother and my father had no right to tell me that “boys will be boys,” and my host father had no right to tell me it was my fault. It was not my fault.

That man abused me by touching me after I told him no. He had no right to do that, and it was not him “being a boy”, because “boys being boys” do not have the right to assault someone. “Boys will be boys” does not give anyone the right to force themselves onto someone.

I think that the mentality of men in our society has conformed to the idea that it is almost normal for a woman to be abused. And that’s what made everything harder. Men that I trusted enough to open up to told me that it was my fault. They didn’t understand why I felt so scared by what happened. For them, it was just an inconvenience. For them, I wasn’t actually sexually assaulted. Even now, my brother doesn’t truly believe that what happened was a sexual assault and treats it as a mild inconvenience. Just an example as to why I should be careful around boys.

But I was sexually assaulted. Although what happened to me isn’t as terrible as the experiences of other victims, it was still terrible for me. It was the only time I have felt absolutely terrified and not in control of a situation. I couldn’t defend myself and that frightened me. I was powerless. It is a feeling that I still remember every single day that passes. It is a feeling I never want to feel again. No one should ever have to feel as scared and powerless as I felt that night. No one should feel like they are trapped in a body they deem ‘dirty’, because of what someone else did to them. No one should feel like they are at fault when they are abused.

I will never let what happened to me at that club happen to me again. I will never give anybody the chance to make me feel powerless ever again. No one will ever make me feel the way that man did. It is terrible, and I never want to feel it again.

In the end, all I want to say, to anyone who is a victim of sexual assault, is that it’s not your fault what happened to you. You are the victim. I know how hard that is to accept. It took me a long while to accept it and to feel normal again. I still am not the same person I was before the incident, and I am much more cautious when I am out drinking. But I know for a fact that I was the victim in this whole ordeal. No matter what anyone tells me, no one will convince me that I was at fault. No means no, and if someone continues after that, it is sexual assault; and that’s the end of it. Remember that.