I woke up once on the front landing on a Queen West apartment building. It was late November, and nearly 4 am. I was by myself, and didn't have my purse. I was underdressed beneath my coat, and hungry. I walked in to a 24hr coffee shop, and felt sorry for the woman who had to work the late night shift. In retrospect, she probably felt sorry for me too. A man bought me a sandwich, and we sat together while I ate it and he drank coffee. I dont remember our conversation, but I do remember finding a camping light in my coat pocket as we spoke. I thanked him and left, then grabbed a cab home.
Now, you don't need to tell me I'm luck that I didn't “get hurt” that night. Because I did, I got very hurt. I got all sorts of hurt, the kind of hurt that lasts for years and resurfaces particularly painfully when you're asked to write something about sexual assault and nightlife. What had prompted me to leave in a hurry, such hurry that I had left my purse sitting on a bench where I had placed it so I could attempt to dance, was aggressive touching and kissing from someone had that I had had a brief and somewhat forced relationship with in the past. I remember trying to break lose, and the grip only tightening.
The thing with nightlife, especially in Toronto, is that there is no escaping the past. You will see the same people over and over again, and you can never know if the night will bring an unwanted encounter. You may be uncomfortably caught in a dark room, yelling no over the music, always hoping that they acted because they simply never heard you. Those whom you thought had disappeared, will reappear. You may be left vulnerable and alone when you try to escape, and the people who will see you may never know what happened. But they will think that what they know is that your skirt was too short, you were breast were too big, and you were wearing too much make up.
The records get erased. Reviews, and pictures rarely hold the truth about the dark side of the night. When it comes down to it, talking about sexual assault is “bad for business” and nightlife is supposed to be business that revolves around fantasy and fun, a refuge from the day. The biggest lie is that the complications of day won't seep in to the night. The reality is that they do. The same inequitable gender dynamics that live during the day do not die at night. And I believe that we've had enough.
I think it's time to talk.