Years after my own assault, nothing has changed | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Years after my own assault, nothing has changed

People out there need to believe these stories, because it's happening to more women than we'd like to think.

click to enlarge Years after my own assault, nothing has changed
This story was told to The Coast by someone who has been following the not-guilty decision against cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi, and wanted to share her own experience of being sexually assaulted several years ago. It's been condensed and edited for style.
Warning: this story is graphic at times.

I had just had a baby. I was still breastfeeding. I hadn't been out in months. There was a DJ coming to town that I loved and my friends were all like, “Come out, come out.” I didn't make plans with any particular people. I knew I would know tons of people there.

Admittedly, I probably didn't have a very high tolerance, and I had a few drinks, but not more than I think I could normally handle. I believe somebody put something in my drink, because I don't have a history of blacking out or passing out, but I have no recollection of actually seeing the DJ I was there to see.

My husband says I arrived home around 5:30 or 6am by taxi. He told me he had messages on his phone from some girl who found me outside of the bar around 3am. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know my name. I didn't know where I lived. She took my phone and started going through it. Eventually, I was able to tell her where I lived and she gave the address to the taxi driver and put me in the cab.

She didn't leave a message on the phone with the cab number. She didn't notify somebody that she had put me in the cab, who the cab company was or what the cab number was. I was still not able to communicate.

There’s a two-and-a-half-to-three hour time difference from when the cab picked me up to when the cab dropped me off. The drive should have taken 20 minutes.

When I got home, my husband left me on the couch because I could hardly walk through the door. At some point an hour or two after, I got off the couch and I went to the washroom. Physically, I could tell that I had been assaulted. I mean there was a load of jizz that came out of my vagina. I didn't have anal sex at the time, and I had been penetrated.

I didn't go to a hospital. I should have collected myself and gone to the police station, but at the time there had been assaults and all these things in the press about girls not being believed. Being treated like victims. Being treated like they had done something wrong.

I was scared shitless. I didn't want to tell my husband because it was the first time I had been out since I had my baby. I didn't want to admit that I had let myself be in a position where I was so vulnerable.

“If I couldn't get justice, I was just thankful to be alive. But women shouldn't just have to be thankful to be alive.”

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I can remember sitting there and thinking, “What the fuck am I supposed to do?” And shaking, and shaking, and shaking. Choosing to have a shower, even when I knew I shouldn’t. Just to wash the experience away.

I'm always the advocate for people to speak up, go to the station and go to the hospital. But all I could think about was...I had to be up soon to change my baby. I had to be mom. I didn't want this stigma being attached to me that I was so stupid—like it was my fault for putting myself in that situation.

I tried calling every cab company I could find in the phone book. Nobody had a record of me being picked up or dropped off at my address. I contacted the bar to see if they had video footage, and they said they didn't have anything.

Days after, I laid in bed in the dark trying to remember something about the taxi. I never did. It was scary for years after taking a cab. Every time, getting in and looking at the driver’s face and wondering, “Is this the guy?”

I have no idea who this person was that put me in a cab. While I'm happy that she thought she was doing something good, it ended up putting me in a situation where there was at least a two-hour period where this taxi driver had me somewhere doing whatever he wanted.

What if I didn't make it home? What if he killed me and dropped me in the woods? Nobody would have known what taxi I was in. I was just so grateful to be able to wake up in the morning and to still be able to be there for my kid that I was willing to eat whatever happened.

If I couldn't get justice, I was just thankful to be alive. But women shouldn't just have to be thankful to be alive.

“I feel so much sadness and rage at the same time.”

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The decision by Judge Lenehan just makes people that went through what I went through not believe there's any point doing what I know I should have done. It makes me feel re-victimized in terms of being responsible for what happened. It makes me feel scared for other women that may have this happen to them in the future, and may want to come forward and talk about it.

This woman, she had a police officer come upon the scene and catch the driver in the act. They found her DNA on his face. Her belongings all over the front seat. This man got caught by police and still nothing happened. He got brought to court, and the judge basically made it an open field day for taxi drivers or other men to do what they want if a woman is drunk. Her passing out means it's her fault. She's asking for it.

Part of my bigger concern, the message I really want to get out there, is we can't take it for granted that taxis are safe places for women. I never get in a cab now without texting somebody the cab number. I think there’s a safety message out there as well. When you find people incoherent or drunk, they should be sent to a hospital.

And I want her to know it's not her fault. People out there believe these stories, and it's happened to more women than people would like to think. There is hope from her case, and the outrage I see online and from family and friends shows that people really do care.

She should have had an open-and-shut case. She is entitled as a woman to go out and have fun, and when she gets in a taxi cab she’s doing the right thing, trying to make her way home safely.


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