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An open letter to a Toronto Police officer

I wish you took sexual assault cases seriously
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DARREN CHENG/THE VARSITY
DARREN CHENG/THE VARSITY

Content warning: descriptions of sexual assault, suicide.

Dear officer,

I don’t know if you remember me, but a few years ago I called you from the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre.

I called you because of this thing that happened. I didn’t get into detail on the call, but long story short, this person had sex with my body after I said “no” and “please stop” over and over, after I attempted to get them to stop many times by trying to get up. I cried in the middle of the road afterward. My mom had to sleep next to me that night because I kept having nightmares and I was shaking.

The event I just described would be defined as the criminal offence of sexual assault — rape — which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. I did have a few small bruises on my chest from the incident, however, I did not take photos of them so I do not know if it could be considered sexual assault causing bodily harm, which has a maximum sentence of 14 years.

A short time following the incident, I went to the Women’s College Hospital, the pink building near the Toronto Police Headquarters, and I received STI testing, a sexual assault evidence kit, and my clothes were placed in paper bags for evidence if I ever chose to report. DNA degrades faster in plastic bags, they told me. 

The nurse who helped me had a kind voice and a high ponytail, and she told me about different ways of reporting. This is when I called you to ask about the possibility of reporting anonymously, whereby you could keep the name of the perpetrator on file, and if any other person reported the perpetrator in the future, it would help their case.

You then told me that the police “don’t want girls to report just so they can get back at their boyfriends.”

This made my heart drop into my stomach.

Now, I do not think you meant what you said maliciously — I honestly think it was just your belief at the time, so this is not to make you feel bad about it. But whatever your intention was when you said that, it made me doubt the legitimacy of my assault, as I did not want to be seen like that or make a bigger deal out of it than necessary. I did not follow up, and I never reported the assault.

My perpetrator walks free, and will likely graduate from university and go on to live a fulfilling life. They may interact with you, your friends, your children, your parents, or your spouse. They will make decisions that will impact the world you live in. They could be your doctor, your boss, your child’s teacher.

I am now afraid to report the perpetrator or press charges, so this is not a plea to consider my case. Given how much time has elapsed, I do not think a jury would rule in my favour and I fear retaliation from the perpetrator, should they be free with the knowledge that I reported them. 

Still, the assault has caused me a great deal of pain. I have been diagnosed with depression, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and was hospitalized for a suicide attempt related to the incident.

Sometimes I cry for no reason, and sometimes I feel like I can’t get enough air to breathe. My grades have gone down because of it, and I find it difficult to trust other people, even my family and friends. I feel that my life has been forever changed by this, and sometimes I think that the only way for my life to be normal again would be if I went back in time and prevented the assault from occurring.

But I know time travel isn’t possible. Still, I keep wishing it was. I wish it hadn’t happened. Or, if it did, I wish you had been kind when I called you. I wish you had told me it wasn’t my fault, that you believed me. I wish you had said that the perpetrator was a criminal, and should be arrested. I wish you had arrested them.

I wish I didn’t have to wonder if they were out there doing it to someone else. I wish you said you’d protect me, that they would never hurt me again. I wish that you could see that maybe girls aren’t trying to get back at their boyfriends.

Maybe they’ve seen how bad it gets, how it makes you want to take off your skin, burn the places that were touched. Maybe they know something you don’t, something you can never know unless it happens to you.

Or, maybe, they’re just trying to protect other people from being hurt, like you’re supposed to do.

Sincerely,

A civilian