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Sex assault survivor shares story to help others

Emily Ventura is a residence advisor for the Morton building on Loyalist campus. Photo by Emilie Quesnel, QNet News

 

By Emilie Quesnel [1]

BELLEVILLE – This past March, Emily Ventura was pinned against a wall, groped and forcibly kissed at a Loyalist residence.

“I’m like, ‘Please don’t do that, that’s not what I want,’ ” Ventura recalls. “He’s like, ‘No, I’m not going to.’ ”

After the assault, her self-proclaimed “happy-go-lucky” attitude disappeared: “It affected me so badly. It completely changed who I was,” she said.

Ventura considered this man to be her friend. They were in the same program at Loyalist and had hung out many times. She said that after the attack, going to school and having to see him in class every day was incredibly painful.

“I couldn’t be around him. I was getting anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I had to leave class one day right before an important presentation. I just had to leave because I was unable to breathe,” she said.

As a residence advisor [2] at Loyalist, Ventura had been trained in dealing with incidents like this, but it turned out she was unsure how to react when she experienced it first-hand. It was a discussion with her parents that convinced her to do something about it.

“I probably would’ve just left it, let it stew for a bit, pushed it to the back of my mind,” she explained. “If I didn’t talk to them and have them call me out on my behaviour, I would not have spoken to anybody about it.”

After talking with her family, Ventura approached a member of the residence staff to report what had happened. She was referred to security and told them her story, choosing not to press charges or involve the police.

Her main concern, Ventura said, was making sure her work wouldn’t be compromised. “I need to be on res for my job so I wanted to feel safe,” she said. But she asked security to ensure her attacker wouldn’t be allowed on res after hours: “That was like the one thing I was fighting for.”

In a meeting with security and members of Loyalist’s Health and Wellness [3] Centre [3], Ventura was told that she’d be kept in the loop regarding the man and what consequences he might face.

But six months later, she’s had no word, though she discovered when she returned to school in September that the man was no longer at the college. “I still don’t know what happened to him,” she said.

Don Sinclair, the new executive director of Loyalist’s Human Resource Centre, told QNet News that he wasn’t in charge at the time of Ventura’s assault, but is concerned with the lack of communication on the school’s behalf.

“I can appreciate that people need closure,” Sinclair said. “We owe a duty to at least have brought some closure on her particular case. There should have been some followup.”

Now, Ventura uses what happened to her as fuel. “I need to be more involved. I need to take this (residence) job a little more seriously than last year,” she said.

“I can use my voice to make sure somebody doesn’t have to go through what I went through.”

The biggest mistake people can make in situations like hers is to keep it to themselves, Ventura said.

“Scream it from the rooftops! Don’t let anything that’s affecting you in a physical, emotional or mental way affect you in silence.”

According to SexAssault.ca, a website providing resources to victims, only six per cent of sexual assaults [4] in Canada are reported to the authorities.

Adam Gosney of Loyalist’s Health and Wellness Centre says people shouldn’t suffer in silence. “You don’t have to be alone,” Gosney said, adding that survivors who come forward can retain complete control of the process.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault on campus, call the Loyalist Sexual Assault Line at 613-969-1913, ext. 2657.

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