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Letter: Of sexual abuse and cautionary tales

“With Mount Cashel, the general public didn’t consider — nor should they have — that the boys were anything but victims. Women have not been given the same consideration.”

— Russell Wangersky, “The world changes — slowly,” Telegram, Nov. 21

 

From many parts of the world, women are standing to be counted in the ranks of the mistreated, the abused. Much of the abuse is to do with sexual assault, and as Russell Wangersky wrote in his Nov. 21 column, “Sexual assault is assault, plain and simple.”

I can only imagine the incredible courage it is taking for these women to come forward, for imagine is all I can do. Yet, there is a little story I’d like to share, perhaps as a cautionary tale.

I wore the shoes and smile of a young man, a very young man, when I first came to this city. I was still in my teens and a greenhorn, as we used to say. I was naïve, yes, but not totally unfamiliar with the sexual milieu, including sexual abuse, for that matter. But I was not prepared for the “mister.” I will call him mister for as I boy I was taught to call all grown men mister, which not only was meant to demonstrate manners — good breeding — but respect, as well.

I was headed home from afternoon classes and it was while waiting at the bus stop that mister happened along. He asked where I was going and if I wanted a lift. I sized him up in a flash. He had a big expensive car, was well dressed, and had grey-white hair — an elder. Where I came from, he would have been considered trustworthy and not the-scum-of-the-earth-predator that he turned out to be. I said yes, but something nagged: no, no!

While I was somewhat relieved when he headed in the general direction of my residence, I grew more and more doubtful as he headed down to the parking places near Quidi Vidi. It was near the far end of the pond and I don’t remember there being many other cars or people around. It was years before the trail, as it is now, was developed.

I was headed home from afternoon classes and it was while waiting at the bus stop that mister happened along. He asked where I was going and if I wanted a lift.

Anyhow, he parked the car and tried to get me to talk. He began by asking what I knew of St. John’s. When I told him it was very little, he began to teach me. He started by pulling out a map of the city which he fully opened and spread between us. It just happened, of course, that his right hand landed in my lap. Each time he would ask me about a street he would stress its position by taking his hand out of my lap, putting his finger on the street and then putting his hand firmly (more firmly?) back into my lap.

It was not long before I became concerned and scared, for I surely realized what he was all about. I told him of my discomfort and he put the map away. He kept talking and suggested we go around the city but I was having none of it and asked to be taken home or I’d walk. He took me home and when he dropped me off suggested he would pick me up again.

Of course, that night in the residence I told my classmates what had happened and one or two suggested we all go the next time and take the SOB for real ride, but no, nothing ever came of that, and I never saw mister again.

So why am I telling you this? Simply because every year thousands of new students come to this town, many of them perhaps much greener than I, many possibly needing a little advice. And I would tell them all: the predators are out there and they are waiting for you.

Firstly, never do what I did. Secondly, if you ever make such a mistake or are abused regardless of how careful you are, never, ever keep it quiet — scream it from the rooftops.  

Believe me someone will listen. I mentioned one of them above.

 

Wayne Norman

St. John’s

 

 

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