My #MeToo Story

Community Opinion & Analysis Nov 9, 2018 at 5:15 pm
RACHELLE CRUZ

RACHELLE CRUZ

#FilipinasSpeakOut

By Rachelle Cruz

It took awhile for me to write about this because I was going through the motions and many emotions. I went from angry to hurt to disappointed to vengeful back to angry and so forth. I finally want to share this with you because in the end, I realized that it’s not about me. Yes, I went through that whole ordeal, it happened to me, but it’s not about me. When I reflect on that experience now, I think of the other young girls who look up to me and other women who might have faced the same situation. This is for them. I want you to know that you, even if you’re afraid, you are not alone. You must stand up for yourself, to fight for what is right, to have a voice in the process. More importantly, to be careful and be more discerning of people and their intentions.

I was sexually assaulted more than a year ago at a Toronto downtown hotel. I was this assertive, ambitious, go-getter TV show host/producer and I needed help with marketing my now-defunct magazine lifestyle show, ‘The It List’. So I reached out to one of the influential people in our community because he has been helpful to me in the past. He’s helped me with gaining votes for my nomination in the 2015 Notable Award. I also covered and reported about their rallies and campaigns. So to be clear, I’ve encountered this person a few times. I’ve asked friends and verified if this person can be trusted and did my due diligence. So I went ahead and booked a business meeting.

Little did I know that the “business meeting” would turn into something else. I was trapped in a hotel room. It felt like hours though it was mere 40 minutes to be exact. At first, we were discussing the marketing campaign for my show. Then the conversation quickly changed into something dark. He said he was stressed and needed to unwind, that he wanted to take me out for dinner, buy me flowers and that’s why he booked the hotel room. He admitted to me that ever since he’s met me, I was his “wildest dream.” My stomach churned at this thought. Yet there I was, trying to calmly sit at the edge of the bed, eyeing the door, trying to make sense of this transformation of who was once an acquaintance, but is now my monster. I told him this is not why I came here.

Still, he started acting strange, fixing his collar shirt, unbuttoning them down, rolling up his sleeves… closing the drapes. My heartbeat raced faster and my gut told me there’s something wrong. I shouldn’t be here. I made an alibi and said that I have another meeting to go to. I have to go. I got up to open up the drapes he closed. I didn’t want to stay hidden in the dark. He went behind me and pinned me against the table facing the window. Both his fists nailed on the table, imprisoning me in between his arms. I wrenched myself out and broke free and went to the other side of the room, he followed me. I was beginning to really panic, but didn’t want to show him any sign of weakness. Then he wrapped his arms around me. I froze. I stood there, thinking of what to do next.

Thinking on my feet, I asked for a glass of water and so he let me go and went to the other side of the room. That was my first window of opportunity to flee….and I did. As soon as I broke free from his arms, I grabbed my jacket and bag and ran out, in distress, dishevelled and disoriented. He chased me down the hallways towards the elevator and in a panic, we were pushing the elevator buttons – I, trying to get down to the main floor, and he, begging for me to go back to “talk about it.”

To my relief, the elevator went down to the main floor. Up to the very end, he was still pleading for me to come back. I yelled and said, “Don’t ever talk to me again, get away from me!”

Then I ran. I ran and ran and ran up towards the street. I couldn’t stop running in a fury even though he was nowhere in sight. Tears were all over my face but I kept running. I got hold of a friend and called him, screaming into the phone. Then my phone died.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone to his room to use the bathroom. As soon as I finished using the bathroom, I suggested to him that we should go to a coffee shop nearby but by that time, it was too late. He already had something else in his mind. Perhaps it was me being too naive, and too trusting, assuming that all would be okay.

Some people have asked, “Why didn’t you just run away and leave?” The answer is, I was scared. I was very scared. I was afraid that he would hit me and get to me faster than I could run. I was afraid that if he did overtake me, I wouldn’t be able to break free. I also had a concussion not so long ago and I was scared that if my head gets hit again, it would be greater damage.

So, that story replayed in my head, over and over again, when I had to recount it to family. To friends. To the police as I provided video testimony that weekend, which led to his arrest. I was told that his wife bailed him out of jail. I had to recount it again with the Crown and at that time, the Crown was confident that we will pursue this in court. Court dates were set. Months and months away from then. It dragged on and that same week I received calls, text messages, emails – asking about the incident. The news spread like wildfire. Authorities have told me not to talk about it anymore, not until I have to take a stand in court. So I worked in silence. I moved in silence. I didn’t have a voice in the process. I just had to take it all in.

Fast-forward to now, Crown reviewed the case again and to my shock, dropped the case just this year. The court dates were set in May. My assailant settled for peace bond. That was the end of it.

At first I was angry because I felt that the justice system has failed me. I questioned their leniency. I asked myself, “How can someone, especially someone who considers himself a leader in the community, continue to walk away as if nothing happened?”

But in the end, I believed that I did what I could to stand up for myself. I know what happened and have no reason to fabricate anything. I also feel differently. I have two asks: First, that he would never do that again to anyone. That he would accept responsibility and just move on with his life, inspiring and uplifting others instead. Second, that women and young girls, those who may have gone through sexual assault, would have the courage and voice to speak up and do what is right for them.

If you are reading this, and you know who you are, I want you to know that I was angry with you for a long time. I felt betrayed and hurt that you were able to do that to me. I hope that this experience has taught you, and both of us, to be better people, to be morally good to our people and to resist things that aren’t right. I want you to know that I forgive you because I feel nothing but compassion now and I want to move on with my life, bringing only light and love with me.

I will be working with GABRIELA Ontario on an awareness-raising campaign about sexual violence. For more info on GABRIELA Ontario, visit gabrielaon.wordpress.com. If you need immediate assistance regarding sexual assault, call the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre crisis line at 416-597-8808