Triggers

My job requires me to meet with people, face-to face, and discuss aspects of their personal lives. I work in an academic setting and my job doesn’t have the term “counselor” in it, yet I constantly feel that I’m providing counseling services to my students.

For the most part, this is my favourite aspect of my job. I enjoy helping people while providing support and empathy. But for every 50 clients I see who are delightful to work with, there’s always one who completely pushes my boundaries. Today, I had one of them.

The past few months have been anything but easy for me. As I work my way through counseling and peer support after my experience with sexual assault and violence, I have triggers that send me into a tail-spin of anxiety and fear. This student did just that for me.

He came into my office disgruntled. He began talking about how entitled youth were today considering they “know nothing about the real world”. He stated, “women’s brain cells die at 11 and grow back, slowly, as they get older. Finally when they reach your age, they become interesting again and have something worthwhile to say”. I was so taken back by his words and immediately I could feel my back tightening. I replied, “and men don’t experience that growth?”, to which he laughed and said, “no, they stay brain-dead”. I attempted to re-direct the conversation to the topic at hand, but he was determined to tell me more about his so-called feelings. He told me a story about his “baby cousin” who, at 14, dressed like “a whore” to impress boys in her class. He said, “girls dress like whores and wonder why they get taken advantage of!”. After that, it was over for me. I froze. The room started spinning a little bit. I had so much flying through my head. Why would this man think it is appropriate to speak to me this way? How was this subject material relevant, common-place, or acceptable? He went not to tell me a story of when he followed his baby cousin in his car, really close, with his high-beams on. He said he saw her panicking and when he followed her into her driveway, she realized it was him and came out frustrated with him. He laughed and said he “wanted to make sure she did the right thing if someone were following her”. He talked about how he would promise to hurt any man who ever touched her the wrong way. He told me of when he met her boyfriend and threatened to beat him with his own arms if he ever touched her. How could this man say all of this and not realize that the type of person he was trying to protect her from was him?

What message do you send a young woman when you teach her a lesson by instilling fear into her? You create a real-life scenario of a man following you, just to test her reactions. You impose this guardian-esque protection over her. What you should be doing is trying to change the way some men think so that they don’t believe it’s okay to follow women or physically harm them. You need to change the way society perceives and views women. We are not sexual objects. We do not get raped for what we wear. We get raped by men who don’t see us as human but as a vessel of sexuality.

This guy was a reminder of the mentalities that exist in the world. To him, it was perfectly acceptable to talk to me this way. He saw nothing wrong with sharing his opinions on women and how he felt they should be. He carried no responsibility for how his viewpoints could reinforce and support sexism. How the fuck do I handle this?

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