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I swore to myself that I’d never write about this topic because it’s so heavy. But I feel that I must as it’s never going to be not important and there’s never going to be enough awareness on it. Since we talked heavily about ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ in my previous post, I want to continue the conversation about the show. What I want to talk about this time in relation to the teen soap is sexual assault. Throughout the show’s 14 year run between 2001 and 2015, there were 3 major story-lines on sexual assault. All 3 story-lines were very authentic and had very believable variables and outcomes. Furthermore, all 3 story-lines showed the aftermath of sexual assault and what life can look like for sexual assault victims once the deed is done. As someone who’s struggled with the aftermath of sexual assault for many, many years, and felt lonely while at it, I appreciated seeing these story-lines on TV, or Youtube if we’re going to be more technical at it.

First there was Paige. Her sexual assault story-line went on between seasons 2 and 4. In season 2, she was raped by an older boy with whom she had a connection with. She came to a party that he was attending and, even though she was warned about him not being a good person, went to the upstairs bedroom with him thinking he’d be respectful enough to accept her boundaries. But he didn’t and raped her. The next couple of years, we see Paige attempting to cope as best she can with the choice of losing her virginity being taken away, but it’s proven to be hard for her as she has to see the person who did the deed to her on numerous occasions and it triggers her. She decides to press charges against him, but ends up losing the case as the opposing team’s lawyer twisted the narrative to that she willingly went upstairs with her rapist and willingly had sex with him as no one saw what happened and there was no proof to state otherwise. Paige is enraged by the legal system, and it makes her do things she wouldn’t do otherwise. But when she’s faced with her rapist again one last time, she regains her control and her power, which makes him feel threatened almost when she tells him he has no effect on her.

Secondly, there’s Darcy. She’s first introduced in season 4 as a good christian girl who’s saving herself until marriage. She dates nonetheless, but with boundaries. Season 7 sees her schooling, dating and looking for an adventure with her friends and her boyfriend. She lies to her parents and sneaks out to go to a ski trip with her peers. Darcy then attended a party along with her friends and her boyfriend after her day of fun. Darcy ends up wasted and passes out during the party after an argument with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend leaves her passed out on the couch, and the next scene cuts to the next morning. She wakes up naked and sees her boyfriend laying next her, also naked. She assumes that she had sex with her boyfriend even though neither of them remembers it ever happening. When she hears that there’s a rapist going around parties taking advantage of random girls, she realizes that it wasn’t her boyfriend who took her virginity, but that she was date raped. She never meets her rapist, is reluctant to tell anyone, and struggles with her demons in silence.

And last but not least, there’s Zoe from season 13. She’s first introduced as a well-known teen actress who’s managed by her mother. She’s spoiled, but almost hates the fact that she can get whatever she wants whenever she wants it. She’s adventurous and finds an adventure everywhere she goes. Zoe doesn’t make any friends that easily as she’s not particularly liked, but she somehow manages to get herself invited to every party anyone has. One party proved to be a life-threat to her. She got drunk at her classmate’s birthday party and passed out. She finds out the next day that she was sexually assaulted while being unconscious. The entire ordeal was filmed by her abusers, and the worst part was that the host of the party didn’t do anything to stop it. She realizes who her ‘co-star’ on the video is, and when she confronts him, he asks her to forget about it because anyone knowing would ruin his life and no one would believe her anyways. She goes along with it until she sees her abuser take advantage of her friend. She publicly confronts him and admits to her witnesses what had happened. The sister of Zoe’s abuser sees the video on her brother’s phone and realizes that it was him who assaulted her schoolmate. No matter how difficult it was for her, she defends Zoe by taking the phone and using it as proof. Her brother is then arrested and, unlike Paige’s abuser, is sentenced for 2 years.

These 3 story-lines were very difficult for me to watch. All of them represented something I went through myself while coping with the aftermath of what had happened to me. No matter how much time passes, it’s something that stays with you forever and affects you for the rest of your life. It’s practically the same as grieving a death because you just become a different person and you grieve the person you used to be before the abuse. You miss her (or him) and you want her (or him) back. The story-line that I related to the most was Darcy’s. I’m not a christian and it was never my intention to save myself until marriage. But I did plan on saving myself for someone I’d be in a serious, committed relationship with. I wanted my first time to be meaningful. I wanted my first time to be special. But most importantly, I wanted my first time to be MY choice. That choice was completely taken away from me.

Just like Darcy, I didn’t take my abuser to court and I have absolutely no recollection of who it was. I don’t know his face, nor do I remember his name. All I know is that it was someone I thought was my friend, but the details are blurry. Just like Darcy, I was angry, embarrassed, confused, and scared. Like Darcy, I kept it a secret. In fact, I kept it a secret for 4 years. I bottled everything up and pretended nothing ever happened until I just couldn’t anymore. I never got to experience my closure. I never got to confront my rapist face to face and tell him exactly what he did to me like Paige and Zoe did on the show. I only got to imagine what I’d say to him.

Seeing my story being shown and represented on TV made me realize that everything I went through and everything I as feeling like grieving my loss was valid no matter what anyone had ever said to me. I only met one other person who was raped in real life, and I connected with her through our similar stories. But it was just one person that I met only once. When I tried to open up to my friends about my experience, they either laughed at my face or completely dismissed it. I didn’t feel understood and I didn’t feel I was being listened to. I realize now that my sexual assault story brought the worst in me, as well as the best in me. I’m almost thankful it happened to me because it showed me just how strong I can be.

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