Alesha’s Story – ‘Each time I feel sick to my stomach because I don’t know if they are going to try to grope me, to violate my personal space, treat me like an object, or if they are trying to help in a misguided way.’

CW – sexual assault

A year and a half ago, I traveled to another state to acquire and
train with a new guide dog. We had about eighteen students in the
class, and my dog was (is) a true gem.

While I was there, one of the students, who used to work at the
school, but was retired, groped me twice. Once he offered to hold the
stairwell door for me, then groped my breast as I tried to walk past.

The second time, he did the same thing with the elevator door.

I had been sexually assaulted more seriously in the past, so this
triggered that horror, and I reported it to my trainer. He reported it
to his supervisor, as was required.

And they sent me home.

They put me in an office with two men and the door closed, the men
between me and the door, and tried to get me to recant. They claimed
they had video and could check if I was lying. I told them to go right
ahead and look. They tried to assassinate my character by saying I
complained about everything. I pointed out I had some food allergies
the kitchen seemed to think they could solve by serving me plain
salads with no protein and I couldn’t walk several miles a day on a
bowl of lettuce. The kitchen managed other food restrictions just
fine, so what was the problem with mine (soy allergy).

I also pointed out that I was quick to encourage and praise my fellow
students and had nothing but great things to say about the trainers
and training.

They didn’t care. They sent me home. Me! As though I was the
perpetrator not the victim.

I went home with my dog. I wasn’t leaving that campus without her. But
we hadn’t completed our training and I felt set up to fail because the
dog and I had not worked in the city together and I live in the city.

I “persuaded” them to sent a trainer to my house within the week to
finish my training.
But once I got home, I fell into a deep depression over how I’d been
treated. I began to have panic attacks and couldn’t work.

Finally, a friend helped me find a therapist and I’ve been working on
my issues with being touched ever since. People touch me all the time
on train platforms and just on the street. Each time I feel sick to my
stomach because I don’t know if they are going to try to grope me, to
violate my personal space, treat me like an object, or if they are
trying to help in a misguided way. Sometimes I even scream when
grabbed because I’m taken off guard and feel particularly vulnerable.
Each time I react negatively toward being grabbed, I am treated like
I’m the bad guy. “I was just trying to help” is one of the most
offensive statements in the English language. Their “help” triggers my
fear of assaults and how I was made to feel shame for having been
assaulted, as though I asked for it.

Uncategorized

Hannah Mason-Bish View All →

Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex

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