‘I thought it was my fault’: Victoria teens recount sexual assaults, call for change

'I thought it was my fault': Victoria teens recount sexual assaults, call for change
WatchSexual violence remains a taboo topic for many. Kori Sidaway lifts the curtain on rape culture by sharing the stories of two young survivors of sexual assault, who hope going public will inspire change.


This is part one of a two-part series on rape culture in Victoria. Part two can be read here.

Kailyn Ford is sweet 16 and coming into her own.

But in 2020, when she was just 15, that youthful innocence was taken away when she was sexually assaulted.

“I felt really lonely, I felt scared,” said Ford. “I felt really disgusted and ashamed of myself. And for the longest time, I thought it was my fault, that I was the reason why it happened because I wasn’t taking care of myself properly.”

Ford had been drinking, when she was sexually assaulted.

So had Gwen Stoker who was just 14, when she was raped.

“There were many experiences. There were, many,” said Stoker, getting emotional. “It was not just one encounter. It was encounter, encounter, encounter.”

For Stoker, it took two full years to understand what had happened during her brief relationship in Grade 9, was actually sexual assault.

“It’s Law 12 and we’re learning about all your usual criminal code stuff. For me, that was the first time that we actually started addressing these issues,” said Stoker.

“I was brought to tears in class.”

It had finally hit her: she’d been repeatedly raped by a former boyfriend.

At 14, she was too young to legally consent, and Stoker also says she was too inebriated to consent.

“Even if I drank willingly, I could never have consented to what happened after,” said Stoker.

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, consent needs to be voluntary, and has to happen prior or during the sexual interaction. Consent is not obtained when “the accused counsels or incites the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust power or authority.”

Consent also can’t legally take place if someone is unconscious, or is “incapable of consenting to the activity for any reason.”

But at the time, these two survivors didn’t have any of that knowledge.

“I think the school system and the counsellor failed me,” said Ford, whose still in high school at Stelly’s Secondary in Saanich.

“I didn’t learn anything about sexual violence, nothing at all. I had to teach myself about consent.”

And advocates say that lack of sexualized violence education is a major driver of rape culture.

“We don’t talk about different encounters and how you can give consent, autonomy, those things are really absent from sex education. So from youth, our idea of assault is just ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and there’s no further information on what the ‘yes’ looks like and what the ‘no’ can be,” said Alexandra Kierstead, who co-founded the non-profit No Means No Apparel, which sends all its proceeds to the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic.

“The ‘no’ is not necessarily just ‘no’. It’s ‘I don’t know’ or ‘maybe later’ or ‘I’m uncomfortable’ and I think a lot of survivors may have been in situations where they felt coerced or eventually they gave in, so they don’t think it is necessarily assault,” said Kierstead.

Further traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault, can be the reporting stage.

Once Ford and Stoker came to terms with the fact that they had experienced sexualized violence and asked for help, they felt they were dismissed.

“I feel like they didn’t know about resources and I feel that the counsellor didn’t know the proper way to help me, even though she’s a counsellor,” said Ford.

“She basically said ‘ok, thanks for venting to me’.”

“It takes a lot of strength to go in the first place. When I first approached them, it was with all the strength that I could muster,” said Stoker, who went to her Saanich school police liaison to report the harassment she endured from the same former boyfriend who she says sexually assaulted her.

“When I wasn’t met back with that level of support, I felt like I was a burden to them.”

The lack of knowledge, proper resources and support, both girls faced while trying to report to school counsellors and liaison police officers, made them question their experience and prevented them from taking further action.

“I never got proper help for my trauma, and I never went to police because I didn’t feel like it’s been a safe place to go to,” said Ford.

Now, the two are using their voices, to provide the knowledge and support they say wasn’t there for them, when they needed it the most.

“I feel like it needs to be talked about so other victims know they aren’t alone,” said Ford.

“I’m not going to stop talking about it.”

If you have been a victim of sexualized violence, you can contact the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.

[email protected]

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!