This is one of the stories collected by Time’s Up Ateneo for its online campaign, Stories of Resistance, Stories of Hope: A Series of Online Testimonials about the October 15 Protest and the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement in Ateneo. Through this campaign, Time’s Up Ateneo hopes to generate conversation about how the school can continue toward a gender-responsive, safe, and progressive future, while understanding and addressing its flawed past.
TW: sexual violence
*Not her real name
To the people who went to the Oct 15 rally,
I just want to say thank you. During the rally, I experienced some sort of catharsis, but I also felt very numb, because I didn’t want to be happy, I didn’t want to hope. I’ve seen too much of Ateneo’s rotten system to believe that anything, even an unprecedented massive rally, could change them. But now I’ve decided that I’m not going to let Ateneo’s actions determine what I feel about the rally. The rally in itself is valuable to me, no matter how much Ateneo tried to officially and publicly discredit and dismiss it. I think many people can see through Ateneo’s tactics, and Time’s Up Ateneo will also open more eyes.
Whenever I get angry about the things that have happened, I tell myself that I know that the movement will give courage to survivors so that they will have less self-doubts about the truth of their experience. I know that the detractors and doubters of the rally will someday realize that the people from the rally were right. I know that my harasser will become a liability for Ateneo, and that all of these abusers will be ticking time bombs for the institution, so that someday it will be too costly for Ateneo to protect them. These truths comfort me whenever I remember things that I want to forget.
Before that rally, every time I met with my friend, the minute I sat down and she closed the door, I’d burst out crying. I kept talking about being sad about what Ateneo did to me. I also hated that I couldn’t tell people about what really happened, lest Ateneo sues me for violating the Data Privacy Act, a law that seems to be their favorite nowadays and which they use to protect sexual predators. I also hated that I was somewhat a custodian of the reputation of my harasser because it would be a “violation” of the harasser’s “privacy” if I told people about the truth of what that person did to me. Plus, if I told people that I experienced sexual harassment, I’d be labeled as a liar and that can impact my life in a very negative way. I hated the silence. I hated that I was keeping this secret, and that the law and society will conspire to keep me that way. Though I am not going public with my story, the rally broke the silence on the problem of sexual harassment in Ateneo and that relieved a lot of pain that I was keeping inside.
Before the rally, there were times when my friend would ask, “How are you?” and I’ll be like, “I’m okay. Things are really good for me right now,” but I’d be crying while saying all the good things that were happening in my life. I didn’t realize the contradiction between my words and the emotion that I was exhibiting until my friend pointed it out, saying she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she saw me like that. In response to her, I laughed while crying harder. After the rally, when I met her again, I didn’t cry. I didn’t notice the change in my mood until my friend remarked about it. That day I was smiling. I was even like, at least ngayon alam na ng lahat na bulok yung Ateneo, so ok na ako. That’s me speaking in anger, but seriously though, the rally helped me let go of Ateneo, an institution that I held in such high esteem for so many years.
Actually, at first, I was tentative about going to the rally, and I even asked a friend if it’s ok for me to go there. I was concerned that it was like self-serving because I was a survivor. Will going to the rally be like me protesting for me? My friend though said that it was ok for me to go, so I did, and I’m glad that I went. The rally made me experience a sense of justice, something that I thought I would never get. Nowadays, whenever things get tough, I go back to the memory of being there in the crowd, shouting, “Sexual predators, get out of Ateneo!” Being there allowed me to express my anger at a space where I was violated, at a space that protected the predator instead of me, and to admonish that institution with stinging words. Being there allowed me to see the allies who were there for me and were willing to believe our pain even if they did not know my story. Being there allowed me to hope as there were people out there who were fighting on my behalf. I was not alone.
I don’t know how to tell you how much that rally meant to me. That rally had concrete and lasting effects on how I have dealt with the pain of my experience. If nothing happened after that rally, I think it would have still made a huge impact on my life. That rally healed me.