Dear Captain of the X-Men Basketball Team,
Today you received your outcome from the University for attempting to assault me. Believe it or not, this has been an ongoing process not only for you but for me too. Whereas you were waiting for a simple outcome, I was waiting to see if I would become yet another woman that the University’s judicial process had failed. During the last month and a half, each week I have anxiously waited for updates on the case. For this same period of time, it took precedence to nearly everything else I had going on (and believe me when I say I had a lot going on). However, it took priority because I was determined to hold you accountable for the violence you had introduced to my life.
You are the person that taught me that there are men in this world that would put hands on women. And would do so without the slightest doubt, hesitation, or apology. Don’t get me wrong, I had heard about it in the news, on the radio, and seen it on television, but you made it real. And your best friend, your co-captain, who was also there, taught me that there are men in this world who would witness such a thing and do nothing to stop it. This is something else that I had certainly heard about before, but he, like you, made it a reality for me.
That night, it took not one, not two, but three young men to keep you from hurting me. As soon as I realized what exactly was happening, I was incredulous. What is wrong with him? Does he realize what he is about to do? According to the X-Men Basketball Roster, you are 6-7 and 210 pounds. This means that you outweigh me by nearly one hundred pounds and are over a foot taller than I am; quite literally twice my size. All three young men who intervened were either current or former members of the X-Men Basketball Team. They are as big as you are and it took all three of them intervening to keep you from getting to me. Do you not feel this is problematic?
It wasn’t until I saw them holding you back that I realized I was at any threat for physical harm in the first place. The two young men who were the first to intervene had played with you a little over one year yet knew enough about you to understand that if they didn’t do something that it would have ended very badly for me. The third young man had played with you over three years and been your roommate at one point. He came out of nowhere and helped drag you off the dance floor even though you were already being restrained. What does that tell you?
The third young man came up to me afterwards and offered me an apology for what had happened. I told him that he shouldn’t have been the one apologizing, that it should have come from you. He told me that you never apologize and how right he was! We are now five months after the incident and still…no apology.
One week after I had reported to the University, I decided I would report to the police, the RCMP. It took me some time to make this decision, but as soon as I had made it, I knew it was the right one. I had made this decision because I realized that even though I had now left a record with the University, that after you left campus there would be no evidence of what you had done, and to me that was unacceptable. And it was unacceptable because there would be nothing to protect the people you would encounter in the future. I thought to myself, if I didn’t say something, who would?
Each time I tell my story, I feel as though I am losing a piece of myself. It is so emotionally exhausting to go through that night again and again and again. In the days, weeks, and months after, thinking about this night would make me feel so much pain, fear, and doubt. I had to tell my parents, my best friends, my mentors, and my professors. After each time, it felt like I had just finished a 10km run, exhausted but accomplished because every time I tell this story I am re-claiming the truth regardless of how many times you or your best friend may lie about what happened.
You don’t know me very well, but let me explain something; I have never been the one to sit quietly when I see something that I feel is wrong. In fact in my friend group, I am that person. The person who always says something, the person who always does something, and I take pride in that. Despite this, it took me nearly four months to report you, but let’s get something straight; it wasn’t because I was afraid of you or of what you would do to me. It was because I wanted to protect the young men who had intervened on my behalf. I was particularly afraid for the two who were still on the team. You were their captain and I was scared not only that you would make life hard for them but that it would also put them in a difficult position on the team. I see those two as my little brothers and regardless of the dislike and hatred I feel towards you, the love I have for them will always surpass that.
On the day I reported, the feeling of protectiveness for them was as strong as it had ever been, but two significant things happened that day. The first thing was that someone finally reminded me of who I was. Secondly, I recognized that my saying nothing was doing so much more harm than good. Not only was I hurting myself but I also realized that I was also putting so many more people at risk than I could have ever imagined. I reported to give justice to the girls who have encountered you in the past. I reported to protect the women you might meet in the future. But perhaps most importantly, I reported to re-gain my sense of self.
It took me so long to admit even to myself that you had affected my life. Your impact on me quickly became very obvious to my family and friends, but I kept denying it, again and again, telling them that the only emotion I felt towards you was anger. It was only after I suffered a panic-attack one night after seeing you on the Pub dance floor that I finally admitted that I felt something beyond just anger.
You took away my sense of safety, my peace of mind, my confidence, and my willingness to trust others. I was afraid to go out for fear that I would run into you and this would be the night you finally finished what you started.
Despite all this, I forced myself to live my life the way I would have otherwise. I still attended dinner at my friend’s house despite knowing you might be there and I still went out to the Pub, even though I felt gut-wrenching anxiety each time. I had done nothing wrong, so I felt anger at the thought that you were living your life without any repercussions while I lived my own in fear.
You were arrested in the evening of March 19th, 2018. Immediately after this happened, the officer called to tell me and also let me know that you had been released from custody on conditions. I was also told that you were remorseful and had been crying. I said to the officer that though I could certainly get that you had been, that this information didn’t really do anything for me considering the turmoil you had caused in my life. The officer agreed with me and it thankfully wasn’t mentioned again. But I thought about that for a long time, I thought to myself, why is he suddenly remorseful and crying, four months after the fact? I realized then that you weren’t all of a sudden upset that you had caused me pain but rather because you had finally understood that there were consequences for your actions. I suppose this would be a foreign concept for someone who has gotten away with as much as you have in the past five years.
You are fully responsible for your actions but you are simultaneously the outcome of a broken system that has allowed a number of athletes at this university to act and behave in a way that would never have been deemed acceptable coming from any other student. This is not an issue that is unique to StFX, but is an affliction across the country. However, this is my university and I intend for it to be held at a standard that I know it is capable of upholding and maintaining. Your behaviour and the fact that you have gotten away with it for so long tells me that there are a plethora of systemic issues at play. It is apparent that there is a problem with how players are held accountable on the Men’s Basketball team and indeed with how its leadership is chosen especially seeing as your coaches felt you were fit to be a captain for several years. I think this also speaks more broadly to how players, teams, and coaches are being overseen in the Athletics Department because I am not convinced that the Men’s Basketball team is the only one with a problem.
I would argue that the approach for changing these systems should be ground-up as well as top-down. Individuals at the highest levels should be affirming their dedication to creating a department that fosters a safe environment, which shows its teams and players that there is a standard to be upheld. If these regulations were implemented at the highest levels, the rest of the department would have no choice but to comply. One thing is painfully obvious to me; something has to change if we hope to see our sports teams’ continued success.
The systems I have had to navigate, both within the University and with the police, are hard to endure. The systems are flawed, onerous, and repetitive. You are constantly asking for updates, constantly wondering if there is more information you can access, constantly second-guessing your decisions, constantly questioning your sanity. For me, this was exacerbated by the fact that I was so far away from my family, but there were two things that kept me going. The first was the strength of my foundation. I had family, friends, and mentors that believed me; these people would sustain me during the hard times. The second, and perhaps of the utmost value, was that I had the strength of my conviction. I knew that what I was doing was right. I knew that I was right for starting this process and that in the end, no matter how difficult all of this would be, I would know I had done everything in my power to make sure you couldn’t hurt anyone else.
To the girls and to the women, especially for the ones who have come to me with their stories since they found out I came forward, I have just one message; you do not have to be afraid anymore, of him or of anyone. I am evidence of that; I am still here. In fact, I will always be here. If I can do it, you can too. I will hold your hand, I will give you comfort, I will remind you that you are powerful, intelligent, and beautiful just like so many people did for me. I ripped off the Band-Aid and I did that for you, because you deserve to be heard. I will be right here; you can rest assured of that.
And lastly, to the Captain, just in case you didn’t know…
I am Rebecca Mesay, the proud daughter of Akal and Mesay. I was not raised to live in fear of anyone but instead I was taught to powerfully assert my right to exist in this world. Unlike you, I have never forgotten where I come from, which means I will never lose sight of where I am going.
You can take all this and use it to either deteriorate further into darkness and self-hate or you can use it as an opportunity to change, to become a better person. After what you have done to me, I will not be the person to help you do this but I am sure there are people on this Earth who are willing to dedicate the time and effort required. But, if all of this has not impacted you in any way, know this…I said something.
The next time you try to hurt someone, stop and think for a minute…this person could also say something. This incident has now been recorded which means that whatever you do moving forwards, there will be much tougher consequences beyond just entering a Restorative Justice program. I have now done my due diligence; you have been forewarned. Don’t mess it up, if not for your own sake than for that of other people’s. I have now said what I wanted to and my only hope is that these are the last words I ever have to speak to you.