I was 19 and working the overnight shift at a convenience store in a strip mall in North York.

It was a weird place. For some reason, the store had a bunch of tables and chairs set up by the cash, and that area had become a hangout for local tow truck drivers. They would buy coffee and food at the doughnut shop next door, then bring it to the convenience store to eat and hang out between calls.

Over time they befriended me. They’d bring me doughnuts. One guy brought me hot chocolate every night. They’d ask me how it was going at school, and flip through my books. 

They were mad at my boss for putting me on the overnight shift. They took out the trash for me so I didn’t have to go in the back alley. They warned me constantly about each other, telling me to be careful around this guy or that guy. 

That didn’t make me feel protected. It was the opposite. It made me feel like everybody was dangerous, and like any one of them could be violent with me. I never felt safe at that job.

One guy, Jeff, would offer every night to drive me home. I always turned him down. But getting home took two hours and I had to change buses twice, and in winter it was super cold. So eventually I said yes, and after that he drove me home every night. He was always polite and he never touched me, so eventually I felt pretty safe with him.

But one night Jeff was out on a call when I closed, and some other guy offered me a drive. I didn’t know him well and I didn’t like him. But I said yes. 

I actually knew he was going to rape me. I just didn’t see any way out of it.

We were alone in the store, and there was nobody around. It was 4 in the morning. He seemed like the kind of person who might have a knife. 

I didn’t want him to beat me up. I didn’t want to get marked or scarred.

And if he was going to rape me, I didn’t want it to happen in the store, where somebody I knew might come along and see it. I felt like it would be less awful if it happened somewhere else. I know that seems bizarre but that’s how I felt.

I felt like he was going to rape me no matter what I did. 

And that’s what happened. He drove me somewhere and pulled over and smoked some weed. Then he raped me. Then he drove me home.

I was in shock. I went inside my apartment, put my clothes in the washing machine, had a bath, and went to bed. 

And then I just never went back to work. 

For days, my boss called me and I ignored his messages. I never picked up the money he owed me. I never saw any of those people again. I just shut the door on the whole thing.

I did not go to the police, I did not tell any friends. This is the first time I’ve told anyone.

Here’s how I see it today. 

Did I make a mistake? Yes. But my mistake wasn’t saying yes to that guy offering me a drive. My mistake was taking the job in the first place. It was stupid to put myself in a position where I was surrounded by dangerous, creepy guys, alone and unprotected. They knew it, they said it, some of them even took steps to protect me, and it turned out they were absolutely right.

But I don’t think there’s any real lesson here. The world is dangerous for women. We know that. We still need to live our lives, so we make judgment calls. And sometimes we get it wrong. That’s not our fault, it’s just a thing that happens. And so we move on.