Saint John girl trying to change people’s views on sexual assault


By Millicent McKay

Feb. 4, 2016

Carly Cousins was 17,159 kilometres away from home when her life changed forever.

She was sexually assaulted after living in Australia for five months, on Oct. 26, 2014.

Cousins was celebrating her friend’s birthday by going out for dinner that night.

They met at her friend’s apartment and wanted to have some wine before they went out, but no one had a corkscrew.

Cousins and her friends went to an apartment nearby where three male friends lived and asked if they had a corkscrew.

“We’re just having a few drinks now, but come over later if you want,” one of the boys said to cousins.

“Ya sure, we’ll see,” Cousins said.

The group of girls returned from dinner around 8:30 p.m. and her friends, having to work the next day, decided to call it a night. Cousins decided to go to the boys’ apartment and hang out there before going home since she had the following day off.

“I didn’t really think there was anything to worry about because we had all hung out multiple times before.”

Cousins entered the apartment and was offered a drink by one of the men.

“I took the drink and shortly after I blacked out.”

Cousins woke up to two of the men on top of her.

“The second time I woke up, one of them had me in the shower and the other two were taking photos and videos.”

When she woke up for the third time, she said she still couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

“I couldn’t do anything to stop it, but I thought, crap I need to get out of here.”

One of the things that angered Cousins was the fact she thought of those men as her friends.

Cathy Carter-Snell is a certified sexual assault nurse examiner working with victims of both sexual and domestic assault.

She says what Carly Cousins went through is known as acquaintance rape.

“It is the most common form of sexual assault. It isn’t a stranger leaping out of the bushes.”

Often there is alcohol or drugs involved, which the assailant knows and he is relying on that to get access to the victim, she said.

We see the misunderstanding of “why didn’t she say no?” First of all it’s about saying yes. Whoever initiates sex has to make sure that the person is willing to go along with it, not just assume, she said.

“As such people say, they were both drunk and they made a mistake, but that isn’t the case.”

Days after Carly Cousins’ assault, her assailants contacted her by text-message asking her if they were cool.

“That made it clear to me they knew they had done wrong, but we were definitely not cool.”

After that, Cousins asked her younger brother what he had learned in school about sexual assault and rape.

“The only thing they had been taught was not to do it,” he said.

“Immediately I thought there is an issue within the school system. The education just isn’t there.”

Today, Cousins uses her experience to teach others about sexual assault, speaking to high schools and universities to raise awareness.

“A lot of people think there are ways to avoid the situations, when really, you can’t. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or what you’re drinking. It doesn’t matter. You don’t ask for this.”