As a survivor of violent crimes, including sexual assault, here's my best advice:
- Until you experience a sexual assault for yourself
- Until you are viciously violated
- Until you have personally endured a lifetime of trauma
- Until you have faced victim-blaming
- Until you have battled those who victim-shame
- Until you have processed the horrific aftermath of rape
Do not judge. Assume nothing, unless you walked in this person's shoes. If you have nothing kind or sympathetic to say, remain silent.
According to statistics, 80% of women do not report sexual assaults. This doesn't mean that it never happened. This doesn't mean the individual didn't suffer anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic physical pain, or spend the rest of her life haunted by this nightmare.
In my own case, I was sexually assaulted three times. Each one happened during a different season in my life. One time, I did report it. Two times, I didn't for good reasons.
First Physical, Emotional, & Sexual Assault: I was approximately 3-4 hears old. An innocent little girl who endured over one year of torture from a wicked babysitter. How can a child report a violent crime when they're not even mature enough to understand what happened? When all they can do is suffer in silence?
Second Sexual Assault: I was 15 years old, naive, and agreed to a blind date. We went to a party. What I didn't anticipate was that "I" was the party. What ever happened to "no" meaning "no?" Why can't guys realize that females are more than an object to be used for their selfish desires? Following the date rape, I reported it to local police. I had to endure countless hours being examined in the ER, have a gynecological examination, and relive the whole experience all over again. The 19 year old predator spent one night in jail. I spent the rest of my life in anguish, especially after my older sister victim-blamed and shamed me by saying, "The rape was your fault. You deserved it!" Following this horrific ordeal, I dropped the court case, refused to go to counseling, and tried to put this nightmare behind me. I guarantee you, it was never behind me. Instead, it haunted me.
Third Sexual Assault: I was newly separated from my husband. At 42 years old, a mom, and experiencing uncertainties, my two girls and I temporarily moved in with my mother. During a weekend when my kids were with their dad and my mom was out of town, I was alone at her house. When there was a knock at my door, I thought it was my friend who I had plans with. Instead, it was my brother-in-law. He was inebriated. I could smell the alcohol on him. I was filled with confusion. Why was he here and not with my sister? (Yes, the same sister who victim-shamed me.) It was a warm autumn evening, I was wearing a dress, and he kept trying to run his hands up my bare legs. Immediately, I would get up and walk into another room. I kept trying to avoid close contact with him. Unexpectedly, he unzipped his jeans and started to pull them down. Quickly, I spun around with my back facing him. Long story short, he sexually assaulted me. It ended with me screaming at him, "Get the hell out of here!"
Why didn't I report it? For starters, he was a relative. I was outraged and in shock. Most importantly, I sincerely wanted to salvage my relationship with my sister. I placed her well-being above mine. I knew what her husband did would hurt her badly. I knew our family would be upset and that it would cause tension during holidays, birthdays, and gatherings. What I didn't expect was for my sister to outright blame me. Yes, she did it, again. She victim-blamed me and shamed me for what her dirty rotten husband did to me. Then my family pulled the faith-shaming card by saying, "If you are a good Christian, you will just forgive him." After 11 years of living this lie that the sexual assault never happened, I finally broke the unspoken code of silence in 2017. The #MeToo movement gave me courage to finally speak up. When I started to talk about being sexually assaulted by my brother-in-law, my siblings complained, "Why can't you just get over it and move on?" Looking back, I wish that I would have reported it. If I could do things over, I would definitely respond differently. And I would have focused more on my peace versus keeping peace with my sister, brother-in-law, and family who didn't care about my traumatic experience.
Who has the right to say when or if anyone should or shouldn't report it? This isn't about politics. It's about people. Real people who have been hurt, violated, and traumatized. There are hundreds of reasons why women don't report a physical, emotional, or sexual violent crime, including:
- Too young to understand what happened was a crime.
- The predator was clergy.
- The perpetrator was family.
- The rapist threatened to kill them or their relatives.
- The victim felt too humiliated and ashamed.
- Because no one would believe her.
- Because the assault happened on a date. #DateRape
- Because the legal system fails to get justice for sexual assault.
- The predator was her college professor.
- She did report it, but never received justice.
Have sensitivity. Be compassionate. Have a heart for hurting people.
#BelieveSurvivors #WhyIDidntReport #MeToo