These are never easy stories to tell, more so if other people are involved and feel differently about sharing them. The pain calcifies in the bones. Denial sets in. It didn’t happen. Or did it? We downplay it. It didn’t really happen, it couldn’t have. We bargain. It doesn’t mean anything. It has no significance. What’s the definition of rape anyway? What’s the definition of sexual assault? This wasn’t textbook. It will go away if I don’t think about it.
Shame. How could that happen to me? How could I let that happen to me? How could I have been so stupid?! I’m a full-grown adult! Anger. Where were those who were supposed to protect me? How could they have left me on my own? How can I ever trust them again? Sadness. Overwhelming sadness threatening to take me under. Something was taken away from me. I can’t change that something was taken away from me. Could I have fought harder? Yelled out? Acceptance. It did happen. I am going to have to live with it. It did happen.
Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) show that a majority of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported to the police. ‘Only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes, and 26 percent of sexual assaults are reported.’ Reasons for not reporting vary from: ‘self-blame or guilt; Shame, embarrassment, or desire to keep the assault a private matter; Humiliation or fear of the perpetrator or other individual’s perceptions; Fear of not being believed or of being accused of playing a role in the crime; Lack of trust in the criminal justice system.’
There was shame, self-blame, guilt, embarrassment, humiliation, fear of other people’s perceptions, fear of not being believed, fear of being accused of playing a role… It was under less than stellar circumstances, set late in the night, in the middle of a huge argument that spilt outside, setting up an opportunity for an outsider posing as law enforcement to take advantage of the situation, supposedly to secure my safety. I was abandoned to their care, scantily dressed in just my nightdress. They always ask ‘what were you wearing?’ How could I report it when I was already so compromised?
There were tears. Doubts. Denials. Distress. Calls for rescue. Cries for help. Pleas. Admissions of the ‘incident’, followed by immediate denials fearing repercussions. Research shows that when victims disclose rape or sexual assault, agencies react more supportively than loved ones. It’s a lonely journey to have to walk yourself all alone back to recovery. There was anger, the seething rage at having been left, abandoned to be taken advantage of. The anger that I stood alone with no one to trust, that I was ‘left’ each time I yelled out what happened to me. I was shut out and rejected until I took it back. I was tired of the repeated cycles of shrieking out my protest at having to carry this grief within me all by myself as it was eating me alive. Escape is all I could do.
Statistics show that less than 1% reported assaults lead to a felony conviction. No chance I’m going through that for that. The fear of further public humiliation should I report it. No sense giving up peace of mind for years to pursue a fallacy. Best get it behind me and build a future, stay positive. There was the embarrassment that I was ultimately responsible for my own safety, and so I couldn’t really blame anyone much as I was angry at the circumstances. I was scantily dressed, just my tiny nighty. It could be argued it was my fault. It was argued it was my fault. No need risking that. Stay positive, it will go away if you will it.
Studies show that victims of rape and sexual assault suffer ‘the most severe of all traumas, causing multiple, long-term negative outcomes, with patterns remaining consistent over time.’ It took years to process. It took going away. It took changing everything. Once processed, I could then stand on my truth –it did happen. I chose not to report it. victims are victimized all over again for speaking up. The one person I tried talking to wouldn’t hear me over and over again, even accused me.
So I chose to keep it to myself –it was shameful and I wasn’t believed each time I spoke up to test the waters, so I diminished it and took it back, ran back and hid it. It was safer to be quiet; I wouldn’t lose anything that way. I wouldn’t lose face. I wouldn’t lose love. I wouldn’t lose respect. I wouldn’t lose trust. I wouldn’t lose my dignity. But boy did I lose! Yes it did happen to me. And it scarred me. And I bled. I bled onto you. Then I healed. Then I told. And now you also know. Me Too.