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How are we still talking about this? With the #MeToo movement about to enter its one year anniversary, after Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, all the discussion after Aziz Ansari and the countless other stories of sexual assault that have dominated the headlines for the last few years, how are we still attacking a woman for not reporting?
Survivors don’t report. It’s that simple. Yes, of course, some do, but a huge majority of survivors never do.
This is Why Survivors Don’t Report:
You blame yourself, and you think about what you could have done to have prevented the attack from happening, and because you think you could have done something, that means you blame yourself. Shame is not the same as embarrassment.
Embarrassment is about your actions and regretting an action, shame is feeling bad about who you are as a person, it’s a feeling intrinsic about yourself. So you don’t think about what happened to you. You do everything you possibly can to never think about it again. You stuff it away until years and decades later you are able to start to look at why you have problems with alcohol, or food issues or relationship problems, etc. and you start to examine your past.
You pretend it didn’t happen.
Nobody wants to be a rape victim, so how do you not be a rape victim? You say it didn’t happen. This is why some people date their rapists or text them the next day saying they had a good time, it’s to try and normalize and dismiss what happened, to try and pretend it was something other than what it was. If you date the person that you had that really awful experience with then you can redefine what it was, except in reality you can’t – but you only learn you can’t years later.
Telling the police is awful.
Reporting to the police and having people take pictures of your genitals is awful. I want to see you walk into a police station and sit down and tell them about how someone forced you into sex and tell them about where they put their hands. Then let them grill you about every sexual encounter you have had. Let them ask you if you lead them on, if you were drinking, if you wanted it but now are just regretting it. Then I want to see you walk into a hospital and spread your legs and let someone take pictures of your genitals.
You don’t know what happened.
You don’t even know what happened to you. It can be so completely confusing and mentally overwhelming to understand what happened to you. Psychologically, it is not easy to sit down and look at an experience you had and process that yes you were raped and you are now a rape victim. Most people will just dismiss it as a bad experience and don’t even realized they were raped until years later. That’s how hard the psyche works to protect you from how completely overwhelming rape or sexual assault is.
You are disassociated.
People who are attacked also often disassociate from the attack, making it even more confusing as to what happened. Your mind disassociates from your body as a way of surviving the experience and the horror of what is happening. People often stay in a disassociated state afterward, numb from the world around them and thus numb from processing what happened and taking action.
You did tell someone.
You did tell someone, and they dismissed what happened to you. You are so vulnerable after you’ve been sexually assaulted that if one person dismisses what happened to you, you often will dismiss it too. Almost every survivor attempts to dismiss what happened to them. You compare your assault to someone else’s and says well it wasn’t as bad as that experience, so mine isn’t that bad. Every experience is bad. But if you can find someone else who had a worse experience than you can pretend yours wasn’t that bad, and you can dismiss it. So if someone else dismisses your experience, there’s a good chance you will too.
You’ve normalized sexual assault.
Once someone has been assaulted often they develop a new sense of the world where predatory and abusive behavior becomes normal. This is why if you’ve been victimized once your chances of being victimized again go up and why some people are victimized over and over again.
Behavior that seems clearly dangerous or abusive to someone who hasn’t been assaulted just seems like normal behavior to someone who has been assaulted.
There are countless more reasons why women and men don’t report assault. Stop attacking people who don’t report sexual assault as if their lack of reporting says something about their character or about the validity of their crimes.
Survivors don’t report, get over it.