From the reader who shared in August her story of rape:
I’m writing you back on the topic of rape once again, but it’s important and I’m glad you continue to have this conversation and that you are focusing on the real issues, and dissecting them, especially now that the UVA story has muddied the waters for so many.
I also didn’t report my rape. If I could explain why in one simple sentence, I’d say this: because my brain didn’t have space for a fight, or a crusade, or a trial. It was too busy dealing with having just been raped. Believe me, that’s plenty to absorb. Living quietly in shame felt like the default, not going straight to the police.
To put it another way, I’ll refer you back to the marvelous essay “No. No. No.” you posted from the reader recounting her horrific rape:
Rather than openly confront what had happened, I tried to bury it. I couldn’t say anything. I wasn’t worried about what would happen to him; I was worried about what would happen to me. … I never wanted to be a victim, even though that’s what I was. It’s why so many of us don’t tell a soul, especially initially. You figure if no one knows they can’t look at you differently or treat you differently than they had before. You won’t receive their looks of pity, or even worse, some sense of skepticism or disbelief. They won’t see you as damaged, somehow less than the woman you were before. Even though that’s how you feel.
That’s exactly right. Or think about it in terms of cost vs benefits. The benefit of putting your rapist in jail, or at least getting him thrown out of school, is not small. It means knowing he will pay for what he did to you and that he will be less likely to do the same to another woman. That’s not nothing.
But the costs are also great, and it’s all of the things mentioned above and more. Add in the less than 50/50 chance you have of getting a conviction, or even having people believe you. The prospect of going through all of that (in my case, while I tried to get through my freshman year of college) without much of a chance of success, knowing it would turn into a he said/she said, tilted the balance for me – even if we pretend I was making calm, rational decisions at that point!
Then add in how the people around you, especially the men but also the women, will perceive you once you go public, how their opinions will change and how they need to treat you will change, and it tilts the balance toward not reporting further. I didn’t want to be “the girl who’d been raped.” I knew that I would be. So, from two bad options, and at a horrible, vulnerable time, I choose not to report.
To put it more accurately, it chose me. That brings with it another level of pain. Or as that woman put it:
And yes, part of the shame is knowing I did nothing to hold him to account, and that I may have put other women at risk by not doing so. …So, add that on to the shame of something I’m not guilty of, that I didn’t ask for.
Right again. Let’s not pretend that not reporting is some great weight off our shoulders. It wasn’t for me, and I know it isn’t for other women in these situations. Not reporting, not standing up, adds another layer of shame on to what’s already happened. It made me feel weak all over again. It still does. Do I sometimes wish I’d made a different choice? Yup, I do. I try not to second guess myself because it hurts too much, and because it’s over. Mostly.
Hope that helps. It’s one more story anyway. Much love to you guys. You’re the best site on the Internet!
We just have the best readers. More of their stories here.