I still remember the dust particles in the air. I remember the trees blossoming. I remember the punches to face. I remember being dragged down a flight of stairs. I remember never having no being taken as an answer.
As we get up each day, most of us turn on the news, read a paper, or scan the headlines online. Every day, there are stories of sexual assault and rape. Every day, survivors have to hear excuses. Many victims have chosen over the years to not report what happened to them. They live with that decision every day. They face a seemingly non-ending barrage of personal attacks and blame. Many of them are now explaining why they didn’t report what happened to them, whether it was last week or three decades ago.
If you watch the Twitter feed for #WhyIDidntReport, you will soon be overwhelmed with the hundreds of posts per hour of the reasons why. Thousands of men and women have come forward to try to explain why so many sexual assault and rape victims never come forward.
Read the cacophony of stories—each different but the same. Stories of assault by strangers, friends, family members, teachers. The hashtag exposes the sheer banality of rape in America. Sexual assault is not rare. It’s common. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, there were 320,000 sexual assaults in the US in 2016. And 77 percent of people who experienced rape or sexual assault say they did not tell police.
These stories flow by so quickly that it is difficult to keep up, inundating us with monsters as well as careless people who didn’t care, didn’t want to know, or who wanted to blame the victim. Too many of us never felt safe to share. I didn’t until well after both of them were dead.
With the many posts from #WhyIDidntReport and #MeToo, people say we have come such a long way. I don’t think we’ve come far enough. I speak to people every day that still, somehow, believe in 15th century ideals and that this really is not a big deal.
So why don’t women come forward? Rape is difficult to prosecute in this country. When it is prosecuted, the victim is torn apart, blamed, and there is a need to avoid “ruining the accuser’s life.” Even when a victim is strong enough to come forward and endure such an ordeal, we rarely put rapists in jail.
Turner received only six months in jail and three years of probation after a judge worried that a stiffer sentence would have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old.
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” Dan A. Turner wrote in a letter arguing that his son should receive probation, not jail time. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
No one cares about the victim and how it affects them mentally, socially, or physically. Turner’s victim can’t just wash away what happened to her. Those twenty minutes took away her life.
In my case, my cousin pled guilty to “spare our family shame,” then ridiculed me every day at school. We had different last names. He told stories. His sentence for years of abuse? Six months probation.
Little has changed in 36 years since that last incident, but I have to live with it forever.
The two men who spent years abusing me were never truly held to account. That doesn’t bring back my childhood. I didn’t speak of it because I was not believed and I was blamed.
There was no #MeToo movement from 1977-1984. There was no one to turn too. It was me and him. Who is going to believe a kid when he’s a respected member of the community? Who’s going to want to believe me that my cousin was a monster?
After reading the news day in and day out, I sometimes wonder if anyone would believe me if it happened today. I’ve spoken and written before about Scottsbluff Golf Coach Michael Klein and how many people defended him. All the accusations hurled at the girls hit me so hard I had to stop and consciously breathe. I felt like I was back in the police station in 1984. They’re still using the same excuses today to blame the victim.
We don’t report because seven out of ten times it’s committed by someone you know. “Of sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement, 93 percent of juvenile victims knew the perpetrator.”
When we do report, it can be a living nightmare.
Twelve years ago, Amber Wyatt reported her rape. Few believed her. Her hometown turned against her. The authorities failed her.
There was plenty of evidence and she followed all the protocols a victim should. She still received no justice.
In speaking about potential Surpreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham says he doesn’t want to ruin a man’s life based on an accusation. He doesn’t care that incidents like this destroy a woman’s life. To Graham, and anyone else who makes this claim, a man’s life is worth more than a woman’s. To hell with an investigation.
“This guy who’s going to be our Supreme Court justice,” he said, “and he better be our Supreme Court judge, he’s a perfect candidate. And what do they say? ‘Well, in high school you did this.’ High school? Give me a break.”
The question is brought up of, “So what. That was a long time ago. It has no bearing on today.”
It does have bearing on today. Everything you do has an impact in the world and on other people. I remember the bullies. I remember parts of my attacks. Sometimes, I can remember an entire incident. I don’t remember things like my age or the date it happened. I don’t remember things in sequential order. For that, I am not believed. For that, we do not report.
Victims don’t often remember exact dates or every detail of their attack. Right after an attack, a victim may even remember events out of order.
A smell, a touch, something I see can trigger a memory. They come at the most damned inconvenient times. I am the one who must continue to endure.
I do remember how people that know treated me. This is why we don’t report.
My perpetrators may have thought nothing of me, but their actions shaped a part of me. I have to live with that every single fucking day. This is why we tell no one. This is why we don’t report.
It’s not flawless but for almost 250 years our justice system has function pretty well. In fact, better than any other country in the world. It’s pretty straightforward. If you believe a crime has been committed against you, you report it. That would include theft, embezzlement and, yes, sexual assault. Go to the police. It’s not always easy, obviously, but it’s still your obligation as a citizen, not at least to protect the rest of us from whomever you believe did it. The police investigate and a judge or jury renders a verdict. That’s due process, its the cornerstone of our system.
I would say to them, they have no idea how broken down a person is after they have been sexually assaulted and/or raped. They do not understand the humiliation that comes with automatic blame and shame.
Tell me sirs, who was I supposed to report it to? My family, who didn’t want to know about it? The police who questioned my integrity, what I was wearing, why I let it happen?
The events in my life happened decades ago and the same lines of blame are drawn on each victim who does come forward. This is why we don’t report.
Having to deal with a violation of the soul is hard enough. Being told again and again it is your fault and you should have done something different is more than many can take. This is why we don’t report.
If you think sexual assault or rape is harmless fun or boys being boys, ask yourself if you think this is still fun when the victim is five, nine, fourteen. At what age do you actually think a person can be sexually assaulted or raped and it’s just harmless fun? This is why we don’t report.
What boy didn’t do this in high school? Here is a giant list of boys, who are now men, that didn’t. This is why some of us might report.
I have told few people my story. I have been betrayed every time I have. This is why we don’t report.
When people know, others feel free to mark or shame the victim. This is why we don’t report.
I was a seven-year-old child. I didn’t even know what the hell was happening. This is why we don’t report.
I was scared of who he would kill. Would it be me? A family member as he had threatened? This is why we don’t report.
At fourteen, I was ridiculed by the police and the blame placed at my feet. This is why we don’t report.
We live each day with horrors no one should ever have to experience. We have had enough. We are not taking your bullshit blame and shame anymore.
By coming forward and telling our stories we know we are making ourselves vulnerable to public attacks, ridicule, and pity, but we should not have to endure any of this when we never committed a crime. We are telling you to stop so no one has to ever again say, “This is why I didn’t report.”
I used to worry about how people would look at me if they knew, but I have nothing to be ashamed of. If you want to throw out all the excuses about not reporting, not fighting back, not immediately reporting the crime, and a host of others, then you are the one who should feel shame. You are the one who is ignorant to the realities of the world.
I’m still here. Feel free to call me whatever names you want. Feel free to blame me. Your comments will roll off my back. I am not the ignorant one. You are. And you can no longer touch me.