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Why Sexual Assault Victims Stay Silent

I don’t perceive myself as a sexual assault victim even though I was sexually assaulted. I don’t perceive myself as a sexual assault survivor, either. Sexual assault is something that happened to me. But it doesn’t define me. Though I won’t judge the way anyone else who has gone through something similar chooses to identify or label themselves, to me, calling myself either a victim or survivor gives entirely too much power to something that happened. But I’ll be using terminology that I’m not particularly fond of for the sake of brevity.

Let’s get a few things out of the way:

I don’t believe that the United States has a rape culture.

I don’t believe that men need to be taught not to rape because to me it implies that men are natural rapists and erases both male victims and female rapists.

I believe in waiting for evidence.

I believe that people can and do lie about rape and sexual assault.

I believe that our society, like any other, has room to improve.

I believe that humans will always disappoint one another and commit atrocious crimes against one another.

But I also know for a fact that many people that have never been violated in that way don’t understand why someone wouldn’t report something like that to the police. And from a logical standpoint I understand where they’re coming from. But when you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, your head isn’t in a very rational place. In light of everything going on with Harvey Weinstein and social media, I felt the need to try to explain what some are desperately failing to grasp.

I was sexually assaulted when I was 15. I was woken up from my sleep when I realized I was being undressed. I had no idea what was going on but pretended to remain asleep. Before I knew it a guy a few years older than me was kissing me, groping me and fondling what he thought was my unconscious body. I didn’t know what to do. As many dirty jokes as I made at that age, I was completely inexperienced and terrified. My skin was crawling and silent tears were rolling down my face. But we were in a room full of other people sleeping and the last thing I wanted to do was make a scene. Pretending to still be asleep, I rolled over, hoping he would give up and decide it wasn’t worth it. No such luck. Eventually I had to get up because it was apparent he wasn’t stopping as long as he thought I was asleep. I went to the bathroom and he followed me in, acting as if he had no idea how my clothes had become undone and offering to walk with me. I stormed off tired, disheveled and disgusted. I felt even worse the next day, but I had to pretend that everything was fine around my family. My parents knew him. Our families knew each other. And the last thing I was about to do was endure that drama. Getting the police involved was the last thing on my mind. All I wanted to do was forget it happened.

I am not sharing my experience for attention or sympathy, but because I want to paint a vivid picture for any and everyone that doesn’t understand why victims remain silent.

Sometimes, you don’t want to hurt the people closest to you or make your life any more complicated than it has to be.

Sometimes, the pill head doesn’t think anyone will take them seriously. People will think they just had a bad trip or a really crazy night.

Sometimes, as backwards as it may sound, a woman is afraid of being perceived as damaged goods. She’s afraid of the social isolation that often accompanies publicized trauma. She doesn’t want to become “the girl that got raped.”

Sometimes, the fun drunk friend is afraid to say anything because everyone will just assume they blacked out and were at least somewhat at fault. But they were sober enough to repeatedly scream “stop” but not coherent enough to break free.

Sometimes, a man feels so emasculated and humiliated by what happened to him that he’d rather suffer in silence than have to admit that he was raped.

Sometimes, you’re afraid of the consequences of taking on someone so powerful and influential.

Sometimes people exaggerate, embellish or outright lie for their own selfish reasons. But sometimes, it seems like the fastest track back to normalcy is trying to forget it happened all together. So people say nothing and keep living.

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