Content warning: Sexual assault.
These days in the United States, it is hard to get online and not see a headline of a woman coming forward telling her story of how she was sexually assaulted. You read the article and scroll through the comments underneath. Whether it happened last night, or 20 years ago, you'll probably see questions like these: "what was she wearing?" "was she drunk" "was she walking alone late at night?" If the rape didn't happen the night before, you'll probably see this question as well: "Well what took her so long to report?" Followed by an "I don't believe her, just another whore looking for attention." or.."He probably didn't call her back, so now she's looking for revenge." We can't forget my favorite, though "Was she drunk and just woke up regretting it?" Those are just a few reasons women don't report.
We see headlines about Brock Turner violently raping an unconscious girl, and getting sentenced only SIX MONTHS in jail. He only served three months. Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by three women, was appointed as Supreme Court Justice. Donald Trump, the President of the United States, sexualizes his own daughter and says things like "grab her by the pussy." The leader of the free world speaks about women like that. Are you still questioning why we don't come forward?
If you find a woman willing to open up about her experience with sexual assault, her story will probably sound something like this. First comes the shock, what you just went through is unfathomable. You're not even completely sure if what you think just happened, happened. You blame yourself, you go through every second kicking yourself for not fighting back harder, not yelling, and maybe kicking yourself for not saying anything at all. Denial sets in shortly after. You tell yourself "no, that wasn't rape. That couldn't happen to me."
Eventually, the pain sets in and there are a lot of tears. It sucks, the dreams, the flashbacks, even certain sounds will take you back to that moment. Sometimes it causes panic attacks and severe anxiety. You dissociate, you don't want to socialize, you don't want to go out and have fun, because you're scared you'll break down. When the anger sets in, though, that's a different story. No man stands a chance, especially those who resemble him. You are repulsed by everything men do, and you think it will never go away. Honestly, you pity the next man you fall for, if that even happens because you don't know how you'll be intimate again, both emotionally and physically.
The last thing a sexual assault survivor wants is to see the person who did it again. So that plays a huge part in not reporting, along with the trauma that comes with getting a rape kit and being interrogated by the police, as if you've done something wrong. Once you've been completely violated, having a stranger poke and prod you to make sure you're not pregnant or don't have an STD feels like a violation all over again.
Don't ever ask a woman why she didn't report and do not ever ask why it took so long. You don't know what courage it took to accept it come forward in the first place.